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What Middle School Taught Me About Life With Scoliosis

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Middle school is an extremely awkward time for almost everyone. Puberty brings along changes throughout the whole body; mine just happened to be a little different.

Backtrack to the beginning of sixth grade, when I decided my goal for the next three years would be to blend in to the best of my ability. And I was succeeding, until my body decided it would bring some unexpected changes. I got my period, but I also got a curvier back.

In May of 2011, my worst nightmare came true — I have scoliosis, and my back had curved so much that I would need a brace. I had grown up always going to Children’s Hospital for back x-rays to make sure my curves were not getting worse. It was routine for me, but I never expected my back to turn against me so much that my life would all take place inside a plastic cover.

According to the American Association of Neurological Surgeons, 2 to 3 percent of the population has scoliosis. That includes every curve that is over 10 degrees, but keep in mind that bracing starts at 25-ish degrees and surgery is usually considered around 40-ish degrees. This does differ doctor to doctor, though. Scoliosis is a curvature of the spine, and if it curves too much, it can crush other organs. Most with scoliosis have a shoulder or hip that is higher than the other; this is one of the first signs.

I got my TLSO brace in May of 2011 and it made me miserable (keep in mind that it covered my entire torso). I decided it was not a part of who I was, and therefore told no one about it. I went through middle school wearing baggy sweatshirts over it so no one would see it. I despised it. I wore it for 3 years, 20 hours a day, 365 days a year. I became hateful towards the brace and my own body. All my friends were shopping for cute clothes and I was at home sweating through sweatshirts. I gave up three years of my life to mourn over the loss of being a less-awkward middle schooler.

And then it came to me in high school. Why was I wasting my life rejecting my own body? There was nothing I could do to un-curve my back, and having scoliosis wasn’t my fault. Life had just thrown me a curveball.

Now a senior in high school, I want to let everyone going through the bracing process know that it will be OK. I know they might not agree with me, as at the time when my parents told me the same things I didn’t believe them. I know it seems like the end of the world right now, but trust me, no one looks back at middle school and remembers how great it was — brace or no brace. Tell your friends; they will become your greatest support system. I told none of my friends and struggled way more than if they were there cheering me on.

Having scoliosis is something you cannot change about yourself, so still enjoy life. Life is too good to miss out on — even if it is during the awkward middle school years.

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Originally published: February 1, 2017
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