Treat the Cause, NOT just the Curve

Just came across this really neat article on fixscoliosis.com.

We are entering a golden age in Adolescent Idiopathic Scoliosis (AIS) treatment, yet most people and docs don’t see it yet.

The development of new prognostic technologies like the Scoliscore genetic testing and the must anticipated Scoliosis blood test from Dr. Monreau’s group are going to be quantum leaps forward, but only if we scurry to close the ever growing divide btw the rapid pace of prognositic scoliosis technology and treatment methods that are able to take full advantage of the opportunity this technology provides.

Bracing is intended to halt the progression of spinal curvatures (whist it’s effectiveness being questionable to say the least), not prevent them, or reduce them. It is not, and will not take advantage of the prognostic technology currently being developed and will gradually be phased out due in favor of pro-active treatment approaches.

Spinal fusion surgery is never the preferred treatment choice due to the invasive nature of the procedure and poor long-term outcomes and the most recent research on spinal fusions at a young age are showing very poor results (see link).
http://www.fixscoliosis.com/threads/…=2284#post2284

Preventative spinal fusion will not, and should not, become the ally of scoliosis prognostic technology.

So what technologies are currently being developed for AIS that will allow us to close the gap btw prognostic tests that can tell us “a train is bearing down on us” and a treatment that can effectively “de-rail the aforementioned train”?

As I have mentioned in many posts prior to this one……

Genetic pre-disposition + Environmental Factors = Adolscent Idiopathic Scoliosis

Therefore…. the only possible way and treatment technology that could take full advantage of the new AIS prognostic testing abilities would be one that focuses on the reduction/elimination of the Evironmental Factors that co-create the condition.

In the future, Early Stage Scoliosis Intervention will be defined as a partnership btw prognostic testing technologies and “pro-active”, environmental factor reducing treatment approaches while “re-active” treatment approaches like bracing and surgery will languish in the past.

The CLEAR Institute approach to scoliosis treatment is currently the only scoliosis treatment attempting to alter the natural course of the condition and prevent scoliosis through environmental factor reduction. Which is not to say there isn’t value in some other rehab based approaches to scoliosis treatment (Schroth, SEAS, FITS), but the key difference is the pro-active, environmental factor reducing mindset adopted by the CLEAR Institute philosophy.

In response to my last post

I realize that I am being harsh towards “Jane Doe” and I have been told in the past that I do expect too much out of people. I’m not going to defend what I said, because what I wrote was from the heart. I will say this though. I believe having high expectations of people is a good thing; it means you have faith in them and know they can do it. Think about it, I’m sure there are people in the world you expect nothing out of. Then, when they fail, it is no big deal – you probably saw it coming. But, if you expect a lot from someone, you want them to succeed because you know they can.

Hopefully from my last post you took away the point I was trying to make: you can fall victim to adversity, or you can decide to move forward. I am not saying for a moment that Jane did not have pain, I know for a fact she did. What I am saying is that she is still letting her scoliosis hold her back and it does not have to be that way. The choice is yours.

BsR,
Ashleigh

I’m on the pursuit of happiness.

“Being happy doesn’t mean that everything is perfect. It means that you’ve decided to look beyond the imperfections.”
– Anonymous

{Just a little disclaimer about this post, I’m writing with a little anger. Sorry! }

Nothing frustrates me more than complainers. I have to admit, when I meet or hear about someone who would rather complain than fix a situation, I cannot help but get a little angry inside. So, as I sat in Salty Nut (a restaurant/bar in 5points; Columbia, SC) listening to a story about “Jane Doe’s” life- I could feel myself getting a little fired up.

Jane had to face so many obstacles in life. She had a deformity which caused her to have corrective surgery. Then, when the pain and discomfort continued, she had a second surgery. Her medical condition caused her to miss so much school, she would have to withdraw from classes numerous times. When she graduates from college and starts working as a nurse, the hospital will have to honor her request for modified hours because she simply cannot stand that long. According to her, the hospital has no choice, she qualifies under the Americans with Disabilities Act.  Oh, and did I mention her deformity was scoliosis and her surgery was a spinal fusion?

I realize I am being really harsh, but this is one of my biggest pet-peeves in life. Not people with disabilities, but people who complain about the cards they have been dealt. Maybe this is due to the fact that I have a grandfather who has lived his entire life in pain, yet never complains or feels sorry for himself. When he goes to the doctor, they literally cannot offer him anything to ease the pain. My grandfather can hardly walk and constantly falls, yet he just started using a handicap pass although it has been in his possession for years. He just recently allowed his pride to take a backseat, and he started using a scooter to get around. My grandfather does not let life pass him by – he lives life- he truly loves life. He has always been one of my biggest inspirations in life.

