-Five Star review from E. Miller
About the Book:
This is a memoir on living with a back deformity called Scoliosis.
Diagnosed with Scoliosis at age twenty three, there was little doctors could do to help her. She was faced with daily discomfort or pain, fear, and not knowing what future complications the medical condition would bring.
The author illustrates to the reader what the last twelve years have brought her in dealing with her deformity. Against the perceived odds; she started a career, birthed two children, went through several specialists, clinics and therapists, wrote two books and fought for disability.
This book was written for anyone who is challenged with daily pain, and would like some help emotionally with how to make the best out of life despite it.
I was born and raised in Toronto, Ontario, Canada by my Mother, Father and my older sister Cher. We had a pretty textbook family up until I was around four years old. That was when my parents separated. My mom, sister and I moved out to Malton, Ontario to live closer to my maternal grandparents. My parents separated for many reasons, but mostly because my father had a severe drinking problem. Some family members on my dad’s side have said it was arguable whether my dad’s drinking became heavy before or after my parent’s separation. More of this story is outlined in my first book, “The Message in Dad’s Bottle”.
I was always sick as a child; whether it was asthma, bronchitis, tonsillitis or ear infections. I was never healthy for my birthday or for Halloween, which are only a week apart. It wasn’t until I moved away from my mother in my early twenties that I realized most of my childhood illnesses were likely attributed to the fact that I always lived with a smoker. It seemed like within a month of moving out on my own, all my ailments were cured. To this day, I still remain very healthy, and live a much healthier lifestyle.
One of my passions has always been reading. I enjoyed doing it less as a student, since
textbooks are constantly forced upon you. I did pick the hobby back up as a
favourite in my early twenties, and now in my thirties I am hooked. The other, rather
obvious passion has been writing; since I was a young child. My favourite class in high
school was English. I took all my subjects at an advanced level, but my English
homework was always completed first.
In elementary school I wrote a story entitled “How The Skunk Got It’s Stench”. It was a reiteration of a small storyline found in the children’s movie “The Labyrinth” starring Jennifer Connelly and David Bowie. In the movie, there is a scene in which all the puppets and Jennifer Connelly are on this trek, in search of her kidnapped baby brother. They encounter many obstacles on their journey, but one in particular was the “Bog of Eternal Stench”, which they have to cross. However, their challenge is to cross it from a series of small, slippery rocks covered with moss; and it is said that if you so much as dipped a toe into the bog, you would smell bad forever.
This was my theory, and my explanation for how skunks acquired their unpleasant odour.
That story was found to be such a favourite among my classmates that our teacher
decided to conduct a lesson in book binding, so we could treasure our compositions
forever. I still have that book, and yes, I did treasure it. However, I later learned from
my first job as an assistant animal groomer, that my story was incredibly untrue.
Animals smell bad for much less romantic reasons!
When reading, I enjoy biographies, historical and current. One of my favourite authors,
Philippa Gregory, creates stories relating to real medieval characters. From her, I have
read about Napoleon and Josephine, The Boleyn Girls, Queen Katherine of Aragon, and the most interesting in my opinion, was reading about Queen Marie Antoinette.
When reading about Marie Antoinette, I found something about her to be very intriguing.
It is such an obscure thing; to find something in common with someone who lived
hundreds of years before you. Or rather, something in common with a family member of
someone who lived hundreds of years before you. It was Marie Antoinette’s son. He
was born very deformed, with severe curvatures in his spine. He later died as a small
child of lung and intestinal collapse due to complications from his deformities. But he,
too, was born with Scoliosis.
I have written about a hundred poems during the course of my life, some are
featured in my first book. I felt this current book “I’ll Never Wear a Backless Dress” was
warranted because I needed to express my experiences, both good and bad, in the best
way I know how.
In my opinion, Scoliosis has changed my life significantly since the moment I learned
I had it. One of the main frustrations in having this deformity has been feeling alone;
Scoliosis is not very widespread. My hope in publishing this book is that I can reach
out to some who have Scoliosis and feel that same loneliness. At the same time
educate their families and friends about the emotional side of the deformity, rather than
simply focusing on the physical/medical aspects.
I feel I can reach many audiences; any person who has a physical ailment that affects their daily life can relate to my experiences. You would be surprised how many people in this world suffer from something that causes them pain or discomfort every day. Some issues have either very little or no treatment available. The same is true for Scoliosis.
I had heard, while doing some of my own personal research in the past, long before
starting this book, that there was a procedure some elementary schools performed in the past, in order to detect Scoliosis in children. With the student standing bent over, the school nurse would place a device similar to a ruler or level on the child’s back horizontally; perpendicular to the spine. This procedure would be repeated in increments down the length of their back. If the straight edge was unbalanced at any point, this would indicate the possibility of Scoliosis, and prompt further medical testing.
