Scoliosis. A word I have dealt with since the age of 12. I hated that word, HATED it! Hated to say it, hated to see it, hated to deal with it!! Scoliosis is defined as “a lateral curvature of the spine.” Basically, your spine is not 100% straight. You may have an upper curvature or a lower curvature. For me, it was upper and my curvature was over 50 “degrees,” as they call it. Essentially, I have a hump on the right side of my shoulder, which caused one shoulder to be higher than the other. You could also tell by how I walked, as it looked like I was leading with the right side of my body. I wasn’t bent over like a hobbit or anything, but you could definitely notice. Talk about not starting off so good with self-confidence as a pre-teen! Not great!
I’ll never forget the day. My mother was getting on me for a while about not standing up straight when I walked and stand. As a 12 year old, this was the least of my concerns. One day we were in the basement and my mom told me to come here. She turned me around and looked down the back of my shirt and said, “Oh my God.” I didn’t understand what was happening, what did she see? “Nikki, (my nickname) you have a big hump on the right side of your shoulder.” What was she talking about? My mom immediately called my pediatrician and booked an appointment for me to come in. We saw my doctor that week. He leaned me over and measured my spine. Thats when he said the word, “Scoliosis.” I was scared, I didn’t know what it meant and if it was something very bad.
He referred me to many doctors: Orthopedic surgeons, Scoliosis specialists and any other doctor necessary. They all confirmed his diagnosis. Again, my curve was over 50 degrees. Quite noticeable! Imagine a scale being at “0.” Now think of that scale tipping 50 degrees to the right. Quite a significant difference don’t you think?? My mom and I asked, where did this come from? Its no real answer, its a bit common actually. Some people develop a curvature and some don’t. So how do you treat it? I had to wear a HARD, UNCOMFORTABLE, HOT, plastic brace that went from under my breast to right below my hips. It made me walk straighter, but very stiff. It was so hard to even breathe in that thing. The brace prevents the curve from going further but thats about it. To fix this issue, I would have to have spinal surgery.
See that long scar down my back in this picture? That is my “battle scar” as my husband calls it. I stopped wearing the brace not long after I got it because it was so uncomfortable and I hated it. I resolved someday to get the surgery and call it a day. Fast forward to college, I was coming to the age (21) where I would no longer be covered under my parents insurance. So my parents and I discussed getting the surgery before that happened. We saw many doctors and they reviewed with me what to expect, potential outcomes and I even watched a little video describing the surgery. Whats funny is that my surgeon was a Children’s Orthopedic Surgeon. So there I was, my grown self in the waiting room with kids running around. LOL. But, it had to happen. I couldn’t go on with this ugly curve!
The day of my surgery was very scary. We went to the hospital at 5am for pre op fun! I say that with so much sarcasm. I was scared. Scared, scared, scared! My back was basically going to be cut open and my spine held in place by rods and screws. I was so nervous that I cried and sat shaking in the hospital bed. My parents prayed over me. Thank God for praying parents!! They administered meds to knock me out for this 8 HOUR SURGERY!! Yes, 8 HOURS!! Can you understand why I was basically terrified?? Could you imagine the fear my parents had about what could potentially go wrong?? As a parent now, I cant imagine! They were so strong for me and showed no fear. God bless them!!
I’ll never forget feeling woozy as the meds kicked in. I kissed my parents and they wheeled me down the hall. My eyes closed and I was out of there. I woke up to the sound of my name and laying on my stomach. It took me a moment to realize where I was and what happened. Then the pain HIT ME!! There are no words to describe it. NONE AT ALL!! I screamed! There was so much pressure on my back and felt like I couldn’t breathe. I wanted my mom. I screamed for her. When she came in the room I felt better having her there. But, the pain was unbearable. I asked them to turn me over to my back. I felt like that would help. They did and it didn’t help at all! Thats all I really remember.
I was at the Children’s Hospital of Detroit for a week. They were AMAZING!! They took such good care of me and the food was DELISH!! Lol. My parents took shifts staying with me. One during the night, one during the day. What amazing parents! My church family came to visit me as well. I felt so loved and taken care of. Each day it got better, seriously! I had pain, but SO much better than the day of surgery. I was restricted to being home for a month along with no heavy lifting or excessive movement. Although my mom and I did make a trip to the mall. LOL. I saw my doctor a few times to make sure my back was healing properly. Things got better!
From what I recall, I went from an over 50 degree curvature to just under 20 degree!! A HUGE difference. You can still see the side of my shoulder that has a very slight hump. I’m ok with it!! This surgery changed my life!! My self confidence about what I wore and how I felt went through the roof. So even with my “battle scar,” I have no problem showing it. None AT ALL!! Its a small price to pay for something that was such a huge part of my life. That part of my back is still a bit numb from the surgery, even over 10 years later. Sometimes it feels a bit stiff, so I get massages to help with that. And who doesn’t like massages?!
Would I do the surgery again? YES, ABSOLUTELY!! The pain was a very small price to pay to not have that curvature anymore. Scoliosis impacted my life at a young age. Scoliosis is a very serious condition and shouldn’t be taken lightly. There is no cure for it either. As a parent, I will be checking Camille early to ensure she doesn’t have it too. I encourage any of you that may have Scoliosis or children who may have it, to see your doctor and discuss the best options. Surgery was the best option for me and I have no regrets!!
Sorry for this LONG post, but I felt it important to share my story. I cried typing this up. I thought of the day my mom saw the curve, the trips to see multiple doctors and the day of my surgery. But, it made me reflect and be SO thankful or my amazing parents. They were my strength during this time!! Oh, I cant forget to mention that my then “friend,” now husband, was on the phone with my parents while I was in surgery. Checking in for updates and making sure I was ok. LOL I guess I found out how much my “friend” cared, which was pretty amazing too!
Do you have scoliosis or know someone that does? I’d love to hear your story. If you have ANY questions, please comment below or email me. I have no problem sharing as you can see!
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Photography: Angie Garcia