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Not to be dramatic or anything, but I was scared I was going to die. If not die, that doctors would mess everything up and I’d lose feeling in my body. The spine controls everything. I was afraid I wouldn’t ever be able to dance again, and that was my biggest fear.

        The beginning of summer 2013 was filled with doctor and orthopedic appointments for the procedure. We had to go to the hospital a couple of times for preparation meetings. The long drives were filled with Ellie Goulding playing, and now every time I listen to “My Blood” all I can think about is how far I have come from this time of my life.

When I opened my eyes after the procedure, pain flooded through my entire body. It was the worst pain I had ever experienced.

        About “3 out of every 100 people” have scoliosis (Shah). A healthy back is a straight spine. Not every spine is perfectly straight, but it isn’t normal for a spine to look like the letter Z. Before the surgery, the curve of my spine was at about 58 degrees, shaped like the letter s. Professionals recommend surgery when the curve is at 45-50 degrees (Shah). I had a couple of curves - the biggest being near the bottom of my back, and a smaller one higher, near my neck - which I feel restrained me the most from movements that many can do. My family was worried that if I didn’t have the procedure done, it would affect the way I move in the future.

Scoliosis is known to be hereditary (Shah). Not only did I have the procedure myself, but so did my older sister, my mom, and my grandma. I watched my older sister go through the same pain that I would have to go through only two years later.

It’s been about five years since then, and sometimes I forget that I even had the surgery done. Today I am a freshman in college, and I can do practically everything that anyone else can. However, it took the longest time for me to finally accept the way my body is after surgery, and I’m still learning to accept it.

        Many people don’t realize how big scoliosis is in my life. In middle school, at the time my sister had her procedure, I was wearing a back brace and did for two years. I tried to make it the least noticeable as possible. Middle school was horrible, and I think it was one of the biggest times in my childhood where other kids would judge one another, especially based on appearances. I remember sitting in my English class wearing a shirt that had just about covered up the bottom part of my brace. The brace went from my shoulder down to my waist. It had Velcro straps on the back to tighten it. The brace didn’t do anything to fix the curve, but it prevented it from increasing into a bigger curve.

        The kid behind me saw the bottom of my brace since my shirt didn’t completely cover it, and he asked me what it was. But when he touched it, I felt so uncomfortable. I asked him what he was even talking about, trying to avoid the topic as much as possible. It wasn’t something I liked to talk about. He pointed to it again and tapped on it.

        “This,” he said, and he tried to shake it a little.

        All I remember doing was turning around and completely ignoring him. I blocked out the rest of the questions he asked me. He never brought it up again.

        My family hoped I wouldn’t need surgery like most of them did because my spinal curve had remained the same for a long period. They told me that when my body stopped growing, my spine should stay where it was (for the most part). It’s common to experience back pain with scoliosis (Shah). For the most part, I felt no pain in my back before I had the surgery. However, with aging, I really had no idea if that would change or not. I was a dancer, and when I did feel pain, it was whenever I would stretch out my back or bend in an unusual way. My doctor admired that I danced. To this day, I am still not sure why, but having surgery had no effect in that aspect of my life. I still dance all the time.

        After discovering that I would need the surgery, I tried avoiding the topic. It wasn’t supposed to be until later in July, and I was being told the news in April. I went in thinking it would be another check-up: the orthopedist takes a scan, they measure it out by the curves on the x-rays, and she would tell me it grew a couple of inches. Then, I would go home in my brace and come back in six months. It was a pattern I got used to. I was so scared that I would never bring it up in conversation. I told my closest friends and my family, but nobody else.

        The first two weeks of recovery were the most excruciating. I had to relearn many basic movements because of my low pain tolerance and because I was weak from medication. I spent most days in July on the living room couch sleeping and watching movies. The worst part was walking. The first day I walked outside I could only walk one small block of townhomes before I felt too tired. Every day I got a bit better, but it was a process, and I wasn’t able to do most daily things until the week before the first day of school. I still had some back pain when I sat on the school bus.

Although I’ll never be able to bend my back very far, I am learning to be thankful for what I can do. I can’t slouch and I can’t do somersaults, but I can walk and run without feeling anything. Despite my back and the pain it could bring, I joined track, one dance company my junior year, and my high school’s dance team senior year. I got in, never telling them on my audition form that I had had the procedure done. Many of those girls never knew I had back surgery, and unless you see the slight scar along my back, you probably wouldn’t notice. Scoliosis is a big part of who I am, and because of the obstacle, I became a stronger person mentally and physically.



Natalie Elle Tyler is a senior at Winona State majoring in Creative Digital Media. She is minoring in Dance, Creative Writing, and Journalism. Natalie manages her own photography business. When she isn’t writing, she’s either doing a photoshoot, hanging out with friends, or dancing. Her ultimate dream is to make book covers through her photography while having the time to be a freelance travel photographer or photojournalist.
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