Before I start anything, I’d like to put a full disclaimer in here that I’m not looking for pity, sympathy, or anything like that. I’m sharing my story because my amazing tumblr friends have told me how positive I am, and I really value that compliment–and I want to tell them why I am. So I really want to say thank you to them first. I love you guys so much :)
When I was 7, I was diagnosed with scoliosis. Scoliosis is condition in which people have an abnormal curve of the spine. I started going to an orthopedist, a doctor that specializes in bones. Every year after that doctor’s appointment I would see a scoliosis doctor and he would monitor my spine curve. After I turned 12, my doctor told me that I should go to an orthopedist that specializes in scoliosis itself, and I met my new doctor. Unfortunately, my curve only worsened. The next step was a brace that I had to wear.
When I first was given a brace, they formed one especially for me, hoping that it would lessen my curve. I was given strict instructions to wear it at least 4 hours a day including sleeping with it at night. With my first brace, I was also given the option to wear it during school hours, but I wanted to be seen as a ‘normal’ student, so I chose wearing it at home during after school hours. I fought with my mum so hard because I didn’t want to hangout with friends or leave the house when I had the brace on, because I thought people could tell that I was wearing one and look at me weird. I was frustrated. I didn’t want people to know that I had this condition that made me different from other kids my age. To make me feel better, my parents bought me bigger clothes to fit over my brace because I was so insecure that people could see it through my clothing.
When I turned 14, I was given another brace called, “The Charleston Brace.” This brace was different than the other one I had previously worn. This brace was especially made for kids whose curves exceeded 40 degrees. This brace was to only be worn at night but it was difficult to sleep in. This brace literally made your spine curve the other way. It was created as a last resort for kids before surgery was an option.
Much to my demise, my curve only worsened, and my curve was 43 degrees when I turned 15. My doctor had been talking about surgery, and wanted to schedule it for the summer in August of 2008. However, he was a surgeon in Afghanistan, and he was very busy attending to our soldiers in need of help. My surgery was pushed back two other times before I was scheduled for December 18, 2008. I remember when my doctor told me. I was so angry. There was nothing I could do; nothing I could say that would make him change his mind. This was the last resort. I looked over at my mum and saw her hysterical, just like I was. I felt like I didn’t belong; I felt like everyone would see me differently because they would know.
He explained to me that there were two different ways that they could perform the surgery: the posterior approach (from the back) and the anterior approach (from the front). Because my curve was more than 40 degrees, we had to do the surgery the anterior way. The anterior way was through the front of your body, most specifically the side. This surgery actually is more difficult because of the way they have to perform the surgery. To get to your spinal region, they had to incision on my left side and on the side near my ribs. To make a skin graft, they had to remove rib of yours. I also needed to have rods and screws put in my back to keep it straight. After we had our discussion about surgery and prep, the doctor told me that I needed to learn how to walk again because my body would be in shock from the surgery.
On December 18, 2008, I had scoliosis surgery, and was in the operating room for 5 hours. My parents were nervous that the surgery didn’t go according to plan, but it went perfectly. After I awoke in a haze, I was finally able to see my parents and family again. However, I was in a lot of pain. They gave me medication for the pain, and I kept pressing the button next to the side of the bed for more medicine. The pain was just too much. That first night, I was put into the kids’ cancer wing. I was placed in a room with a little boy who was about 5 years old. He cried the entire night, and I asked my mum what was wrong. She said that he had terminal cancer and he might not make it through the night. I felt horrible; physically and emotionally. It made me so upset to see this young life taken too soon. I hope that there is a cure for cancer one day. And I can’t wait until it’s cured to say that we finally kicked cancer’s butt. My family, sister, and extended family visited me while in the hospital, while my mum stayed by my side the entire time.
The next three days I had routine tests done to make sure that everything was going right. My vision was pretty blurry, but it was beginning to subside. On December 19th, I met a girl named Lauren. I was doing my daily walk, regaining my strength back and I came across Lauren in the hallway of the Children’s Cancer wing. Lauren had beautiful blue eyes and blonde hair, and was around the age of 9. Her dad had been with her in the wing, and my parents began talking to her dad. Lauren asked to grab my hand because she was blind. We walked down the hallway together with my IV machine. Lauren was cheerful and full of life; she was probably the happiest person I’ve seen in my time being at the hospital. I also found out that Lauren was blind and had a terminal disease. Although my time with Lauren is a little fuzzy from years ago, I still remember her saying, “You can do it.” It gave me such confidence to know that this little girl who I barely knew was able to see that I would make a full recovery. After my walk with Lauren, she gave me a bracelet that her and her mom made. It was this small bracelet from beads that you can connect together, made of several different colors. I still have it in my room, and look at it almost every day. Lauren had given my mum and me each one, almost as parting gifts when she left me on that day. I’ll never forget Lauren, because she gave me hope. She was so young and about to lose her life, and yet she saw strength in me. I swear to this day that Lauren was an angel sent to me.
