That December evening in the doctor’s office, I nervously sat with my parents ready to hear the news that would affect my future. My fingers clenched and my body filled with anxiety as the doctor announced my sentence: wear a Boston-style back brace until I stopped growing.
It has been about six months since I was sentenced to that hideous, bulky, plastic brace in an attempt to keep my scoliotic spine from curving further. See, instead of growing in a straight line like normal people’s spines, mine is curving in an "S" shape. To prevent my spine from becoming more S-like, I must wear the brace.
When I heard this news, I was devastated. I had just started the dangerous life of a freshman in my first public school with hundreds of new faces. I was participating in cheerleading, gymnastics and karate. I was trying to fit in with my classmates and the idea of wearing a back brace 24/7 was definitely not welcomed or accepted into my world.
The first couple of months of my new life were very tough. I eased myself into the confining plastic shell until I was able to wear it for the recommended 20-23 hours a day. I had to change my eating habits, exercise and clothing styles to accommodate the brace. I even struggled to dress and tie my shoes, along with anything else that required me to bend over. Walking, standing and sitting became a chore, and it took weeks for me to find a comfortable sleeping position.
To me, the brace brought nothing but a heap of problems. I knew, however, that I had to make the best of it, so I forced myself to find a positive side to wearing the brace, and to my surprise there was such a side! First of all, my brace is only temporary. If I want to take it off, I can, and I don’t have to wear it in the pool, while I shower or exercise.
My parents also understand what a bummer it is to wear a back brace, so they allow me to do activities without the brace and tell me to relax and take a break for an hour or so. Another thing I am glad about is that I don’t have to wear the older version called the Milwaukee brace that has metal bars sticking out from behind the neck and a leather strap to hold your neck in place. Yikes!
Wearing the brace has made me both mentally and spiritually stronger. I have developed a stronger sense of self-esteem since I wear the brace in public as well as school. I do not let the brace become an obstacle or keep me from participating in activities or enjoying life as a teen.
I must be self-confident and not worry about what others think when I wear the brace, how oddly shaped my body may appear. I am more optimistic and tolerant, trying not to snap at or take out my discomfort on others.
I do not blame God for my having to wear a brace, instead I think of this time as one when I can become closer to Him. I rely on His word and promises, along with prayer, to get me through each day.
It has taken me a few months to accept the fact that I must wear a brace and that it is a part of my life now. I still await the day my doctor will grant me the joyful pleasure of a braceless life, but until then, I must be brave and show the world that I have a strong backbone.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.