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My Scoliosis Story

MBU Timeline staff member Holly Flieg shares her journey though a harsh diagnosis. She explains the struggles she went through and how she overcame them.  

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Graphic by Ryan Rerich

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As if the transition from middle school to high school wasn’t enough to stress about in 2008, I received news that I never saw coming, news that would have a huge impact on how I lived my life for the next couple years.

I was diagnosed with moderate scoliosis, a lateral curvature of the spine.

I was in the seventh grade when my school had a routine checkup for everyone in my class to get their backs examined during P.E.

After the nurse looked at my spine and I went home from school, my mom told me she got a phone call regarding the checkup and I needed to see a doctor to get an X-ray.

I never thought that I would have scoliosis. It never crossed my mind, and I wasn’t aware that it was a common condition in my family.

The X-ray showed a curve of 38 degrees and I was sent to a scoliosis specialist at Cardinal Glennon Hospital to see what the next step would be.

I knew my options would be either a brace or surgery and I didn’t like either of them.

I was terrified and heartbroken when I was told I had to wear a back brace, even more so when I found out that I had to wear it 23 hours a day; only taking it off to shower.

The brace kept my torso straight so I was unable to bend or twist my body while wearing it.

It was like a plastic corset that made simple tasks more difficult than they should have been, like making my bed, participating in gym class, putting on a seatbelt, and even eating or sleeping.

I returned to Cardinal Glennon every six months to check my progress and to make adjustments to the brace as I continued to grow.

Each time I went back I hoped to hear that I wouldn’t have to return.

The brace was hot, uncomfortable and not the best accessory for a girl who already had glasses and braces.

The constant pressure of plastic against my skin left me with bruises and rashes, which were just as unpleasant as it sounds.

I could go on and on about how horrible the experience was, but I am thankful we noticed the curve in time for it to be corrected and I didn’t need surgery.

I learned to live with the struggle of not being able to move my body to its full capability.

Eventually I didn’t even need help putting on the contraption, which was adjusted and strapped on from the back.

Although I still have the curve, the brace prevented it from getting worse, which is exactly what is was supposed to do.

It’s comforting to know the pain I went through was worth it and I now have a success story to share, as well as an interesting explanation as to why I have perfect posture.

The day I was told I didn’t have to wear the brace anymore, I was overjoyed knowing that I could go to bed for the first time in two years without the hard surface wrapped around my body.

I learned a lot from this experience and I believe I am a better person today because of it.

It taught me that not all conditions are visible and people have struggles that others aren’t aware of.

I was very insecure at the time I was wearing the brace and I let it prevent me from doing activities that I enjoyed.

I played volleyball for three years in middle school, but I quit because I didn’t want to change in the locker room and let the other girls know what I had underneath my thick sweaters I wore every day, even when it was hot out.

Looking back at it now, I realize that no one would have judged me for having to wear a brace and my life would have been so much easier had I decided not to keep it a secret from everyone.

People would have understood why I sat properly, walked awkwardly, and struggled to bend over to get a book from my backpack or pick up a pencil that I dropped.

If I knew then what I know now, there is so much I would have done differently, but I am thankful for the struggle because it helped shape the person I am today.

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Holly Flieg

Holly Flieg

Holly Flieg is a staff journalist for MBU Timeline. She is a public relations major from Ste. Genevieve, Mo. After graduation, Flieg plans to pursue a career as an event coordinator.

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