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March 2, 2009

Strength From Way Back

My therapist has been paying me all sorts of compliments lately, telling me that I’m a strong woman with a well-defined sense of right and wrong.  I figured that was just good business sense on her part.  With the economy in free fall, a therapist who makes her patients feel good about themselves, (but not too good), will ensure herself a decent income in the coming months.

But then she asked me where my strength came from, and I realized she wasn’t just buttering me up.  She was truly curious.

I was diagnosed with scoliosis, or curvature of the spine, on the first day of sixth grade.  Within a couple of weeks I’d seen an orthopedist and was being fitted with a Milwaukee brace for my back.  Over the course of the next eighteen months my doctor tried another type of brace and put me on a strict exercise regime.  My mom woke me up at five each morning to help me go through a workout designed to strengthen certain muscles and prevent my back from curving further.

I did all the exercises. I never took the brace off for more than the allotted hour a day.  I suffered through the hurtful comments my classmates made.  I had a crush on a guy a grade ahead of me, and one day his sister told me he thought I was an ugly dog.  It was one of the only times I remember crying, but I sobbed all afternoon over his cutting remark.

My mom wasn’t impressed.  “It’s just words.  Ignore him.”

I tried to tell her that it was impossible to just ignore someone you’d been fantasizing about kissing, but she wasn’t listening.

I thought I couldn’t endure any more, but I was wrong.  The curvature progressed, and I had spine surgery during seventh grade.

My doctors inserted rods on either side of my spine, and took chunks of bone from my hip to graft the rods into the vertebrae.  My scar runs from the bottom of my neck to the top of my butt.  I was in the hospital and then home for weeks, captive in yet another brace I’d have to wear twenty-four hours a day for nine months.

My surgery was in January.  The brace would come off in November.  Most importantly, tryouts for the high school dance team, known for its high kick line, were in March.

I spent those months catching up on school work and learning how to walk and move in a strange body that was anchored by a stiff spine.  My physical therapist assigned me exercises to do once a day.   I did them all, and sometimes I went through them again, hoping I could achieve greater flexibility. I could bend from the waist and the neck, but not in between.  When I reached over to touch my toes, my back looked like a tabletop.  Arching my back was out of the question.

Some of my most wonderful high school memories involve the years I spent on the dance team. Twenty-nine years and another spine surgery later, several of my former teammates are now sweating with me at Jazzercise.  Sometimes I close my eyes when I’m dancing and pretend I’m in a stadium during half-time.

The other night I was at a restaurant and I saw the guy who’d called me an ugly dog.  I ignored him.

I told my therapist that my strength comes from the fact that I’m a bit like a superhero, a woman equipped with a titanium spine reinforced with screws and bolts. You can’t see them, but in my mind I’m wearing bright gold boots, and I’m confident that they can kick anything that gets in my way.

One year ago in My Tiny Kingdom: Prank O’ The Day

Posted by Anne Glamore @ 10:12 pm • Blast From the Past,Deep Thoughts,Scoliosis,Spines & Livers & Bones, Oh My!   

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25 Responses to “Strength From Way Back”

  1. You are one tough mama! I have a friend who had this same back surgery…I’m definitely sending her the link to this post.

    p.s. Look at you with those gold boots…you’re hot!

    Jamie @ BlondeMomBlog’s last blog post..Before It Melts

  2. You’re my hero. Really. And if it turns out I’m having a boy, I’m coming to live in your neighborhood.

    Peeved Michelle’s last blog post..Chase, Can You Fix This?

  3. I have been seeing all sorts of awesome photos today, and this tops my list !

    Daffodil Campbell’s last blog post..Know when to fold ’em

  4. You are awesome.

    susie’s last blog post..Hello, world

  5. What an encouraging post. You did have a super power, one that is not common in today’s society. It’s called resolve.

  6. Thanks for this reminder that no one’s life is ordinary. Some people are tested and crumble; others dredge up the strength to survive and become better people. They’re the ones who make the world go round.

  7. What an awesome post. Kudos to you for taking those lemons and making lemonade!

  8. OK, so I’ve gotta ask: How did he look? Was he bald and paunchy and hitting on women half his age? Did he wear a pinky ring? Gold chain? I hope so…

  9. This post is so inspiring. You are a living example of how strength is born from surviving the obstacles life throws at you.

