Thursday, August 29, 2013

To Have Scoliosis

Plastic Bones
The Guggenheim Museum NY
To have scoliosis is to not realize it
To have it,
For me
Is to have someone else point it out
To have mild scoliosis
Is to look a bit odd
To have an unforgiving posture
That many more unforgiving people will judge

To have scoliosis,
Though sufficiently awkward
Is to have a secret language
With others with the condition

To have scoliosis
Might have changed more than my back
More than my feet
More than my personality

To have scoliosis
Is rarely something to worry about
Until you place meaning
In the issue

The Discovery
For our first communion, each girl donned a white dress with matching head pieces that looked similar to a bride's veil. As usual, I deemed the act of purchasing a dress at the department store quite futile. Amidst puberty, my body was changing precariously. Ever a worrier, I did not want to have to conform to a certain dress that might seem perfect one day and awful the next. So, instead, my grandmother brought me to her friend, a seamstress and self-professed designer. After an hour of measuring and tucking and pencil writing, the "designer" confessed that neither my hips or shoulders were straight, actually they were more wonky than normal.

The Reaction
Today, I might have thought that the woman was crazy, but surprisingly, then, I did not even stop to think. I just accepted it, really. Wincing wasn't even involved as I watched my grandmother who also took it quite lightly.

The Aftermath
Following my first communion, my grandmother brought me to a doctor, who happened to be a distant relative. She told me that I had scoliosis, a medical condition where the spine curved. For years ahead, I spent at least once a day in some sort of physiotherapy. I wore customized insoles that made my shoe standout from the pile outside of the shoe-free library at school. No one really noticed, I think. The therapy, of course, extended beyond my posture and feet. In some instances, they involved slimming within the therapy, for the sake of slimming down. Maybe it would help boost my confidence, they said. But, I didn't really care. On the contrary, the weight was a larger source of insecurity, rather than the foot and bone problem.

Universally, having scoliosis, as bad as it sounds, made me feel extra special. Yes, I had to travel far for physical therapy and I had to wear special gear at night, but it made me feel different. Beyond that, I became better friends with my oldest best friend, who also had scoliosis. We had our secret gaze and wink every time we took off our shoes and lined them up next to everyone else's. We spoke a special language that no one really understood. And, most importantly, we were there to back each other up when someone asked about her armor or my inability to wear stilettos.

Can't fit my fin in stilettos, can I?
Little Mermaid, Disney World

In the past few months, my scoliosis, which was deemed "fixed" two years ago, has progressed due to lack of therapy and usage of appropriate gear. Of course, this is now more apparent due to symptoms, such as fatigue and increasing asymmetry. Even so, I am yet to be moved by the condition. Perhaps, scoliosis is an innate aspect of my identity. Perhaps, it will never more me as the issue of weight or other conditions have. When my life regains stability, I might resume my physical therapy. But, for now, I am ready to jump start the program again.

Scoliosis can be a debilitating condition. In some, the condition may stop them from working or traveling, while in others it might be an empowering tinge of their identity. I had the privilege to experience the latter, though it may change with time.

*Author owns rights to all photographs displayed

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