So maybe it is because I have such an inspirational man in my life, but feeling sorry for yourself has just never been an option in my family. I was listening about all of Jane Doe’s problems in life, but nothing she has experienced is anything different than a typical person with scoliosis faces. Not to brag on myself, but if you did not see my scar and/or know my past, you probably would never know I had a spinal fusion in the first place. I am your typical 21 year old college student. I can go out and dance with friends, I can spend days on boats in rough waters, I can run races… I can do almost anything I want. I do not have to make many choices based on my back. In fact, the only one I can think of is the decision not to tumble anymore, but let’s face it – if I attempted to do even a back handspring right now, I would probably end up in the hospital with a broken neck (and that’s the last thing I need!) But, I have seen a girl tumble across a football field with ease post spinal fusion, so it can be done.

I guess the point I am trying to make here is that Jane Doe and I are really not that different. In fact, it is a little eerie how similar we are were. The only thing that makes us different is how we chose to cope with what life handed us. I do not want to be treated any differently than anyone else and I certainly do not think I qualify for Americans with Disabilities protection. While she uses her scoliosis and spinal fusion as a crutch, I am using mine as a stepping stone. Like Randy Paush (of the Last Lecture) said, “you cannot change the cards you are dealt, just how you play the hand.”

Here is my challenge for you: Do not let adversity hold you back. You have two choices. One, you can sit around and feel sorry for yourself as life passes you by. Sure, you will probably get by and have an okay life. Or, two, you can heal, both physically and mentally and move on! Get out there, do what you want, do not hold yourself back! While Jane Doe is setting limits for herself, I’m trying to decided what I am going to do in life, not because of boundaries, but because I want to do so much. So, you can accept my challenge or choose to ignore it, by I’m telling you from experience, you absolutely will not regret it!

“You got a dream, you got to protect it. You want something, go get it. Period.”
– The Pursuit of Happyness (2008).

BsR,
Ashleigh

Go get it. Period.

Here is a preview of my next post. Check back soon!
BsR,
Ashleigh

“Don’t ever let somebody tell you, you can’t do something… You got a dream, you gotta protect it.
You want something. Go get it. Period.”

Google Search Page One!

I was pretty excited when I did a random Google image search for “children’s healthcare of atlanta scoliosis” and two pictures from my blog popped up on the first page! Have I made it? 🙂

BsR,
Ashleigh

P.S: Just ignore that last picture… I have no idea.

If you’re lucky enough to be different.

“If you’re lucky enough to be different from everyone else, don’t change!”
– Taylor Swift

I have recently been asked how I remained “normal” as an adolescent growing up with scoliosis. At first, I thought this would be an easy answer. DUH! I was normal! Unfortunately, life is never that simple. Looking back at my journey, I now see that I was anything but your “normal” middle and high school student.

My first dose of reality hit when I was first diagnosed with the tumor in tenth grade. I told my coach about the tumor privately before practice and took the mats with the rest of my cheerleading team. It did not take long before someone complained about having to do the routine full out (cheer translation: doing the whole routine with all the stunts and all the tumbling) and my coach blurted out, “Ashleigh has a tumor and doesn’t complain!” It was as if everybody on the team looked straight at me and then asked a thousand questions as once; everybody wanted to know the details and the inside scoop. After the interrogation concluded, practice continued, but things were forever changed. Now, whenever I cradled from a stunt, my group was concerned that they hurt my back. When learning a new stunt sequence, my coach wanted to know if I could physically complete the skill. This list goes on and on…

For those of you who have not grown up in a small town, let me clue you in on something. The rumors are true! Everybody knows everything about everyone! Before I knew it, people from high schools miles away started asking about my back at competitions. I can remember one competition when a group of girls on a different team were talking about “that Dacula cheerleader with some kind of tumor.” And of course, my benign tumor evolved into a cancerous one in a matter of weeks.

Even outside of cheerleading my back caused me to be different. I started dating a boy named Michael during my junior year of high school. When I asked him what the first thing he noticed about me was, I hoped he would satisfy my hopeless romantic soul with some sweet nothing about my intelligence or personality. However do you know what he said?!?! My back! You see, he sat behind me in Algebra and like any other student sitting in that dreadful math class – his eyes wondered away from what the teacher was writing on the board. Luckily for him, he was a great guy and I didn’t hold that comment against him. (We went on to date for 2 1/2 years) It still made me wonder, was my back the first thing that people noticed about me?

