I was once told that my voice changes when I talk about the things I am passionate about. I can hear it now, and this blog is that voice.
This is kind of a long story, but bare with me.
When I was about 12, we had someone come to our gym classes and check everyone for scoliosis. I was told I had it and needed to follow up with a doctor. From then, my mom and I went to the doctor’s every year about twice a year.
Our first fight against it? A back brace. In the front it just covered my stomach. However, the back went all the way up to my over my shoulder blades and all the way down to the middle of my butt (in the most non-flattering way – it smashed the top part in). I wore the brace from 7th grade until the middle of 9th grade. The GAP hoodies were a cool thing back then, and good thing because I wore one every day. A GAP hoodie and jeans were the the only thing I could wear to hide the contraption. As you can imagine, that only helped me through the winters. Summers were stressful and a t-shirt and shorts were not enough to cover the hideous brace. It was made out of plastic that would leave me drenched in sweat, and I would have random pricks and pins in my back and stomach that caused me to rip it off on occasion. I remember making deals with my mom to have to not wear the brace on certain days.
Going into high school, you already have fears of how it is going to go—new school, new teacher, new everything— but I also had to worry about this brace. I have vivid memories of my experience with the back brace that year. I had one guy show interest in me while I was wearing it, we'll call him Bob. I don’t remember why, but Bob and I ended our little high school computer class fling (ha). Then, I was cleared to no longer wear the brace and the hoodies came off and jeans got tighter. I now opted for the shirts that stopped just before the top of my low-rise. I felt free and like people could finally see me. The boys definitely did. My curves had come in between 7th and 9th grade, but had been hidden, always smashed down by the brace. But now people were beginning to notice me.
Fast forward to maybe a week or so after I stopped wearing my brace: You remember our friend Bob? Well more guys were showing interest in this hippy freshman, and Bob wasn’t liking it. I remember one day at lunch, while a guy was trying to talk to me, he comes over, sits next to me and has the audacity to say, “But remember who wanted you when you were wearing that back brace!” Every word hit me. With one sentence, he confirmed every fear I had about wearing that brace in the past.
I don’t really remember much else about my experience wearing the brace. Nothing of major significance like what I have told you above. I played basketball the entire time I wore the brace, and still do even post-spinal fusion. There would be times in middle and high school where I would collapse on the ground and not move for 15 minutes because of back spasms after games. If I jumped too high reaching for the net, ran, walked, stood, sat, or did anything “too” physical, my back would hurt. Not to mention the emotional and mental tolls that amounted to a chronic pain that I just learned to live with, but a pain nonetheless.