When I was 12 I learnt that I had scoliosis. Scoliosis is when your spine is curved. I discovered that my spine was shaped like a narrow S. My doctor informed me that if I didn’t do anything it would get worse and surgery may be an option.
When you’re 12 it’s just on the cusp of becoming a teenager. It’s an awkward time when you’re trying to find yourself and when the opinions of your peers matter more than the opinions of your parents. It’s a time when being different is not cool and when it’s important that you all have the same skirts and love the same music.
When I was 12 I was already different to my peers. I experienced excessive sweating, which made me self-conscious of smelling. My walking was already starting to alter and I just couldn’t keep up with my friends.
So when my doctor shared the news about the back brace I knew things were just going to get tougher. When the reality of it sunk in, I lost it. I cried a lot and experienced tremendous anger. Anger towards my parents for carrying the gene and anger towards myself because I thought it was my fault.
The back brace started from the bottom of my breast to the end of my spine and to stop it from irritating my skin I had to wear a singlet underneath. I was told to wear it 23 hours a day and for two years. I remember wearing it at night time, getting hot and sweaty and never being able to find a comfortable position.
Often the singlet would ride up and the fiberglass would stick to my skin. Sometimes at school it got too uncomfortable I would take it off and leave it in my teacher’s office. My peers knew what was going on and I found that hard because it made me feel different to them. However none of them made fun of me and they pretty much left me alone.
When I moved to a new school I thought that no one would ever find out. Boy was I wrong about that! Some of my peers from my old school moved to the same school as me. One brought up the topic of my back brace and even pretended to hit me in the stomach to show that I didn’t feel it. That moment horrified me and made me feel sick and obviously it left a mark.
What did I gain from this experience? Maybe I built a thicker skin, but it didn’t build up my confidence. But my spine improved and I didn’t have to have an operation. I’m very grateful for that. I also got through it and I am using this opportunity to tell others that they can get through it too. Tough stuff happens but it’s not going to stop you from living the life you want to live, it just may take a little longer.