My mom had noticed a lump on the right side of my back. We thought it was from volleyball, but after going to the doctor and getting my back checked, I found out I had scoliosis. My mom told me right after my beach volleyball tournament and I was in tears for days. I thought my life was over.
About a week later, we went to a special back doctor to talk about a brace. I asked if I could take it off for volleyball and his response was, “If you take it off for an hour, you might as well not wear it at all.” No sympathy! I mean who has the audacity to come up to a 12 year old, tell her you have to wear a plastic brace around your entire midsection and you have to play volleyball with it on too? An unsympathetic doctor! So what did I do? I cried.
After that visit with the first back doctor, my Mom did some research and found a new doctor who had better bedside manner, and even though I have to wear a brace for almost every hour of the day and sleep in it, I could play volleyball without it on. Lesson I learned from my mom: Get a second opinion.
About two weeks later I was fitted for my brace. It was super tight at first and I felt like I could barely breathe. Stephen was super cool and let me help with the process. He was supportive and kind. He even let me finish the brace by hammering in the velcro straps!
A lot of stuff that I used to wear did not fit anymore. Whenever I ate, I felt like I was going to explode. After a day or so, when I finally started to acclimate just a little, I was now forced to wear it to bed. I slept with my mom for at least a week. She stayed up with me and we read and played games. Anything to get my mind off the pain. I couldn’t have asked for a better mom.
Then there was the thought of having to wear this awkward plastic brace to school. Right when I got my brace, school started back up again. I was really nervous about it. The uniform looked weird at first and I was pretty upset and felt a little insecure. But all my friends were very supportive of it and made me feel 10 times better. Whenever you are going through something tough, it is always better to have friends to help you along the way. It is ok to be afraid of what people think and that is totally normal. All you have to do is OWN it, and soon enough it becomes like a part of you.
We did have to buy uniforms two sizes bigger to fit around my brace. It was hard to sit at my desk, so they had to find a bigger desk. I also had to find a special place to put the brace when I changed into PE clothes.
Also Schroth. If you are ever diagnosed with Scoliosis, you need to learn Schroth. It is a method where core movements help my spine move back in the direction of where it is supposed to be. Everything helps, not just wearing a brace.
I looked at the negative things at first, but then I started to realize how lucky I was to not have surgery, and there were actually a lot of good things that come with the brace too. Once I started sleeping in it more, I realized how comfortable it was and I began to like it better. Also, since a lot of clothes didn’t fit me any longer, I got a free shopping spree. You can get out of PE during COVID, because you can’t do PE in a brace. No changing in the locker rooms. The best thing is that it’s like a shield, you are less likely to get hurt.
In April 2020, seven months later, everything was going super well. I had just gone to the office to get measured for my curve and twist (rotation). My curve went from 28 degrees to 19. My twist went from 18 to 15 degrees. I was improving because I committed to wearing my brace as many hours as I could. I was also doing Schroth. I do a lot of Schroth once I get home from volleyball or school.
In October 2020, one year and one month into wearing my brace, my curve moved to 17 and my twist to 13. More improvement!
I am now in 8th grade, 14 years of age and it is January 2021. I have about 11 months left in the brace! At first, the brace seemed like a lot and you think your life is ruined. But with great friends, a supportive family, positive vibes, and commitment to wearing it and doing the work to improve your spine, you will get through it. It made me so much stronger and braver!
I am so lucky I’m on the path to not have surgery. Just remember, wear the brace, embrace the brace, open up to people about how you’re feeling, do your schroth and remember the positive, and all will be well.
Thank you for reading my story!
~Written by Giovanna P.