This is an x-ray of my spine

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This is the closest the internet will get to nude pics of me.

If you’re like the majority of people who have seen this, your reaction is probably somewhere on the scale of “wow that’s so cool!” to “what the heck is wrong with you?” I wouldn’t consider either of these an ideal response, but I suppose I can understand

Here’s the deal:

I have this snazzy thing called Scoliosis. It’s a medical condition where my spine curves from side to side in a way it shouldn’t. I do not know much about it because a) sometimes doctors forget that we aren’t as smart as them and therefor don’t tell you things and b) I’ve banned myself from googling it anymore to avoid panic attacks. What I do know is that the back muscles on the upper right side of my spine have worked harder and are more built up than the left side, causing my spine to pull that way. The bottom left muscles of my back then work harder than the left to compensate for the upper curve, creating the S shape. The has other effects on my torso: my right shoulder is higher than my left, and my entire ribcage is essentially lifted and twisted, making my shoulder blades and ribs not symmetrical. It’s hard to tell when you look at me normally, but if I pointed anything out you can definitely see it.

I was diagnosed in the spring of grade 11, which is weird because how the heck did it take so long for anyone to notice my spine was the 19th letter of the alphabet. My doctor basically said, “Oh you have scoliosis. I don’t know why and there isn’t anything you can do about it. Moving on…” I had zero time for it to really sink in. From there I got my first set of x-rays, which we didn’t do anything with. Later that year I requested to see my doctor again about it, so I got another set of x-rays in spring of grade 12, and my doctor said he would get me an appointment with a specialist. Flash forward seven months to October of the 5th year when my doctor’s office FINALLY called with an appointment with an orthopaedic surgeon for June 19th. Yes, June. I had to ask the woman on the phone to clarify three times that I wouldn’t be seeing anyone for nine months.

Canada, don’t get me wrong, I love you free healthcare and whatnot, but I put the “patient” in “impatient”.

A century later when June rolled around, I saw this orthopaedic surgeon who assessed my back and then called me and my dad into his office. Up on his computer screen was an image of a pretty scary looking x-ray, and my first thought was, “wow, he must be using that to show me how bad it could be, and mine would look great in comparison.” Three minutes into the conversation, I realized that was my spine. Cue hyperventilation.

(See what I mean about doctors thinking we are more clued in than we are?)

The icing on the cake? I waited nine months for an appointment that should have been booked two years previously only to be told by a man who was supposed to be my saviour that there was nothing I could do. Nothing.

There is really no known cause for Scoliosis. I just kind of have it. There is also no simple cure. If you catch it early, you can wear a back brace in an attempt to correct it, but I stopped growing when I was fourteen, so. The only other option is correctional surgery, where they basically fuse your spine together with these metal plate things to keep it straight. (Next time you’re in for a thrill, google “spinal fusion surgery”. Scary shit.) But the degree of the curve has to be 50 degrees or higher to qualify for surgery, and the curve of my spine is only about 40 degrees. Don’t ask me what that means. Another case of my-doctor-forgets-that-I’m-an-idiot-in-comparison-to-him.

So basically I’m stuck like this. Well, unless it gets worse.

I’m always asked if it hurts. Kind of. Sometimes I get random pains, and whenever I stand or sit or just exist for a long period of time my back feels tired and uncomfortable, since the muscle distribution is all weird. I also can’t lie flat on the floor or sit flat against the back of a chair, which isn’t very pleasant. Sometimes clothing fits weird, especially across my back, and it’s a major challenge to deal with in my acting where alignment is imperative.

I don’t like to talk about how much my scoliosis upsets me, but it really does. I am incredibly self conscious about how much it alters my torso. People always tell me that it isn’t noticeable, but I notice it. I think it’s weird looking and creepy and incredibly terrifying. My spine is not straight. It is not how it is supposed to be. Sometimes I’ll picture what my skeleton must look like and become panicked at the thought that my body, the only thing I have when everything else falls apart, is wrong, and that it will be wrong for the rest of my life. I’ve read some stories of people “embracing their scoliosis because it’s a part of them and it gives them strength” or whatever, and kudos to those people, but I’m sorry, I can’t believe that. I know I sound terrible but I do NOT embrace it, it is a part of me that I sometimes really hate, and if anything it makes me weaker. Some people may interpret it as no big deal, since it’s no major concern to my health, and that’s why I don’t like to talk about it. But it’s a terrible thing to have to deal with because I am constantly aware of my spine in everything I do and how screwed up it is and I wish nothing more than for my spine to be straight.