Of course, this method was unscientific, and required further testing and/or x-rays to properly diagnose and determine the extent of Scoliosis. But at least it helped in
early detection. Early detection and treatment is best, since most curves can be corrected
and possibly reversed while the child is still growing. Most treatment is performed by
one or all of the following methods: exercise program to stretch and strengthen the
curvatures appropriately, bracing to stabilize and/or offload and correct (similar to
orthodontic braces), and finally the most extreme: surgery to realign the spine via rods, screws and/or hooks placed along the curve(s).
Unfortunately, none of the schools I attended performed any such procedures. I wasn’t diagnosed until my early twenties, by which time it was far too late.
I remember in elementary school; when all the children sat in a circle on the library floor while the teacher read a story, I was the only kid who couldn’t sit up straight. All the other kids had their legs crossed over Indian style, and they were sitting right up like a bunch of little soldiers. As much as I tried, I could never do it. I was always slumped over, or I had to lean on one arm for support.
Throughout my teenage years, I always felt there was something a little off about my
body. I noticed I would always have pain in my left shoulder blade. My Mom always
thought it was premenstrual. I also noticed in all pictures taken of me during my teens,
my right shoulder was always higher than my left. Shirts never seemed to fit correctly;
they would always fall to one side. Necklaces would always sit unevenly on my chest,
and the clasp would always fall down until the pendant caught it. Bra straps always fell
down on one side, purses never stayed on my shoulder. I always wore my purse like a messenger bag to compensate. My ponytails, if worn at the base of my neck, would always inch to the left.
Even during high school and college I noticed my backpack was always drooping to one side. Of course, any back problems would have been exacerbated by the amount of textbooks I always had to carry around throughout high school and college. The worst was across college campus, I had a fifteen minute walk to class from my car on any given day. I estimate that my accounting book alone had to weigh at least ten pounds.
I had a little pot belly that I could never lose, no matter how many sit ups I did.
When I was researching pregnancy once my husband and I started to try for a baby,
I read somewhere that if the paternal genes are in any way altered, the fetus can be
deformed. For example, if the father consumes drugs or alcohol while sperm is being
manufactured, the genetic information can be damaged, thus causing birth defects or
disfigurement. I don’t have any proof of this. However, my father was an alcoholic
long before I was born. There is only one family member who has Scoliosis, one of my aunts on my mother’s side. Although hers is very mild and she only has one curve.
It’s difficult to say whether I have more of my mom or dad’s physical features. I have
always had large feet (size ten-actually they have shrunk for some reason in the last few
years to a nine). Although I am only five feet three inches tall. My mom’s stature is much like my own, short and average build. My dad was tall at six feet even, and very slender. My sister is tall and, up until having my niece, was also slender. My dad always told me my big feet would pay off because I would be tall. I stopped growing basically around the time of his death when I was sixteen. Although, if you consider how much length I probably have lost in my spinal curves, that could probably account for some lost height.
I remember when I was about twenty three; I was sitting on the floor in the recreation room we had in the apartment where I lived with my mom and step dad. My mom came in for a minute to watch some television with me; I got up on my knees to switch the channel, and my Mom noticed for the first time that I had a hump on my back. Neither of us thought anything of it at that time. She just thought it was the way I was reaching over to change the channel.
It wasn’t until I experienced my first car accident about a year later that Scoliosis was discovered. I originally went to physiotherapy to be treated for whiplash after the accident, but upon my assessment, the therapist took one look at my back and told me I had Scoliosis. I had no idea what that meant, and I just said sarcastically “well, that’s just great”. She ran her finger down my spine to illustrate the curves, but it still never occurred to me just how bad this was, or how much this would affect my life.
After treating me for the whiplash and some soft tissue injuries, they began casually treating me for the Scoliosis. They began with some light exercises and stretching to add to my own personal workout that I had been doing at home. About nine months after that accident, I unfortunately was involved in another car accident (please note that both these accidents were investigated by police and were not my fault). Fortunately, this accident wasn’t nearly as bad (my car was written off in the previous one), but was way more terrifying (I was sandwiched between two transport trucks on a busy highway-neither of them saw me). So, I was once again placed in physiotherapy for whiplash.
At this time, my boyfriend and I moved into a rental apartment together about a half hour
away from where I was currently living. Thus, I had to stop attending that physiotherapy
clinic. I thought I would be alright without it for a while, so I didn’t seek out a new
clinic. This was fine for a couple of months; until I suddenly started to experience
constant nauseating headaches. This prompted a doctor’s visit; and he gave me a requisition for physiotherapy. The new clinic initially treated me again for my neck injuries directly related to the headaches. But once that was over, they started to treat the Scoliosis with essentially the same plan as the previous clinic.