“Your lungs are fine, but -”
My lungs are fine, the doctor said but I somehow forgot how to breathe when she mentioned the word ‘but.’ I was hospitalized for days because of fever and a recurring cough which made me also miss my fifth grade recognition. They were checking for pneumonia through an x-ray but what they found was something else. That March of 2008 permanently made a curve in my life – literally and changed it forever.
“Your lungs are fine, but you have scoliosis.” Scoliosis. The word was foreign to me back then but I welcomed the diagnosis with familiarity as if it were an old friend. As if my mind already knew that it had been there for years and it just finally had a name now. Or maybe it helped that I was staring at an x-ray. My x-ray. My x-ray which seemed to have a letter S for a spine instead of the normal straight line.
My pediatrician at that time was just as shocked as my parents. She was baffled at the fact that she wasn’t able to see it in me before, especially since I was one of her frequent patients as I was a sickly child growing up. The prominent letter S in my x-ray didn’t look like it had been there overnight, even a four-year-old could clearly distinguish that it was indeed a letter S.
She told us to go see an Orthopedic immediately as the situation was beyond her specialization and the degree of the curve was ‘too much’ for my age. But she still gave me and my parents a heads up as to what scoliosis is as she has one herself and so does her daughter. My pediatrician looked at me with concerned, sorry eyes and I looked at my parents’ eyes, asking for forgiveness – my sickly journey in this world didn’t seem to end just yet.
Scoliosis, according to an article in www.spine-health.com, “is a condition involving an abnormal sideways curvature of the spine. It can be caused by congenital, developmental or degenerative problems, but most cases of scoliosis actually have no known cause called idiopathic scoliosis.”
The latter was unfortunately my case. After being referred to an orthopedic and after a series of tests and x-rays, they concluded that the abnormal curvature of my spine was definitely not because of an accident or the abnormal growth of my bones. They were all healthy and in correct sizes and numbers, thus making my doctor conclude that it was either genetic or the unknown. Since no one in my family has been diagnosed with scoliosis, then my case is just part of the majority which is, of unknown causes. According to Medical News Today, this comprises a whopping 80% of the leading causes of scoliosis.
This was where my frustration settled in. One of my pet peeves is not knowing things or better yet, not knowing the reason why certain things are happening in the world – are happening to me. Back then, the whole situation just had me thinking, “Why me?” “What did I do to deserve this?” I needed answers; I’ve never craved answers in my whole life so badly.
Just when I thought my unanswered questions finally came to a stop, what my orthopedic said next, devastated me even more: there is no cure for scoliosis. I would like to believe that he was kidding but he looked at me and my parents with the same concerned and sorry look that my pedia gave me. I now understood that look. The look they gave to dying patients and other hopeless cases; apparently, I was a hopeless case or at least my sickness was.
There truly was no way of curing scoliosis but there are ways to prevent or hinder the growth of its curve and lessen the back pains. My parents wasted no time and immediately set me up for monthly therapy sessions, made me go back to swimming, bought painkillers, and even had me fitted for a body brace. But after almost a year of living the ‘scolio-conscious life’ as I call it, I decided to not give a damn anymore. I didn’t want to continue living my life like this. I was young, I was just about to enter High School but I felt caged and dying.
I wanted to be free so I slowed down on the rehab sessions and eventually stopped. I didn’t wear the body brace fitted for me but I kept the swimming sessions. I still have painkillers but I don’t rely on them. I wanted to live like the normal and strong woman I was born to be and I wasn’t going to let any sickness stop me.*
Some people may not fully understand scoliosis. They’ll never understand the level of pain we’re in when we simply say that our back hurts or the frustration that our backs, hips and in some cases, legs aren’t even. They’ll never understand that being teased for being ‘putot’ (too short) or ‘kuba’ (hunchback) isn’t that funny all the time. More so, just like any other illnesses or problems, there’s always more to what meets the eye; and that some people are fighting a battle, one we may not see or fully understand. Yes, we may look fine but that’s because we try to be.
*I am fully-aware that this is probably not the most recommended type of coping the diagnosis as there are surgeries, braces, rehab and other things but this is just me. It was my choice to just drop those options and just let myself be. I suggest you to do and follow whatever makes you happy 🙂