Woah, ranted a little bit there. This is one of those “It’s cool, I’m fine, don’t worry about me” moments that I was referring to in my post from a few weeks ago. I’m really fine though. Often I do completely forget about my scoliosis, and it isn’t so horrible that I can’t function. I just wanted to get all this off my mind.

This is a fairly long post, so congrats if you’ve made it this far. It’s a story that usually interests people when I tells bits of it, so I thought it would be worth it to explain (for the most part) the whole thing. I’m always so alarmed when people tell me my scoliosis is “so cool”. Interesting, maybe, but cool? While I don’t totally agree, it does often make me feel better knowing that my weird looking back is exciting to others.

It’s also so fun to freak people out with it. Go ahead, touch my spine. Just touch it. I dare you.

A fun fact to end on: my family doctor’s name is Dr. Pope. One time I left my mom a note that said, “Hello mother, could you call the Pope? I need to go to the vatican.” We have an odd mother-daughter relationship.

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2 thoughts on “This is an x-ray of my spine

  1. I’m just going to be honest and say that whoa, Marryl, I totally did not know this was your blog. Like, seriously, I’ve been reading a bunch of your posts whenever you link it on Facebook, thinking “sick, Marryl’s posted something interesting again,” because I totally enjoyed reading a few of your earlier posts and didn’t (but totally should’ve) checked out the rest because *clearly* your name was in big, bold letters on the homepage. Any who, I guess my point is (even though it’s totally unrelated to your post up there about your spine, which I’ll get to in a sec or two) that your writing is superb and the things you write are fascinating.

    Now, onto my actual comment on this post… As a science student, I have to admit that hearing about Scoliosis peaked my interests, though keep in mind that at the start of reading your article, I had no idea it was you or someone I knew for that matter. It’s not something I’ve heard of before, and the additional humour kept me intrigued throughout. However, as I kept reading, what began as fascination grew to respect for whoever was at the other end of that computer screen for admitting that no, she wasn’t okay with what she has, and no, she isn’t going to embrace it, because really, I do find the term “embracing” when it’s tied to conditions (or other) isn’t as easy as people think it is.

    When I DID find out that this post belonged to you, well, my reaction was the same as anyone else’s: I totally did not notice that whenever I saw you at Grand. Granted, we didn’t see each other often, but it’s still something new I learned today, and I commend you for revealing yourself in such a way—did I just rhyme there?

    And while I realize you’re still constantly bothered by this, and that we’re not technically close friends of any sort, I do hope that you’ll feel better about yourself and life and all things wonderful, not just because you’re exciting others with your “weird looking back”, but because it has stopped giving you pain (physically and emotionally).

    Keep writing cause seriously, this blog is cool! 🙂
    (Holy, I did not realize how much I wrote until I had to scroll up to see the top. Opps. Hope this didn’t bore you).
    -Brenda

  2. Welcome to my world! I also have scoliosis, and I can completely relate – although I’m in the UK, we have a pretty similar system (wait for ages, they say they can’t do anything, wait…etc). Anyway, I ended up having surgery cos my curve got to 50 degrees, and there are definitely good and bad points to it – I’m still uncomfortable about my back and it can still hurt, but aesthetically from the front it looks great, and I know I won’t have health problems in the future.
    I totally agree with the whole embracing thing, I used to look in the mirror and hate it, and finding a prom dress was a nightmare! I don’t act, but I play the violin, and to sit in orchestras had become increasingly hard on my back, so I can sort of relate.
    I hope that you won’t end up needing surgery, but if you do (or you’re just interested) have a look at my blog afterscoliosis.wordpress.com 🙂 Also, I’ve liked reading your other posts too!

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