8 years ago bang to the day I had a “life” changing experience, my parents had a stressful day and a restless night. Me, I was so out of it I could see dwarves on the ceiling and dragons out of the window. Not phased one single second by the 6 hours that apparently created most of my dad’s grey hair. My mum stayed on a chair for the week and complained every single second since (I know she’ll read this and I just like to annoy)
A few days before my thirteenth birthday on 1st April 2011, I discovered most joyfully I had scoliosis, a lovely welcome to the already self-conscious, embarrassing and emotional stages of teenage years and of course a fabulous birthday present too. Scoliosis isn’t something my family or I had ever heard about at all but unknowingly to us it was common in my age range and body type.
For everyone who hasn’t got a clue like me and my family, scoliosis is a curvature of the spine. “Scoliosis is where the spine twists and curves to the side.” We found out I had a massive one, 77 degrees to be exact and it was only getting bigger every single time I grew which was pretty regular at that age. Unfortunately for me, this meant it was extremely visible and I knew how “weird” this was compared to everyone at my school. My back was misshapen and my shoulder blade was pushed out on the right-hand side, we went to A&E before and they referred me not before telling me I had to eat some burgers. Due to the size of my curve I really only had one option, Surgery. This could be life-changing surgery and the risks were incredible for a young, confused mind to apprehend. Although many cases of scoliosis are mild complications can occur affecting your lungs and heart due to the ribcage eventually pushing down on these organs so in my case I had only one choice and that was most definitely surgery, not only because of the fast rated growth my curve was heading in but the horrible appearance I had now become to notice. My body was twisting, my ribs sticking out incredibly and my body getting closer to my legs every single day, your right I’m probably exaggerating the situation.
The waiting line for an operation like this was long but they found me a spot in August, I had four months to prepare myself. I had x-rays after x-rays to compare to one another to see just how big the curve was achieving. This operation was six hours long, they would pull my spine as straight as they could and pin it with metal bars and screws to hold it together. The risks were massive and I’m sure I wasn’t the most scared out of my family. I had to go in on Wednesday night for an early start of cutting and drilling, just what we all could dream of. Armed with paper pants and drugs aplenty a man came in to my doorway and that was the last thing I could remember, easier for me than of course my poor parents who could do nothing but think about what it could be like if it all went wrong and I’d be in a wheelchair for the rest of my life. Me, I was with the fairies.
After the operation, I was in and out for the rest of the day but my first response was a massive thumbs up to my worried parents and they could finally breathe. See is the mistake of the family and they have worried the most with. When I finally could think I was utterly heartbroken by the fact they’d cut shaved my hair, my only issue to date. Of course, I wish I could be straighter and have more boob on the right side (yes another lovely and self-loathing little side-affect.)
Little did I know that my journey had just begun with my back, (cliché I know.) I hated every second of the hospital and wanted to leave as soon as I woke up so my aim was to get out of bed as quickly as I could. At first, it was like carrying a backpack full of rocks and my abs just weren’t ready to be put into action so suddenly. I left the hospital within five, back to school in 4 weeks and never returned to sport because I became like many other teenagers, a lazy little shit.
However as time went on the pain wasn’t great and I still hated the way I look, I wasn’t straight enough or my scar is showing. Matter of fact it was really difficult getting used to the fact I have a full back length of scar that I’m still to this day incredibly sensitive about. For a long time I was and particularly still am angry at the system for no in-depth aftercare, I know the NHS is stretched and a teenage girl with back issues isn’t really on the high priority list but a little physio and possible mental support to ease the self conscious, young and incredibly vulnerable girl get through the extra shock and change her body has had to deal with during her puberty years. I didn’t see my first physio until a few years after my operation and by this point, it was difficult to get into moving my spine about in a similar function to beforehand which inevitably crashed and burned into a massive bag of failure leaving me with the pain and hatred.
What the hell is scoliosis and how did it happen to me? I asked this question repeatedly in my head and feared that some way I could pass this on to my future children even with the insurance that would not happen. I don’t think I could see my child go through the pain I feel against myself and self-confidence issue I never regained due to how I see myself. When I saw my curve for the first time I was able to see it and suddenly I became obsessed with everything that is “wrong” with me.
As I’ve grown up and began to realise I owned when I was 13, I was brave, empowered and in control of myself. I made a choice and was prepared for the outcomes, I made myself proud. I wish I could take a little bit of the old me and spread it into my current self to show that I am all of those things and more. 8 long years on and I’m finally okay with my bars, the full length scar and the fact I’m a little bit wonky.
Happy 8 years to my bars and me!