My Scoliosis Story: Diagnosis
I was diagnosed with scoliosis when I was 14 years old. At the time, I was devastated and I honestly thought my world had ended. I remember crying most days. I had never heard of scoliosis and so I worried what the future would hold for me. Would it get worse? Would I be able to walk when I was older? Would I need a wheelchair? All these thoughts went through my head.
At the time of diagnosis, my scoliosis was severe. I had 2 curves in an “s” shape that measured over 70 degrees. To put this into perspective, anything over 50 degrees is considered severe and would be a candidate for spinal surgery. With curves over this size, there is a risk of progression over time. This would cause further deformity, pain and (in very severe cases) potential breathing problems as the rib cage twists and pushes on the lungs.
I had finished growing when I was diagnosed, so unfortunately I had missed any opportunity for bracing and surgery was really the only option to reduce the risk of future progression. I was terrified of the prospect of spinal surgery and so I spent the next 10 years being monitored yearly with x-rays. I went to university and tried to carry on with my life as best I could.
My Scoliosis Story: A painful decision
When I was in my early 20’s, the pain began to get worse and it was discovered that my scoliosis had progressed - the curves were now over 80 degrees. The next few years were probably the worst years of my life. I agonised whether to have the surgery or not, as any spinal surgery is major surgery and comes with significant risks. Finally, when I was 24, I made the difficult decision to have the surgery and underwent a ten hour operation to straighten my spine with metal rods and screws and fuse it straight.
The recovery from this surgery was without a doubt the toughest thing I have ever had to go through. I had about 6 months off work, I had to learn to sit up and walk again and even simple things like getting out of bed, having a shower and getting dressed were painful and difficult for a long time. I couldn’t bend, lift or twist for about 3 months and was on incredibly strong painkillers for about 8 months. After about 12 months, I gradually started to return to the gym and do simple exercises like walking and cycling. My back felt stiff and strange and my muscles were so weak I had to have a lot of physio to build my strength back up.
It was about 4 years post-surgery that I started feeling more comfortable pushing myself a bit more. It was around this time a friend of mine was taking part in a Race for Life event – a 10k run to raise money for Cancer Research. I remember worrying how my back would cope but decided to go for it anyway and started training. I completed the 10k (slowly – but I did it!) and ever since then, I haven’t looked back and have gradually pushed myself more and more.
My scoliosis makes me more determined
Having scoliosis has made me more determined to push myself, live life to the full and appreciate everything I can do. It’s made me who I am, and for that I am thankful. Over the years I have learnt to embrace my scoliosis and turn a negative into a positive. I have achieved more since my surgery than I ever did beforehand, and more than I ever thought would be possible. Fast forward 8 years on from my surgery, I am now a member of a run club. I run races regularly including 10k races, trail runs, obstacle course races such as Tough Mudder and half marathons. I am hoping to train for a full marathon next year.
Last year I spent a week trekking the Great Wall of China, raising almost £2,000 for the Scoliosis Campaign Fund. I love hiking and have climbed several mountains including Snowdon and Tryffan in Wales. I am always looking for my next challenge!
I also run a blog called helpformyscoliosis – through which I really hope to help and inspire others with what I have achieved. I believe that anything is possible and scoliosis should never stop you from living or achieving your dreams.