Although I would have rather blended right into the crowd, based on these few experiences, it was clear that that was simply not an option. So when I was asked this question, I really tried to put some thought into my answer. Like I said before, I wish I could just give the peachy answer that I was normal, but the facts do not agree with that statement. Instead, I focused my attention to what I did in high school to be the most normal me. Most of my actions were subconscious, but here is what some people have told me they noticed.

Be driven. Luckily, this has always been one of my strengths. I like to think that I am a highly motivated person and I think this comes in handy when facing adversity. Like many people going through hard times, there were days when I would have rather stayed in bed and hid from the world. There were many times when I wanted to sprawl out in the school hallway and cry after someone would make a comment about my back. But where would that get me other than embarrassed? I became determined to keep my life as normal as possible. I was the captain of the cheerleading team three consecutive years, I was the editor of the yearbook for two years, and I was a Peer Leader for two years… aka: I put myself out there (not to toot my own horn!) If you hide from the world because your spine is curved or because you are wearing a brace – you are letting the scoliosis win and dictate your life. I don’t know about you, but I was not letting a crooked spine get in my way of life!

I embraced my curve. This is something that I am doing more of in college than during high school. I think Randy Paush, the author of The Last Lecture who was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, paints a lovely picture of embracing adversity. He gave a speech called The Last Lecture and it was later expanded into a book. Professors often give “Last Lectures” to their students. This is typically a hypothetical “last speech” where the professor is supposed to impart crucial knowledge about life on his students. Randy, however, knew he was dying and had the opportunity to really give a “Last Lecture”. I have to admit – it is the only book to date that has actually made me cry…and then I cried again when I watched the lecture on YouTube. In his speech/book he says, “We cannot change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the hand.” When applied to life, this simple sentence can change everything. Like I have said many times, I could cry and pout that throughout life I had to endure this challenge… or… I can embrace it and play my hand with the cards I was dealt. I do not even need a poker face. I truly am embracing my curve!

Don’t give in. People may (will) talk, the pain may pound, or the embarrassment may overtake your thoughts, but don’t give in! During middle school, I gave in. I was so scared that people were going to find out I had a crooked spine. Obviously if people knew, I would lose all my friends and everyone would make fun of me (insert sarcasm here). However, in high school when I finally started to tell people, nobody really even cared that much. Trust me, people not caring was a VERY good thing in my eyes. I was blown away by how kind people were. I always had people giving me encouraging messages and positive reinforcement. I had to learn not to be the “scoliosis girl” but how to embrace my challenge and become “Ashleigh who happens to have scoliosis”.

Be proud. Only 3 out of every 100 people have scoliosis. If you are one of those lucky 3, be happy – you are different from the other 97 people! Along with embracing your curve and not giving in- be proud! One day in high school, two girls walking down the hall were talking about some girl. Being the “creeper” I am, I started to listen. “…She only wore that yellow shirt yesterday to show off her scar… Ashleigh had surgery…” It did not take long before I realized they were talking about me and my yellow birthday shirt (the day before had been my birthday). My mom took me to Athens, GA to get something new to wear on my special day. I saw this yellow shirt that came down to a V in the front and the back. While I would have normally avoided this type of shirt, I jumped at the opportunity to finally wear something like this. Yes, it did happen to show my scar, but when I thought about what the girls had said – I am proud of my scar. My scar is my story. Meredith from Grey’s Anatomy said it best when she said, “Scars are the signs of a competitor.” So I encourage you to be proud too!

My best friend Shelley and I on my 18th birthday. Notice the infamous “yellow shirt”.

Alter happiness and smile. I recently saw the movie “Love Happens” which tells the story of a man, Burke, who lost his wife in a car accident. One of his coping mechanisms, much like me, was writing. His friend turned his writing into a publisher and three years later he was making a living off conferences dealing with being “A-Okay” after a family member’s death. So how does this relate? Well, one of the chapters in this factious book was all about smiling. Just your simple, run-of-the-mill smile. However, sometimes, this is the hardest thing to do. In the movie, Burke says, “Smile for five minutes every day. After a while, it will become a habit. Happiness is a state of mind.”

