Growing up, I was a very lucky girl. I always had a pretty good and fun filled life. I was the middle child out of the five kids in my family, and my parents were happily married. I started playing soccer when I was about seven, and I loved it. I have played ever since. When I was getting my school physical in seventh grade, the nurse said it looked like I had scoliosis. A few weeks later my mom took me to our family doctor. I found out that I did have scoliosis and that I needed to see a spine specialist. I was only twelve so I did not think it was that big of a deal. My back never hurt from it or anything. After all, I knew a girl in my grade that had scoliosis too, and she seemed fine with it. Before I went to see the specialist, I had to go to the hospital to get x-rays. A few days later I went to the specialist and learned that my spine was 17 degrees off. I was recommended physical therapy to try to help straighten my back. I went to physical therapy once a week for about a month and a half in the summer of 2009. This was around three months after I found out about my scoliosis. In physical therapy I had to learn many stretches and I preformed them on an exercise ball. Almost every time I went to physical therapy, my therapist would hook me up to this machine that would relax my back. I thought it was pretty boring, but it did make my back feel more loose and relaxed. After I stopped going to physical therapy, I still had to do my stretches on the exercise ball I had at home.
About two months after I finished my physical therapy with the professionals, I went to see my back doctor again. This was November of 2009. My doctor had bad news. He said my back had gone from 17 degrees to 35 degrees! That is very bad since it had only been about 6 months. He also said that unless I wanted surgery, I would need to get a brace for my back. My mom explained that surgery is not a good choice because itís very painful, expensive and I wouldnít be able to play soccer for a long time. So I had no choice but to get the brace. Immediately after I found out, I started crying right in the doctorís office. I was scared. What if my whole school found out? What if I was treated differently? A million questions were running through my mind. Then my doctor explained that if my back got up to about 50 degrees off, I would need surgery. Right then and there, in the doctorís office, I decided I would not need surgery. I would not let my back get that bad.
The next day my mom took me to what would be my brace doctor. He was very nice and understanding and I immediately felt comfortable around him. He took some measurements around my hips and my rib cage. He said that if I grew a lot, I would need a bigger brace. I was very petite and was probably almost done growing. He described what the brace would be like. It would feel like someone was hugging me tightly all day! It was plastic and it would go from my ribs to my hips and go all the way around my body. There was Velcro straps in the back to get it on and off. He told me it was almost indestructible! About 2 months later, January 2010, I finally got my brace. I had to go back to my special brace doctor. He showed me how to put it on and take it off. It was not hard at all for me. My doctor said it might hurt my hips because the plastic would dig into them and it would not hurt to gain a little weight. At first, I only had to wear it for five hours a day. Then, I wore it for ten hours and at night. Then, I wore it all day and even during school. Wearing it at school was the scariest part for me. I was so nervous. But when I got on the bus, no one said anything. I was surprised! I am not sure if anyone noticed that day at school or even any other day. Now, I do not care and do not mind if people know. I figure if it is going help me get better, then I will use it! I wore my brace 23 hours a day every day. I only took it off for showering, gym class and sports, and sometimes lunch time. I also took it off for dressing up, for chorus concerts and such. In the beginning, it hurt a lot, but after a few weeks it felt normal, like it was a part of me. The hardest thing about the brace for me was finding clothes which hid my brace. I mostly just wore t-shirts and jeans to school. All of my friends knew and my best friend, Hannah, was awesome about it! She helped me get it on and off quickly before and after gym class. She only told people she knew I felt comfortable with.
Pretty soon I had another check up with my special brace doctor. He said the x-rays showed that everything was going fine, but my curvature did not get any better but it also did not get worse! So I was pretty happy that at least I was not going to need surgery. My doctor said I just had to wear my brace until I finished growing. I was so happy that day! Now, I am thirteen and it is the summer of 2010. I am wearing my brace every day, but it is harder in the summer because the brace makes you hot and sweaty. My little sister might also have scoliosis, so she needs to get x-rays too. I really hope she does not have to go through everything I did and I pray to god she will not need a brace. Luckily, it looks a lot less severe then mine! My next appointment is the day before school starts and I am hoping and praying to god that I am done growing so I do not have to wear it to high school! My summer has not been the best, but I think my back is getting straighter, so I have that to be thankful for.
Besides the fact that my brace is the most uncomfortable and annoying thing ever made, I think it is the best thing that has happened to me in a while. It has taught me how to make the best out of bad situations. That is a skill I will need in life. The only good experience out of my brace is the inspiration. That is the only way you will keep wearing it. The first few weeks with my brace I came home from school very upset. Then I remembered the promise I made to myself. My promise was that I would get better no matter what. I also realized I could get help. I talked to a lot of my friends about it and they were all very supportive. I thank my friend Tyler. I feel like he helped me get over it the most. He did not know about my brace, yet he always knew the right thing to say when I was upset, even if he didnít know why I was upset. He is an awesome friend!
I also used the internet to help me. There are many websites to figure out what clothes I could wear. I read other girls' scoliosis stories. I also found my inspiration and role model: Shailene Woodley. Shailene is an actress and she plays in the TV show Secret Life of an American Teenager. She also plays Marissa Cooperís little sister in the TV show the OC, which used to be my favorite show! She is really pretty and an awesome actress. I was reading the magazine seventeen and she was on the front cover. I thought she was just some stuck up actress, but then I read her interview with seventeen, and she had scoliosis! She was diagnosed at 15 and had to wear a brace too. Even though it must have been hard for her, she coped with it and ended up having an amazing life and career. She is now my inspiration and role model. She was not afraid to admit that she had a brace and I hope she knows she is an inspiration for girls like me. Now every night before I go to sleep, I look at the poster and typed interview that is taped to my wall. I find my inspiration there. Every morning when I wake up, I see her story and how she coped with it, and I vow to try and do the same. It keeps my hopes up. I hope girls around the world with scoliosis realize that it is not nearly as bad as some things. It is basically impossible to die from if you get it treated and it is a lot less painful then some things like cancer. You just need to find your inspiration. :)
Thank you so much Charlotte for letting me post your story!