As I start to evolve to be the best version of myself, sometimes it's necessary to go back and reflect on a time when you thought your world was coming to an end. It's very important to study and concentrate on the many lessons you've learned during that difficult period of your life. In order to know where you're going, it's a must that you study where you've been. One story that comes to mind was the time I got diagnosed with scoliosis. According to the MayoClinic, scoliosis is a sideways curvature of the spine that occurs most often during the growth spurt just before puberty.
At the age of nine years old, I was in the dressing room along with my mother in a department store when it was discovered that one side of my shoulder was higher than the other. I recall my mom having me to bend down to touch my toes at least four times while being half-naked. I also had to stand in with my back towards her for several minutes. When exiting the dressing room, I saw my mother beeline to my father to discuss the discovery. It was at that moment I knew something was wrong. Seeing my parents huddle up like refs for the NBA Finals, I felt that whatever was discovered was something that I needed to worry about. As the school year progressed, I remember going to different doctors' offices after school. The routine was simple. Remove your bra, put on this gown, and follow me when you're done. Stand here, hold your breath for 10 seconds, the doctor reviews the x-rays, and refers me to another doctor. It felt like I'd gotten a hundred and one x-rays done during a matter of two weeks.
Finally, it was discovered that I had been diagnosed with scoliosis. At the age of 11, I was confused about what scoliosis was. I barely knew how to pronounce it, let alone explain it if given the opportunity. Most teenage girls have a huge curve at the top region of their spine. According to my x-rays, I had two curves. One at the top and the other at the bottom. The next step would be for my doctor to explain the different options to my parents. One option was to sleep in a back brace at night.
The second option was to get back surgery. I was in the sixth grade and my parents at the time thought that me sleeping in the brace at night would be beneficial. After getting molded for the brace, it was time to take it home and try it out. That was by far the worst sleeping arrangement I've ever had. I could only sleep in one position, and that was on my back. If I had to wake up in the middle of the night to use the restroom, I would have to take it off with my shirt drenched in sweat. I remember crying at night because I felt trapped and so restricted. I kept asking God, "Why is this happening to me? I have other siblings, why aren't they the ones to endure this nightmare?" When sixth-grade camp came around, I couldn't wait to go, but I soon remembered that I would have to bring that ugly brace on the camping trip. I got home from school practically begging my mother to not let me go to sixth-grade camp with that brace. The ultimatum I gave my mother was if I have to wear that brace at camp, I would rather not go. Eventually, mom gave in and I didn't have to bring an extra tote bag to carry the brace in. The sixth-grade camp was an experience that I would never forget.
Once seventh grade came around, I was still wearing the brace at night and still going to a plethora of doctors' appointments to track my progress and see if any changes had to be made. After a year, it was discussed by my doctor that surgery would probably be the best option for me. After deliberation, my parents thought It would be best to get the surgery early while my body is still changing and growing. While my parents were deciding my fate, I started to notice how my spine was affecting my day to day activities. First, I would always get long-winded. For the life of me, I couldn't walk a mile without taking a break to catch my breath. Just imagine putting all of your weight on one leg and attempt to walk in a straight line at the same time. I was active in playing softball at the time, so it also became difficult to practice and participate in the games. I've always known that my back pain was serious, but it officially hit me while I was walking through the mall when I would obtain these out of the blue back spasms. The pain was so bad I found myself holding my breath waiting for the pain to subside. As time went on, the shortness of breath and the spasms got worse. I couldn't even enjoy a family vacation to Disneyland based off of the pain alone. I did my best to put on a brave face and attempt to be in the moment, but deep down, I wanted to leave and lay down. In preparation for surgery day, it was suggested by my surgeon that my parents donate blood for me to use if necessary. It was also suggested that I donate blood to myself as well. Just as a safety precaution, it would have been best to use my parents' blood and some of my own. Before the donation even started, my dad purchased me the healthiest Subway sandwich. Full of vegetables that would ensure that my iron levels were high enough to donate blood. A lot of olives and spinach. I don't remember eating any meat, I just remembered that I was hungry and the sandwich was good.
May 12, 1999 was the day that my teenage world would change. That was the day of my surgery. The surgery was performed by Dr. Browning, an orthopedic doctor in San Diego. It lasted a total of eight hours. The procedure was placing hooks, screws, and rods along my spine to straighten out as much as possible. My very last x-ray before my surgery listed my spine at a 36-degree angle. It was stated by a medical professional that if I didn't get the surgery, it was a possibility my spine would interfere with my lungs. I would most definitely look like the Humpback of Notre Dame. Once the surgery was complete, I vaguely remember what happened, but what I won't forget was them sliding a cardboard substance under my back for some unexplained reason. All I can remember happening was yelping, hollering, and calling out for my mother. The stay in the hospital was approximately two weeks. I finally survived the hospital stay, but the ride home was painful. Every bump and brake brought me to tears. A pain that I would never forget.
During my recovery process, I had to get homeschooled. I had to sit up for one to two hours a day using my sore back muscles which made it difficult to concentrate. Besides the back pain, the smell of my homeschool teacher's breath made it excruciating to answer a question, do a math problem, or read a paragraph. I used to hate looking at the clock at two PM. One time I didn't answer the door and had the teacher continuously knock. I would hope and pray she would leave. Sadly, my mother wanted to play by the rules and invite the teacher inside as she was leaving to get into her car. Thanks mom. While in middle school we had school quarters. This so happened to be in the fourth quarter of the seventh grade. At that particular time, I'd been playing softball, and that was the very first time I had to sit on the sidelines and watch my sister play.
Going into my eighth-grade year, I was excited to be back amongst my peers to laugh, joke, and eat hot Cheetos with nacho cheese again. I was happy I could finally stop talking about my back and recovery, and finally pretend to learn something. But before I could get back to my "happy" place, I had to go back to the doctor for a follow-up visit. Everything went well except hearing for the first time I had to wear another brace to complete the recovery process. This brace was to be worn ALL DAY, every day, up until my final follow-up appointment. As previously stated earlier, I had a hard time with the brace I wore overnight. Now I had to wear one under my clothes for an added month or two.August 1999 was the month and year I finally received my freedom from the brace, and could finally maneuver without pulling on straps and using tons of velcro before walking outside the door before school. Not only was I excited about not wearing the brace, but I was also excused from any physical education. I took pride doing nothing and being a hall monitor.
Fast-forward to April 2019. Am I 100 percent? Absolutely not. I still get back stiffness, inflammation, and leg numbness; it's also a possibility I may have a pinched nerve. So, this pain is never-ending. Although my spine is a little straighter, I still have back problems. As I've gotten older, I'm realizing that this is a part and will always be a part of my life. I can either complain about it or learn how to cope. Medical technology has changed, so hopefully I will be introduced to new ways of dealing with the pain. That's an experience I wouldn't want to wish on anyone. I had an overflow of insecurities. Some solely based on the surgery itself and others having to deal with your body constantly changing. The most valuable lesson I've learned is to admire and love your parents. My only worry at the time was not being able to play softball and missing school. They gave me space and time to recover and never left my side until I was completely healed. For that, I am forever grateful and I will never forget what was sacrificed in order for me to live a more comfortable life at that time. The scar along my spine reminds me of the struggle, tears, and confusion. Sleepless nights, aches, and pains. The scar along my spine isn't just a smooth yet bumpy surface. It tells a story about how I came. I saw and conquered that shit. I welcome all challenges. Because it's never about the challenge itself, it's more about the discovery of your strength and the lessons that life has to teach.
"The difference between school and life? In school, you're taught a lesson and then given a test. In life, you're given a test that teaches you a lesson." —Tom Bodett