I have made this my current personal challenge. I’ll be honest – my life right now is not where I expected it to be, but I am trying to make the best of it. I had my mind set on what “happiness” was and now I am left with two options. A) I can sit in my room and cry until I’m sick (I tried this and all I got was red, puffy eyes and a headache) or B) I can alter my definition of “happiness”. I think this is also true for people (adolescents) dealing with scoliosis. I’m sure you never imagined having scoliosis and would never include it in a list of things that make you happy, but you just have to alter your state of mind. Find new things to be happy about. I can honestly say that I am happy I had/have scoliosis because I can use my journey for the good of others.

I’ve been told that you should never give advice because you don’t know what the other person is going through, but I can tell you this is what I did.

Be driven, embrace your curve, don’t give in, be proud, alter happiness and most importantly, smile! :)

BsR,
Ashleigh

Your Mountain is Waiting

“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.”
– Henry David Thoreau

 

Since my spinal fusion required bed rest for three months, I was forced to take online classes so I could graduate on time with my class. Home bound schooling was…well, less than desirable. I’ll try my best to describe how the process works, but I’m not sure I can make sense of it. I would log in on the school’s website and it would give me a phone number to call. When the call connected, my name would appear on the computer’s desktop screen. On the screen I could also see what my teacher was doing on her computer and I would hear her speaking through the phone. In theory, sounds like a good setup. However, my surgery just so happened to fall the week before the start of the semester, so my first day home from the hospital was also the first day of class. Obviously, I was not coherent due to all the pain medications. My mom decided that the only solution was for her, years removed from high school, to pretend to be me. She would sit next to me on the bed with the phone on the speaker phone setting so I could at least hear what was happening in class. This is one of the funnier moments of my recovery because the teacher kept called on me (aka my mom) and she would frantically look up the answer in the book.

After a month, I was able to go to my first period class a few days a week. Two months after my surgery, I had built up to about three classes a day. I was able to return to school full time after about two and a half months.

Four months after my spinal fusion I graduated with distinction from Dacula High School. Graduation was not only a milestone in my education, but it also was a symbol of the end of an era abundant with back pain.

I have to admit that I was beyond ready to leave the gossip filled, small town of Dacula, Georgia. It was not that I had an aversion to high school – I miss many aspects of it. It was not that I loathed the people – I am still very close with some of my friends from high school. You see, throughout high school I dealt with different labels. Don’t get me wrong, I know everybody faces these same issues. In high school, I was the captain cheerleader dating the football ‘star’, I got involved in everything; I was the all round “goody goody”. However, I also dealt with another set of labels. Freshmen year, I was “the girl with scoliosis”. Sophomore year, I was “the tumor girl”. By senior year, I was just “that back girl”. Needless to say, I was ready to run away to a place where nobody knew my story or the adversities I faced during high school. Even though I had looked at colleges in Georgia, I only applied to Auburn in Alabama and USC in South Carolina. At the last minute, I decided to spend my four years in college at the University of South Carolina.

From Oh! The Places You’ll Go!
By Dr. Seuss

Congratulations!
Today is your day.
You’re off to Great Places!
You’re off and away!
You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself any direction you choose.

You’re on your own.
And you know what you know.
And YOU are the guy who’ll decide where to go!

Kid, you’ll move mountains!
So… be your name Buxbaum or Bixby or Bray or
Mordecai Ale Van Allen O’Shea, you’re off to Great Places!
Your mountain is waiting.
So…get on your way!

The Snowball Effect

“A strong positive mental attitude will create more miracles than any wonder drug.” – Patricia Neal


When I was thinking about what to write in this post, I was originally going to write about several different topics, neatly broken apart into an organized layout. However, as soon as I started placing my thoughts into words, stories kept overlapping and I could not figure out what to put where. That is when I realized I couldn’t separate the topics because my life has been a prime example of the snowball effect.

Snowball effect: (adj.) descriptive of an entity or situation where something once small and relatively insignificant grows exponentially at a swift pace, engulfing everything in its path.
Source: http://www.urbandictionary.com (academic, I know)

My life was pretty ordinary until I was diagnosed with scoliosis in sixth grade. It took a stranger turn when I developed the tumor. The snowball kept rolling as my scoliosis progressed into a need for the spinal fusion. Two years later, the snowball continues to grow now that I have developed rib problems. Prior to my surgery, there was great discussion on whether or not one of my ribs should be removed. Long story short- Dr. Davito felt that once my curve was corrected, my ribs would move with my spine and go back to their correct placement. However, this did not occur.

