Thirty years ago, I found out I had scoliosis (an abnormal curvature of the spine).
The problem started on Christmas day, when I was trying on a new sweater. My older sister, admittedly covetous and trying to convince me it was a bad fit, pointed out how it wrinkled on one side. She kept trying to smooth down the wrinkle until she realized she saw this happen before with one of her college friends.
"You might have a crooked spine," she said.
I went through seemingly endless tests and appointments as a result. On one such occasion, the specialist had me strip to the waist so he could observe my spine as I bent forward. He even handled my breasts as he tried to determine how level they were. For a high school senior, this was something of an uncomfortable experience. But my parents were in the room the whole time, so I just closed my eyes and hoped it would be over quickly.
Tests confirmed I had scoliosis--a 60-degree S-curve, to be precise. My prospects going into adulthood included chronic pain and an eventual hump! Faced with such a dire prediction, I had to decide if corrective surgery was the right solution for me. (My parents felt I was old enough at that point to make such a major decision for myself.)
In early May 1980, I was admitted to the IWK Children's Hospital in Halifax, Nova Scotia. As I sat quietly on the edge of my hospital bed, the surgeon explained the procedure in full detail, including the odds (1,000 to 1) that I could end up with permanent nerve damage resulting in paralysis.
"But I've done this surgery thousands of times," he added, "and never had anything like that happen."
I barely lifted my head as I responded, "So you're due."
Luckily, he wasn't. The four-hour surgery went off without a hitch. The recovery process, on the other hand, was a little less than ideal.
But that's a story for another day.
If you want to know more about scoliosis, including detection, treatment and recovery, or share your own scoliosis story, be sure to check out Dangerous Curves: Understanding Scoliosis & Choosing a Treatment Option, coming May 2010 from InkSpotter Publishing.