Tom’s Story

Scoliosis: Bent But Not Broken

Quite a few years ago now, I was diagnosed with Scoliosis; my world had crumbled around me. At the time of diagnosis, I was only at the start of secondary school. And in an environment where other children never understood diversity, I really found it hard to fit in.

Scoliosis is the curvature of the spine that shapes into either an S or a C. Some people are luckier than others and the curvature doesn’t bend as much but otherwise for all of us that suffer with the problem, it can be very difficult and painful. Sometimes Scoliosis can be treated with surgery and corrected as much as possible. Those people are the luckiest of all. But sufferers like me, who have other problems with their bones; it becomes even more difficult to cure. But I’ll get to that part later.

Now, I might have sounding shallow in the first paragraph and slightly contradictive but in truth I agree with you. Growing up, I loved playing sport. It was a way for me to meet other people my age and I loved getting involved in any football game and sparring at the local boxing gym – that all soon changed. When I was diagnosed with Scoliosis, it never really mattered too much as I found out. The other children didn’t actually take much notice of it. Now and then, they’d take it easy with me in competitive sports as I think they knew that I wasn’t able to keep up with them but I always gave it my best.

It all changed when I fully hit puberty and began my growth spurt. I grew a good foot in height and like every child, enjoyed becoming taller or slowly becoming one of the tallest in the class. That though took its toll on me. I began getting incredibly bad back pain; I began noticing one shoulder becoming more lop sided than the other and even other problems began to shine through with my bones.

I started to have X-Rays at least once a year at the local hospital to keep in check that everything was in order. I knew from looking at the X-Rays it was not in order but the doctors kept a smile at the best at times, and, I just felt like I was being patronised and hated walking down those hospital corridors.

This now meant sitting out of sports in and out of school and for a child like me became increasingly boring to watch all the other children have fun whilst I sat on my lonesome staring into space. I lost a lot of friends when that happened. I had to find some new friends as the other children were more interested in playing on the playground than being around me. I found myself spending a lot of time in the library. I found it even harder to make new friends as people my age were always more concerned with having a kick around than wanting to sit around playing cards or a board game.

Once a week I would be taken to a physiotherapist who would walk me through probably at least a dozen or so of exercises that could help ease the pain. In all honesty, I hated him. It was nothing personal though, but anyone who has had physio should know, it always hurts more at the beginning of the treatment before it can get better. And for that, I hated him for putting me through that pain.

Ten or so years later, after annual trips back and forth to the hospitals for treatments and X-Rays, my Scoliosis is not much better than at school when I was in constant pain. There isn’t much the doctors can do in terms of surgery. I have been told that is only about 10% chance I would survive the operation. Instead I have been given the option of strong painkillers, more physiotherapy, or Yoga. After packets of painkillers that proved ineffective; more physio that only made me hate more people for putting me through more pain, I finally found an answer to helping me through the pain.

I began doing Yoga about four years ago. At first I thought it was only meant for women but as the class went on, more and more men turned up for similar reason to me, that they had back pain and wanted help to fix it. As the sessions went on, I found that Yoga helped considerably to ease the pain. The exercises I do will not cure me from Scoliosis but simply by doing them at least twice a week helps the stiffness I get in my joints and muscle pain I gain in my back.

At the end of the day, it’s not all doom and gloom. Fair enough, I may not be able to take part in any sport and even the simplest of tasks such as driving a car causes extreme pain. But, the time spent in my youth in the libraries that I mention earlier, helped to shape my career. I was able to gain a love for books and writing (in particular fantasy and horror) that has helped me on the way of being the writer I always wanted to be.

Plus, as I became to terms with having Scoliosis, I learnt that I actually liked the fact that I was different. I had something to talk about in conversations and learning that many celebrities have suffered with it too. Kurt Cobain, Elizabeth Taylor are two of the many.

Tom can be found rambling on his personal blogspot site ‘The Ramblings of a Self Profound Mad Man’ and can also be followed on twitter using @tomjoewood


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