Thud! My plastic shell crashed against the floor of my seventh grade English class. After disrupting the Shakespeare lesson, I got up as discreetly as possible, bowing my head in embarrassment. Having to wear a back brace for an aggressive case of scoliosis would be hard for most people, but mix that with a natural-born klutz and middle school awkwardness, and you’ve got a recipe for a disaster.
The funny thing is that I never went to the doctor for my back. Instead, in the midst of examining me for orthotics for my feet, the doctor noticed there was something wrong with my back. I remember the doctor’s words exactly. “Yes, you have flat feet, but I’m really concerned about the S-shaped curve in your back.” After I got X-rayed and waited for what felt like forever to get the results back, the doctor walked in with some news that would change my life.
“Scoliosis is an abnormal curvature of the spine and can be corrected through a few options. The most effective one, however, is bracing.” Weren’t old people the only ones who were supposed to have back issues? At this point, I had already been dealing with wearing thick glasses, shoe inserts, and braces to fix my crooked teeth. Adding a back brace seemed cruel.
My friends laughed when they heard the news. Laughed! Who does that after a friend says she will be confined to a plastic brace for the rest of her middle school career? I spent the next couple weeks going down rabbit holes on WebMD. I stumbled on a site called CurvyGirlsScoliosis and saw regular girls like me struggling with the same condition. Reading their blog posts gave me solace. While watching the annual Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show, I saw a segment on model Martha Hunt, the epitome of beauty and grace. She too had scoliosis as a kid and was now a huge advocate for scoliosis awareness. I felt encouraged and powerful.
The day came when I was given my new brace. Just my luck. I was getting a cast for my fractured wrist that day. Walking out with a cast on my wrist and a back brace, I felt like a Transformer in a seventh grader’s body. I held back tears until I got in my mom’s car and threw the brace in the back seat. “No way,” I said. “There’s absolutely no chance I’m wearing that.” Spending 18 hours a day in this hard piece of body armor was miserable, but what choice did I have?
Little by little, each day became easier. I sacrificed some cute style options at school and succumbed to oversized sweatshirts, but I don’t think I was missing out on too much. The brace soon became part of my identity, and I even gave it a name, Becky. Becky and I became the life of the party. We went on trips, sleepovers, and family functions together. Before I knew it, life without Becky seemed unimaginable.
While I still struggle with self confidence from time to time, having a back brace taught me a lot. First, appearances only get you so far, and true friends will stick with you no matter what. I learned to deal with being uncomfortable and to make the best of hard situations. When you feel stuck or trapped, you have to stay strong, no matter what comes your way.
Like my brace, I became resilient. Looking back now, as a brace-free sophomore, I am glad that Becky had my back.