Dumpster Diving For The Soul

During my senior year of high school, a teacher told me I should share my journey of living with scoliosis. I never really wanted to put my story out there because I do not think I’ve done anything special- thousands of people have had similar experiences as me. Also, I had no desire to open up to people about a part of myself that, at that time, I would have given anything to erase. Self-esteem is something I have always struggled with and I did not want to open up to people and show people how vulnerable I truly was. However, for some reason during the summer of 2009, I started feeling the urge to write. I have always loved to write and I do not think I am half bad, but I never wanted to write about my back. But like I said, for a few weeks I had this overwhelming desire not only to write about my back, but also to do it publicly. This still blows my mind. For those of you who know me can attest to the fact that I am really shy and unwilling to show my true self until I am fully comfortable. My best friend/ roommate/sorority sister can tell you, it took weeks of us living together (and a breakup) before I was really able to open up to her. So, like I said – for some odd reason, I wanted to share my story publicly. I do not know where this is going to go, if people will even read it, or what will happen when I finish, but I am just going to start from the beginning…

These are the first words of Beauty Still Remains. It’s hard to believe I wrote this is 2009, yet I still remember typing this on my computer like it was yesterday. I was sitting in a blue chair in my room of my parents house debating if I should hit “publish”. For those of you who don’t know my story, here is a brief recap of my scoliosis journey.

When I was a formidable sixth grader, I was diagnosed with scoliosis. From that point on, it became my mission to hide the embarrassing deformity (in my eyes). My plan  worked until I reached the middle of my sophomore year because I started to experience intense, constant pain radiating throughout my entire back. Since I had been going to the doctor for years to monitor the curve of my spine, I never thought something major could be wrong. Finally, with great debate, my doctor decided I may have stress fractures from the impact of tumbling. He sent me to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta for tests even though he was convinced that the stress fractures would heal on their own. After several tests, doctors explained that the test revealed a benign Osteoid Osteoma tumor, not related to the scoliosis, on my lower spine. Osteoid osteomas occur when certain cells divide uncontrollably, forming a small mass of bone tissue. The tumor replaces healthy bone tissue with abnormal, hard bone tissue. No one knows exactly why this occurs. A couple of months later, I checked into Crawford Long Hospital in Atlanta for my surgery. The surgery was successful and was eager for the next cheerleading season to start.

However, to my dismay, the pain returned with vengeance. Only this time the doctors did not know why my back was hurting. Scoliosis should be painless and the tumor was successfully removed. My current doctor, however, did not seem too concerned and basically told me there is no actual source of my pain so I would just have to learn to live life with chronic back pain. I remember sitting in the doctor’s office visit after visit crying because I just wanted someone to believe me and understand the pain was truly unbearable. Plus, I do not think anybody should have to live in pain. At this point my parents decided it was time for a second opinion.

A few weeks later, I found myself sitting in a new doctor’s office waiting for my turn in the x-ray room. After waiting for what seemed like years to pass, the doctor called my mom and me into the hall way to discuss the x-rays. This doctor’s office had one large back light in the hall for x-rays instead of individual ones in the exam rooms. As soon as we got into the hall, I took a look at the line up of scoliosis x-rays. There was one on the end that immediately caught my eye – that poor person’s spine was horrible! Thank God that was not my x-ray! In harsh contrast to the black background, the white bones jutted out to the right, clearly indicating severe scoliosis. The doctor started talking about the findings as he starting walking down the lineup of x-rays to the one on the end of the horrible scoliosis curve. It did not take me too much longer to realize that the x-ray on the end, the one of the horrible scoliosis curve was not just any “poor person”, it was ME! Right there in the middle of the hall, I burst out crying. I was horrified that my spine was so crooked. Physically I knew it was bad because you could see the curve without x-ray technology, but hearing a doctor say the curve was 50 degrees crushed me. Perception is reality, but seeing hard facts snaps that “reality” into real life reality. I knew what 50 degrees meant for my future and I knew it meant I was going to have to face the deformity I had spent my life trying to hide.

After further testing, the doctors determined that the tumor caused my scoliosis to rapidly progress, causing stress to the rest of my back, muscles, and ribs. A result of the tumor is that bone forms around the tumor as the body tries to move away from the irritant. This caused my scoliosis to progress. I was again told the only solution was serious surgery, but this time there were no other alternatives. Without surgery, I was risking my future health.

January 2007, my senior year of high school, I underwent a 5 hour spinal fusion to correct and halt my scoliosis. After a week in the hospital, I was released to begin my long recovery. It look me three months to return back to school (I did online school from my bed in the meantime) and graduated with my class. After a year, I was fully released to enjoy life as normal.  

This blog has kind of been like dumpster diving for the soul. If you do not know – dumpster diving is digging through someone else’s trash in hopes of finding a “treasure”. Who really wants to go through trash? But sometimes when you dig and dig deep down into the “trash” of the past, you can find a treasure. So much in my life has changed. Scoliosis gave me the passion to help young children through organizations like Dance Marathon. I no longer have noticeable scoliosis. I have minimal and manageable pain in my back and ribs. I have taken up running. I have found a great boyfriend, fell in love with him, and married him. There is life after the curve. Heck, there is life WITH the curve. 

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4 thoughts on “Dumpster Diving For The Soul

  1. This is beautiful and your last few words made me cry. I am glad you decided to share your story with us. We all have our things that make us different, unique, “imperfect”. Sharing them with others connects us in a way that reminds us that we are all human. I am so glad you were able to get things corrected and I am glad you were able to pick up running! Beautiful post. And it was great getting to know you a little more. Keep up the good work 🙂

  2. Thanks for sharing your story. I know that must have been hard to go through especially when you were younger. But…you are awesome now. We are the sum of our experiences aren’t we? 🙂

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