In 2008, I started having an intense pain around my shoulder blade. I like to think I have a high tolerance for pain, but this new pain would bring me to tears. The most frustrating thing about this new pain was that it struck like a lightning bolt. One second I was fine and with the slightest movement, the pain would overwhelm me. Then, within seconds, the pain would disappear. I had a very difficult time explaining the pain to my doctor because there was no exact movement that caused the pain. Sometimes pulling up my pants would cause it; other times moving my arm backwards would cause it. After Dr. Davito examined my back, he found several large muscle knots concentrated around my shoulder blade. He diagnosed the pain as muscle spasms and the required treatment would be physical therapy. So off I went to a new doctor…


(Time reference, Summer 2009)

Upon my first visit to Dr. Bob, a manual therapist, I knew he would do everything in his power to fix my pain. This made me so excited because I had lived with back pain almost half my life. For a majority of that time, I was told I would just have to learn to live with the pain. After a full hour evaluation, he concluded that my pain was not stemming from my muscles; it was due to my ribs. It turns out that two of my ribs did not move into position after my spinal fusion. As a result, they were rubbing against each other and their connecting spot to the spine – causing the intense, but short pain. The muscle knots developed as a result of my body tensing up in order to avoid the pain.

Twice a week I would go to Dr. Bob’s office and he would work on slowly moving my ribs back into place. The process if difficult to explain, but basically, Dr. Bob would check the spacing between my ribs. He was able to find the problem ribs because he could not get his fingers in between them. Next, he would apply pressure to different ribs and have me press my arms down against different levels of resistance. Slowly the ribs moved. After about five weeks of twice a week visits, he was able to successfully move the ribs and correct their spacing! While I was overjoyed, he had to sit me down and give me the honest truth. I think he did a wonderful job explaining it to me, so I will try to repeat how he worded it. For the seventeen years prior to my fusion, my body had been adjusted to having a curved spine. Then, in a matter of five hours, everything changed. Just like humans, my back “freaked out”. Therefore, just because my ribs are corrected now, they might move back. Also, because I have a fused spine, moving my ribs could not totally fix the problem because my spine does not allow for change. Your bones and joints are made to move and adjust. While some of my bones are moving, I have a spine that is held stable, so this contrast causes pain.

I have to admit, I was very disappointed by this news. Sometimes I get angry that I have been through so many x-rays, doctor appointments, and surgeries only to find out that I will always have pain. But then I have to be logical – even if I am upset or feel sorry for myself, where does that get me? No where! So that is my outlook. Yes, I will always have some level of back pain – even as I write this my back is killing me from sitting in classes, but I cannot let that stop me. As I wrote in my college entrance essay, I may not be able to ride wooden roller coasters, tumble, or even live pain free, but there are still a million things I do… so I am!

Osteoid Osteoma… I still can’t even say that!

“We either make ourselves miserable or we make ourselves strong. The amount of work is the same.”
– Carlos Costenada

My plan to hide the scoliosis worked until I reached the middle of my sophomore year because I started to experience intense, constant pain radiating throughout my entire back. I remember tossing and turning at night, not being able to sleep because the pain would become so intense. 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. Doctors know what they are doing – they would know if there was a problem.

After months of pain and a doctor who could not offer an explanation other than scoliosis should not be a painful condition, my dad had had enough – he demanded the doctor take action. 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.

The first test I had was a bone scan. I was strapped to a table and had to lie perfectly still as a machine closely circled around my body.  This was not a small machine though. It was about the shape and size of a door that circled around my body. I distinctly remember being scared that the machine was go haywire and crush me. Next, I was taken into a different room for a CT Scan. The CT Scan was very quick and easy. All I had to do was lie on my back and cast my gaze on the hot air balloons painted on the ceiling as a much smaller machine spun quickly around me. Finally, I went into the last exam room to have a MRI. Since the bone scan and CT scan had not shown any fractures, the doctors decided to use a contrast agent which would enhance the MRI image. Because the scan would be administered with contrast, my mom and I had to watch a video about the risks involved.

Contrast agents improve tissue discrimination in a MRI scan. Since they were looking for stress fractures, the contrast would “puddle” in the fractured bones or other imperfections.

