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Throughout my childhood I was told to have excellent memory. Whether it was little things such as remembering to put away my toys or what the date and time was when we went to my grandma’s house on Easter. But there were two specific dates that I know can remember like the back of my hand: June 2nd, 2009 and May 7th 2014.
These two dates are a timeline. This is a timeline of 5 years. 5 years that has changed my life. I look back 5 years on the same day it started and so much has changed (and for the good of things). So let me start the story where every story starts; at the beginning.
On June 2nd, 2009 I sat in the hospital room at Sick Kids Hospital in Toronto. The reason I was there was for nothing serious, nothing life-threatening and nothing to shocking. At the time, I was at the end of 2nd grade and had turned 8 years old and I was very naïve and not aware as to why I was there. I remember my mom and my dad sitting with me and my baby brother (Who was only 5 at the time) waiting. We were waiting for X-rays of my back to be shown
When I was 6 I had come down with pneumonia and it was nothing bad thankfully but after I had taken an X-ray of my chest, the doctors noticed something was wrong with my back. They saw that my spine was a little more curved than most people. Of course, it was nothing serious at the time but they did ask my mom to go to an orthopedic clinic and that was at Sick Kids Hospital.
Fast-forward two years later and a couple of doctor visits and we were at the memorable date. June 2nd. What I remember most though, on that day was standing near the table in the room where a weird plastic contraption of some sort, sat there. I looked at it and asked “Daddy what is that thing?” My dad then explained to me “It’s something that helps people’s backs. It helps keep it straight.” I looked at it again, and in an innocent voice I said “Well I’m glad I don’t have to wear that.”
Oh how naïve I was. Only after I said that I was told news that changed me forever. 10 minutes later I was told that I had scoliosis.
For those who don’t know, scoliosis is a type of medical condition in which the spine is curved from side to side, kind of making it look like a C shape or and S shape. Most causes of scoliosis are idiopathic (meaning unknown) or caused by genetics. Anyways, the only way to help my back not grow curvier (which would end in the result of surgery) was to wear a back brace.
At that point, the brave face I had tried to keep broke and I cried. I cried for what seemed like forever. They told me I would have to wear a brace for five or six years. My family was heartbroken.
It was then they told me I would have to start wearing my brace that summer. Start getting used to it by wearing a brace for a certain amount of hours everyday.
Now I know having scoliosis isn’t a big deal, like having cancer or another deadly disease that could possibly kill you. I know that most kids in this world would rather wear a brace than have to do chemo every day and have the uncertainty of wondering if it will cure them or whether it’s really its prolonging inevitable death. I am probably lucky to wear that brace, because I am better off than most people who suffer far worse things everyday. But the thing is having scoliosis isn’t fun. It’s terrible, but I’m thankfully lucky that I don’t have it as bad like other kids around the world.
But the thing is scoliosis affects you mentally. When I found out I had scoliosis and had to wear my brace I was so upset with myself. I blamed it all the times I slouched when I sat or when I didn’t keep good posture. I never understood why I had to have scoliosis. Why did it have to happen to me? I didn’t ask to wear this brace and I didn’t choose for my spine to be crooked. I felt like a freak. A freak that had to wear a brace, I had to wear something that set me apart from the crowd of our world, and it was one thing that made me different and that I hated.
Soon August came around and after doing a brace molding a few weeks prior, I went to Sick Kids to pick it up and bring home. That first time I put it on I instantly hated it. It felt so tight around my ribs and I felt pain everywhere. I begged my parents to take it off. I felt like I couldn’t breathe. My lungs were constricted, as if my head was being forced in water, and I felt like I was suffocating.
The next few weeks consisted of wearing the brace for 2 hours one day, then 4, then 5 and then 6 day. Those weeks were pure agony, the feeling of being constricted and suffocating in my brace. I felt pain physically and mentally. Now being a catholic, we learned bible passages in school about Jesus and all the miracles he performed and about God. But I asked myself, “Why did God let this happen? Couldn’t God have done something about it? Why is this happening to me?” But of course, being my naïve 8 year old self I never understood.
Whenever I asked this someone always told me that things happen for a reason and some things may be a blessing in disguise. I never understood what that meant, but as the years went by, the more I began to understand.
Slowly but surely, I started to get comfortable with my brace. I could wear it for 18 hours a day and eventually slept with it at night peacefully. And so the years went on.
These years had changed me. I learnt many things and changed for good. My best friend slowly started to turn on me and all my friends slowly left me because of her. I was lonely and isolated and felt miserable because of her. But I learned from her though, to never let anyone bring me down, I learned how to defend myself from words and I grew thicker skin.
I became more confident in myself, and I grew! I had a big growth spurt and became one of the tallest girls in my grade! I also became more outgoing and friendly with people with a quirky and sarcastic attitude. I made new friends and repaired and old friendship. I also became more mature and I have a more mature understanding in things than most people in my grade.
The time with my brace turned me into the person I am today! At first everything felt dark and gloomy but soon enough they turned happier and brighter with a colour that makes me feel better.
So now we are at the end of the timeline; May 7th, 2014. This was only 2 weeks ago and the news is still fresh and buzzing around in my mind.
On my last 6 month appointment I was told that I have slowed down growing, meaning that my back will stop growing. I was told that by September, I would be out of my Brace!
That was the best news of my life! This summer I would start getting used to NOT wearing this brace and it would be gone and out of my hair! I would go back to being normal!
Now once my orthopedist told me this wonderful news all these thoughts came to me. But as soon as the word normal popped up in my mind I stopped.
Normal? Was such a word in my vocabulary anymore? Sure normality is what I’ve wanted ever since I had this brace strapped on me but was being normal a great thing?
Now that I think of it, wearing this brace did become a normal thing. I think of how my life has adapted after wearing this brace. It just became a routine that I simply lived with and I thought of how that could’ve been different. What would it have been like if I didn’t wear the brace? Remember how I said earlier that some things can be a ‘blessing in disguise’? Well it was then I fully realized what that meant.
The funny thing is, the day after I was told the news I attended an annual ‘Walk with Jesus’ event for our Catholic School board. I know it may sound super religious but I’m proud to have been apart of the walk. At the opening liturgy before we began our walk the priest told a story. He told a story about blessings in disguise. After hearing the story I realized what a blessing in disguise meant. If I didn’t have my brace I would have had a crooked back that would’ve gotten worse and I would’ve had to have surgery to help my back. I would’ve probably had to wear my brace throughout high school; I might not have ended my friendship with my ‘best friend’ and would’ve been miserable still and dealing with her endless cruelty and isolation.
But most of all, I wouldn’t have become the girl I am today. I wouldn’t be the confident, titanium, awkward, sarcastic, funny, smart, weird, loud and passionate girl who loves writing and found her appreciation for books. If it weren’t for that brace I wouldn’t be me!
These 5 years have molded and shaped me into the person I am today.
Beautiful me, Curved and all.