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Scoliosis This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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   Fifth grade is supposed to be a time when eleven-year-old girls go on their first group trips to the movies with boys, experiment with make-up, and dream about junior high. For me it was all that and more. By June I had perfected the art of applying grape-flavored lip gloss. I was obsessed with the New Kids On The Block, and ready to kiss elementary school good-bye. My summer was going to be the greatest ever, and I was going to rule sixth grade in September.

Instead, it all changed. My physical education teacher sent a notice announcing that we were going to be examined for scoliosis. I had no idea what this meant, but all my classmates were getting checked, so it was fine with me.

Our teacher explained that scoliosis is when your spine is curved. Scientists don't know exactly what causes it, but it can become so severe that bones can shift and damage internal organs.

Although this sounded horrible, she explained that most kids don't have it that severely. Primarily girls have scoliosis, which is inherited.

One by one we pulled our shirts over our heads and bent over with our arms dangling in front of us. When I was examined my teacher didn't say anything, and finally told me to go, but gave me a yellow slip. A week later, I was called to the nurse's office and examined by a pediatrician, who told me that I had scoliosis. I thought I was going to die.

I saw a bone specialist who said it was "minor, nothing to worry about." But the x-rays showed he was wrong. My spine closely resembled a backward AS.' I had not one, but two curves.

Within a week I had seen a brace specialist and was wearing a thick, insulated brace. The hard, white, plastic monstrosity covered my chest down to my hips. The worst part was that I had to wear it 23 hours a day. This was the first week of my "greatest summer ever."

That summer I learned to hate my brace with a passion. But the doctors promised it would keep me off the operating table - they were wrong.

Shopping for school clothes was a nightmare, since the clothes had to fit over my brace. This is when I realized everything in my life was going to change. No longer did I worry about lip gloss. Now I had to worry about strapping my brace tight enough and doing all my physical therapy exercises.

Sixth grade began and I realized I was no longer like other kids. I longed to play field hockey but couldn't. I began to hate everything I couldn't take part in. I hated the kids at school because I was not a part of their cliques. Aside from two close friends, no one would talk to me except to ask what was wrong.

Every two months I had a check-up, and every two months the curves had progressed. The brace was not doing its job. By the beginning of eighth grade my doctor estimated that I had completed skeletal growth, so the brace would no longer be necessary (the "brace specialist" I had seen had had her license revoked). But he was wrong.

Ninth grade was a new beginning. It was the first year I could buy regular clothes. I came out of my shell, started making friends, and things seemed like they were getting back to normal. But I began to have chronic back pain and an examination revealed that my curves were still progressing, more rapidly than ever. My rib cage was on the verge of puncturing one of my lungs.

That January my doctor told me I would have to have an operation. On a scale from one (toe surgery) to ten (brain surgery) this was an eight, but it would to keep me from dying before my 30th birthday. I was in the hospital for seven days, and was advised not to engage in any sort of physical activity for a year.

I thought that the ordeal would be over when the year was up, but I was wrong. During that year my muscles atrophied and I gained so much weight that I began to feel badly about myself. I started to fail classes because I was so depressed. My sophomore and junior years were both hellish, and now I am paying the consequences as a senior who will be attending summer school.

I have come to realize that my life will never be "back to normal" the way it was in fifth grade. I have subscribed to a scoliosis e-mail list where I am able to read stories of people who have gone through the same ordeal. And though I know my life has forever been changed by something "minor, nothing to worry about," at least it can only get better from here. tf


This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.




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This article has 17 comments. Post your own!

Dolphingirl said...
May 8, 2012 at 1:21 pm:
I know what you feel like because I have the same thing.  I know how you feel about school and that it won't change.  Keep trying your best.  Keep going forward and don't look back.
 
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sammy4577 said...
Nov. 5, 2011 at 7:50 am:

I have scoliosis but its not terrible. I have stopped growing so the curve will stop. I am in eigth grade now and doctors began to notice it in sixth grade.

I went into sixth grade feeling like i would rule that grade and be the most popular and pretty girl but my doctor realized i didnt sit normal. I sat with a slouch. The doctors immediately got me into a specialist and she said it wouldnt grow anymore and i would be fine. Luckily i havent had to wear a brace and hopefully i dont hav... (more »)

 
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. said...
Aug. 25, 2011 at 5:30 pm:
I love your article! I have scoliosis so I'm really really hoping that I won't have surgery (I'm in a brace now). You're a great writer - don't ever stop.
 