Some of the risks included: allergic reactions, feeling light headed/passing out and my personal favorite…death! That is definitely not what you want to hear right before they inject you with contrast and slide you back into a tunnel, which just so happens to look like a coffin. I can laugh about this now, but I remember having this thought process:

“They said if something goes wrong I would die almost immediately after injection. Okay, it has been a few seconds…still here…it has been at least a minuet…still here…”

Needless to say, I survived the contrast injection and could focus on watching “Finding Nemo” over the loud sounds of the machine. It took over an hour for the machine to gather the necessary information.  I realize that reading about my MRI with contrast may sound scary, but let me assure you that usage of the contrast agent is rare. In fact, it is only used about 20% of the time. I have always said I have horrible (or awesome?) medical luck. With all of the exams complete, all that was left was the diagnosis.

Walking out of the scanning room, I saw my mom talking behind a wall of the waiting room to a man in a white lab coat. My mom looked frightened, but I still had no suspicion of a major problem. Honestly, I was just happy to be up and moving after having to lie perfectly still all morning. The doctor explained that the test revealed a benign Osteoid Osteoma tumor, not related to the scoliosis, on my lower spine. Since the diagnosis came as a complete shock, the doctor had to explain in great detail what was growing on my 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.
As soon as he ran down the list of common symptoms, it all seemed so clear.

  • Sharp pain that worsens at night – check
  • Pain that is usually relieved by aspirin or other anti-inflammatory drugs – check
  • Painful scoliosis and muscle spasticity – check, check, CHECK!
  • Nerve symptoms- check

Clearly the diagnosis was correct, so now came time to discuss the treatment options.

A) I could wait out the pain and trust my body to identify the irritant. Normally, and I quote, “the body will break up the tumor in roughly 24 months.”
B) Have surgery to literally burn off the tumor

I honestly do not know who would have the sanity to live two years in pain, so without a second thought, I chose surgery. The doctors said that as soon as the procedure was complete, the pain would instantly vanish. Surgery, however, required a long recovery period. Because it was in the middle of competition cheerleading season, I had yet another choice to make. I could either have surgery immediately, get rid of the pain, and leave my team with a replacement half way through the season, or I could work through the pain and have surgery at the conclusion of the season. After thinking about how my decision affected my team (and my own sanity) I decided to schedule my surgery for after the competition season.

Finishing that season was one of the toughest things I have ever done, but I felt absolutely no regrets. Practices were full of pain and tears, but my zest kept me going.  I’ll never forget the competition at Winder Barrow High School when my coach had to literally carry me off the floor… I was so embarrassed! I found ways to get through the season though. Everybody knew they could find me near an outlet with the heating pad.

A couple of weeks after the season ended, I checked into Crawford Long Hospital in Atlanta for my surgery. After a few hours I woke up in a hospital bed wondering where I was. A nurse came in and told me they were trying to reach my mother, but she was not answering her phone – not to anyone’s surprise in my family. The surgery was successful and was eager for the next season to start. Amazingly, I have no scar and probably could not even tell you where one would be. Also, I was able to step right back into cheerleading without any major setbacks. It was the best feeling to live pain free!

BsR,
Ashleigh

My Little Secret

Other people’s opinion of you does not have to become your reality. ~Les Brown

Walking down the halls of middle school, I did not share the same excitement as my fellow classmates while moving from our classroom to the gym for the annual scoliosis screening. Holding the evaluation form in my hand, I prayed with each step for a “positive” result. As a naive sixth grader, I felt certain that testing positive would mean that I did not have scoliosis and testing negative would mean I did. After all, scoliosis was not a positive thing in my mind. After I finished bending over, standing up straight, leaning from one side to the other for a parent volunteer, a doctor come over to run more tests. Finally, the exam finished and I returned to my classroom extremely happy that the whole ordeal was over.

Pro Cheer All-Stars (6th grade)

That afternoon, my mom told me that the school had called about my screening results and she scheduled a doctor’s appointment for later in the week. The results indicated that I many have scoliosis. Again, I went through a series of evaluations and the doctor released the results. Every emotion ran through my head when the doctor spoke the dreaded words, “we diagnose you with scoliosis.”

Why me? Why did this have to happen to me? This is NOT fair! I just want to be like everyone else!!!

These are just a few of the thoughts that ran through my head. To be honest, these thoughts stayed with me for years. From that point on, shame drove me to keep the scoliosis a secret. Terrified of anyone knowing about my back, I feared rejection, embarrassment, and mockery. I remember one time when going on a walk with some friends, my mom told another mom about my back. I wanted to keep my scoliosis a secret from everyone – peers, friends, adults… it did not matter – this was my secret. However, as the curve of my back continued to progress, it grew increasingly difficult to hide.

BsR,
Ashleigh