“ I am awake, alert, alive…Enthusiastic.”
I chant this almost every day. It is a song with a relatively annoying tune but it keeps me going because I am one of those people who believe in positive declarations. I’m constantly talking to myself (sometimes out loud) to psych myself up, motivate and inspire myself. However, it has taken me roughly a decade to actually say those words and mean them. The first time I ever sang that chant it felt very foreign, the words were just words and I couldn’t relate them to my life. I got used to this strangeness and it is only recently that I realized the word represented who I have become and what I yearn to be. Over the years, I have learned to be each of those words sometimes subconsciously and other times I had to be intentional about getting things done.
“ … please lay very still don’t move. This may take a little while,” the unfamiliar kind voice of a medic told me as I lay in an MRI machine.
I remember being fascinated by that huge machine and the room it was in. My opinion by then was that only the very sick people needed to have MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scans. Yet, there I was, very healthy me being asked to lay still in one of the ‘seriously sick’ people machines. I had casually gone through multiple doctors, and so many tests but for the first time I was actually scared. I was old enough to understand that if my pediatrician needed me to see a grown people doctor something was actually wrong.
Our mind gets us through life in the most interesting ways and mine did that too because I got into that MRI machine as a scared thirteen-year-old and when I was told to lay still, I did exactly that to a point that I fell asleep; but I never woke up. I went to the doctor and got the diagnosis that I had idiopathic scoliosis soon afterward. I was awake physically but in my mind, I was in an alternate reality. I probably missed the whole conversation of how I had a medical condition that doctors in Kenya didn’t know much about. In my head, this was an uncomfortable pit stop on my way to high school and I just wanted it to end.
2010 has to be the most interesting year of my life. I had just turned 13, I was on my first year in high school, and I had just been diagnosed with a medical condition nobody around me understood. I spent that year trying to live my life like nothing was wrong. I joined the school hockey team, the swimming team and track team (I was kind of an overachiever). My theory was that if I was really sick I wouldn’t be in school and I would definitely not be such a great sportsperson. The fact that I had an early diagnosis had also spared me all the signs and effects of scoliosis and this simply made the idea that something was wrong with me a distant thought that didn’t really cross my mind. Mentally, all I did that first year was evade the truth of my reality. When I started feeling all the things I had been warned about (symptoms and effects of scoliosis) I didn’t want to accept it. “It is all in your mind” I would tell myself when I felt something different. A few months down the line the curve on my back had progressed and I found myself out of all competitive sports, wearing special shoes to school and on pain medication. In my mind, I was just going through a tough puberty and all these scoliosis shenanigans would fade in time like a bad case of acne…Only that it didn’t.
“I can’t feel my legs…call someone.,”
That was me one year later while lying on the cold red floor of my school hostel. I was lying still, this time no one had instructed me. I had been playing on a wet floor with my friends when we slipped and fell. Everyone but me got up… As I lay there, I remember thinking I would never walk again and it was all my fault. I was rushed to hospital and back to the room that started it all.. MRI
“ …Did you fall asleep,” A nurse asked me as she wheeled me back to my room from the MRI room.
She had no idea how much significance and weight that question carried. I had been asleep for one whole year and so much had happened. I wasn’t to blame for being in a state of denial but it hurt so much to think that I had missed one whole year of my life. In my mind, I was back to where it all started but the reality was that in that one year I had experienced so much on auto-pilot. Running away from the pain, numbness, fear and other emotions that I was feeling had kept me sane yet taken so much from me. As she wheeled me to my room for admission my face got wet from tears I had held back for a lifetime. A part of me finally said it
“ You have scoliosis, it is an S-shape curve and your curve has been progressing for the past ten months.”
I am awake
Getting diagnosed with scoliosis any other medical condition can be a lot to take in. It can actually be much harder when you are younger as it is not easy to accept change on such magnitude. However, it is important to go through the process in the best way for you. In my case denial got me through a whole year and although it has its disadvantages it got me by. The most important thing is to have a support system that gets you through the process. In my case, it was having a mom that would watch out for me and make the hard decisions along with doctors who cared enough to be patient with me. I am sure if I had teachers, and peers who were supportive it would have impacted my journey in a positive way. The best we can do for people with scoliosis is to be supportive as they come to terms with their reality making sure we are kind, supportive and not judge the way they choose to deal with the news.