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Megs2930 said...
Aug. 8, 2011 at 9:31 pm:
When i was 3 years old i was having back pains then i had to get a cat scan and they said i had scoliosis and they said it wasent bad but by the time i was in 3rd grade My curve was 40 and i had to wear a full body brace. This past january i had to have surgery and i thought my life was over beacause i thought i couldnt play hockey anymore. i have 2 metal rods in my back and im lucky because i would of had back pains for the rest of my life and i still have to wear a brace
 
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jenna42 said...
Jul. 8, 2011 at 12:39 am:
Yeah, I'm 13 and I've been wearing a boston brace since i was 12 and I have to wear my brace 21 hours a day and I had to wear it from 7th grade to maybe 9th grade....I don't want to go into high school with a brace on but my doctor says if i keep wearing it like im supposed to
I might get to wear it at night... Wish Me Luck!! <3
 
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georgia girl said...
Jun. 4, 2011 at 2:48 pm:
I've had scoliosis.. there is a great book out about a teen girl who had major surgery and all she went through being accepted because she was different.. It's called Destiny's Curve...  wow she went throught a lot!
 
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DrStitzel said...
Mar. 17, 2011 at 2:53 pm:
Idiopathic scoliosis is primarily a neurological condition that has its primary effect on the spine, rather than "just a spine condition".  With that in mind, it is no wonder scoliosis brace treatment and scoliosis surgery is becoming obsolete rather quickly.  The advent of break through prognostic technologies like Scoliscore (genetic testing) and the soon-to-be-released scoliosis blood test are only going to increase the push for early stage scoliosis intervention scoliosis treatment... (more »)
 
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ScoliosisSister said...
Nov. 6, 2010 at 11:48 pm:
I Have scoliosis too. I started at 10 degree curve and within a year ended up at 32 degrees. They now recomend me to go into a brace. This is what I have always worried about. My fate comes tomorrow, FINAL X-RAY!! I hope your surgery has helped you. I also found out yesterday that braces are not even proven to be affective. I think me and you both are learning that scoliosis can be much more complicated than a little bad posture
 
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Boston2396 said...
Sept. 29, 2010 at 9:04 pm:
I have scoliosis as well. Mines isn't really that bad. However, I am worried that it can get bad. I truly have empathy for you guys that went through the troubles yet obstacles. You guys are survivors.
 
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BethaniThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. said...
Aug. 22, 2010 at 7:30 pm:
I have scoliosis and had to have surgery two years ago. I couldn't enjoy my 16th birthday the way i wanted to. But I would've died from breathing problems by the time I was 20 they told me. Be glad it was found! Otherwise you probably couldn't have kids. 
 
bethany replied...
Oct. 25, 2010 at 10:39 am :
i have scoliosis too. but im not sure whether or not i should get the surgery. my sister got hers last year but she had a hard time with it. i guess im kinda scared of the surgery
 
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J. Rae said...
Jul. 6, 2010 at 8:28 pm:

My cousin was very lucky. She had scoliosis and had to wear a brace until she was done growing, five years or so.

 I really hope that you get better.

 
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beingthesame said...
Feb. 25, 2010 at 5:27 am:
i have scoliosis too, when I was eight my parents were against getting treatment because my dad was sure he could fix it. I tried excersicising and my dad even put wires on my back and it sent shocks. Nothing worked so they finally took me to a specialist. I had to get an x ray and it showed my spine was close to crushing my heart. By some miracle my back was straightening without medical help. Im 14 now, my back still hurts from time to time. at least its better than it used to be.
 
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bergman said...
Jan. 7, 2010 at 8:45 am:
finding the cause of this would help out alot of people i know my scoliosis isnt that bad but i still know your pain. i seek help all the time to get rid of my pain and now i know i cant get rid of it
 
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ol'girl said...
Nov. 8, 2009 at 9:26 pm:
Scoliosis is really really common, but there's such a lack of information out there. I just wanted to share my experience too because I bet there are a lot of girls frantically googling to learn more, and I really wish I had heard about some success stories before I began treatment.
I was diagnosed late--at age 14. I was still growing, so they braced me--23 hours a day for 3 and a half years. Every couple of months, I went back to the doctor and eagerly watched them shave down the pl... (more »)
 
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pamtaro said...
Oct. 19, 2009 at 5:37 pm:
I totally understand how you feel. Something along those lines happened to me, except they found mine when I was in seventh grade. I had to wear a brace through high school and later had the surgery so I totally identify with all of your pains especially trying to find clothes and fit in. ^^ My s curve was only about 43 degrees though so I didn't have a lot of the chronic pain that you described then, but now I do have it due to scar tissue. Just keep hanging in there, and know that I... (more »)
 
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lia8956 said...
Mar. 2, 2009 at 4:13 pm:
hey, i also have scoliosis. i am from th dominican republic and i use a brace since fifth grade and now i am in in seventh grade.... i have a curve of 36 and 40... and i hope not to get to surgery, they say it's dangerous... GOOD LUCK TO U ! :)
 
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