On Sunday, December 21st, the day wasn’t as joyful. I was moved to another room. That day started out normal, and I began eating food again after not being able to eat a full meal. My mum didn’t feel well so she decided to go downstairs to get something to help her stomach. The last thing I remember was taking a bite of my pancake stack I ordered from the Hospital’s food service. I remember the nurse waking me up and a swarm of doctors entering the room. The nurses and doctors started shouting a bunch of medical terms I was unaware of. Disoriented, they picked me up out of the chair and placed me in my bed. The doctor threw the chair I fainted in out of the room and into the hallway.
My mother came up from the cafeteria downstairs and she was confused and just as disoriented as I was, “What’s happening to my daughter?!” she said frantically.
“I don’t know,” replied the doctor.
At that moment as the doctors were giving me shots of medicine or whatever it was to keep myself stable, I turned to my mum and asked, “Mommy am I dying?”
To my mum, she said that was her moment where she broke down. I felt like I was dying. I couldn’t keep any food down, my vision was still blurry, and I still wasn’t able to walk that well. After the doctors kept me stable, they concluded that they were giving me 3 times the amount of Oxycontin every hour when I was supposed to be getting that amount every 3 hours. The hospital in which I was staying at had been a teaching hospital, and the students were to blame for my dosage. My lung collapsed so I was back in ICU and kept under watch by other nurses.I thought about Lauren and how she dealt with her terminal illness. She didn’t let her disease define her, and I shouldn’t let my surgery define me. She was more than her disease, just like I am more than my scoliosis. I shouldn’t need peoples’ pity; I survived and I was alive, and healthy. I should be happy about that. The doctor said if I was strong enough, and I could walk up a flight of stairs in the hospital without a nurse’s help, I was able to go home. I took all of my strength I had that day and I walked the flight of stairs with my parents and a nurse. I was allowed to go home that day, which was December 23rd. I was able to finally go home. I still had Lauren’s bracelet with me on a stuffed animal I received from a friend. Weeks after my surgery, I was getting better and I was regaining my strength. I still however had to go through the month of being home schooled. I planned out my school schedule and I was going to be having school Monday through Thursday, and I would have a Science tutor, then one tutor for History and English, and another for Math. My mom became my rock during this whole experience. She sacrificed a month from work to stay home with me and take care of me so I wouldn’t be home alone. Thankfully, the month came and went, and I was ready to go back to school. I was caught up in my classes and I was thankful for my teachers cooperating and helping me along the way.
At this time, Fearless came out. taylorswift helped me through those times when I needed it. I listened to “Fifteen” more times than I could imagine. “The Best Day” became my mum and I’s song, because she became my best friend when I felt like I didn’t fit in. The album resonated with me so much. I felt alone. I felt so isolated from my friends because I had this going on.The night before I had to go back to school, I was nervous. I couldn’t carry my backpack because I still couldn’t carry over 20 pounds with my surgery, so I had to ask people to hold it for me till I got to my locker. I didn’t like the idea of people helping me; I wanted to do things myself, because like Lauren, I didn’t want to have my surgery define me from being different than other people.
To kids at school, I was known as, ‘the girl who had back surgery.’ I was determined to change my image at school into a positive one, instead of ‘the girl who had back surgery.’ It was weird because I didn’t know how to be the girl that I was before my scoliosis surgery. A lot had happened in the span of two months and I was completely different. Meeting Lauren and being accidentally overdosed changed me as a person. Whenever I felt like I didn’t fit in, I just remembered Lauren and her strength, and how I should be strong just like she was. I never knew what happened to Lauren after I left the hospital, but I hope that she had all the happiness in the world.
This is why I’m so positive. Life is so short; it shouldn’t be taken for granted. Cherish every single moment. I’m so lucky that I was given a second chance at life. Not everyone gets that chance. But I did. Being positive to me is what matters. Because I’m so incredibly grateful for this life that I have. I believe that I was able to have a second chance for a reason; and I don’t intend wasting that chance I was given.