    Brandy Poole’s last blog post..Missing momma

  10. You rock, girl.

    baseballmom’s last blog post..Bachelor sux

  11. I am the friend to whom Jamie at referred your blog. I, too, was diagnosed with scoliosis (an S-curve) in sixth grade and, subsequently, had to wear a Milwaukee brace for about five years in an effort to avoid the need for surgery. But, like you, I found myself confronted with the need for surgery anyway when my curvature continued to progress (even after I stopped growing at age 18). I’ve had the same grueling surgery – rods and all (but I was considered “old” when I had surgery at age 21 in 1995). And I have the same scar to show for it (even the one on my hip). I just want to say that I applaud you for your inner strength and beauty. It is fueled by an experience to which I can relate all too well.

  12. The Amazing Anne! >>da-da-ta-da!<<

    Joy East of theKingdom’s last blog post..Only in Alabama

  13. You definitely are a super-hero. And I LOVE that hat.

    liz’s last blog post..Great moving tips!!!

  14. You’re a superhero for sure.

  15. Anne, you are right you are a tough lady. I guess I needed to read this post today. My seventh grade son has an 11% and 10% S curvature. Right now, they are just watching it. He had Xrays in October and will have more in April to check it. He grew nearly 6 inches in the last year. The doc is hoping that is the cause and it won’t get any worse. Apparently 20% is the mark for a brace.

    He thinks his life is over, and fears having to wear a brace. A friend has endured much teasing for a brace already this year. I am afraid the thought of surgery would really put him over the edge. Encouraging words seem to do no good and we are on pins and needles until April and try not to bring it up.

    You looked good as a Dorian. Sadly, Every time I see a pic of a Dory girl now, I only think of Natalee.

  16. Your strength has inspired me ever since I discovered your blog. I’m glad someone who knows you so intimately commended you for it. We should all have gold boots to boost our confidence.

    Erin’s last blog post..DSC04867

  17. I have no doubt you can kick anything that gets in your way!

    Rebecca’s last blog post..Flashback Friday: What I was Doing 6 Years Ago

  18. Keep on kicking, Anne! I am so impressed by your strength… and style to boot (gold boot).

    Anna See’s last blog post..For Everything Else…

  19. It’s funny, I was just thinking about being a superhero the other day 🙂 Whenever I’m drowning in something I always end up thinking, “Ok, but it’s not like it’s going to kill me..” I was thinking of buying myself this necklace – it makes me smile 🙂

  20. I wonder how much physical pain you had to endure through all this. According to your pics you have posted, you were very cute.

  21. Wow, I can remember being checked for scoliosis in gradeschool and not really understanding what it was. But I’m left wondering: Do you have awesome posture now? So not only are you cute, you probably stand up straight and in my experience that always makes a woman look better!

  22. I was diagnosed with scoliosis in 6th grade. Luckily I had stopped growing by then. I believe I only have a 5% curve or something. It’s benign enough that I’ve never needed a brace or anything and doctors have long since stopped worrying about progression. But it’s enough that I feel like my whole body is unbalanced. I cannot imagine going through your ordeal. I would feel like a superhero, too!

  23. I also have Harrington rods, from surgery in 1996. (My sister calls my scar my “zipper.”) I recently went to the doctor to have them looked at (climate change), and he was all, “Oh, by the way, this technique is obsolete. Good work, but obsolete.” Not really what I wanted to hear. Thank you for reminding me to sit up straight!

  24. Just reading about the boy calling you an ugly dog almost made me cry. Your mom would not be proud of me. But that’s such a hard time in most kids’ lives anyway, nobody needs harsh (just) words piled on top of that.

    But I do love this post. You rule.

  25. Gold Boots? Check! Fantastic Legs? Check! Ego of steel? Check!

    Super Woman? CHECK!

    Sister, you rocked the gold boots then, I’m sure you would now.

    Bea’s last blog post..impostor alert! or ‘lady get your grimy fingers of the miniature socks’

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I'm Anne Glamore, wife, mother, lawyer and blogger. I have three boys, and I'm desperately trying to train them to become Southern gentlemen, but that may be an unrealistic goal. At this point I'd be ecstatic if they'd quit farting at the dinner table. If you're new here, check out the Readers' Favorite Posts below or browse through the Categories. I write about my attempts to teach the boys about peckers and sex (which we call "making googly eyes"), my struggles with hepatitis C and spine surgery, the boys' adventures with fire and pets, my mom's death from ovarian cancer, my love of cooking (with plenty of recipes) and anything else that crosses my mind. Join me on Twitter or StumbleUpon or Email me. I'm happy to speak to your group or club.

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