Today’s my 5 year post scoliosis spinal fusion anniversary…not got quite the catchy ring to it as I thought! It’s crazy to think that 5 years ago this I had spinal surgery as it honestly feels like yesterday and believe it or not, it is exactly 5 years (ngl I was tempted to change the date because I have an unstarted assignment due today, but decided that it would cause more pain writing that than reliving all this!!) If you haven’t read it already, I have explained what scoliosis is and my back brace experience in another blog, and one day I’ll get round to the surgery story and recovery journey too, but for now I wanted to talk about 5 things I’ve learnt from my operation and thought I’d do so with some cringe af quotes! (Pinterest board of OCD arrange quotes!!) Here goes…
- “There are years that ask questions, and years that answer” – Zora Neale Hurston
If there is a quote that best describes how I feel when looking back, it’s this one. If I read this quote last year, I’d probably not feel this way, but this last year has been a magnet for miracles. In every aspect of my life I have never been better: friends, family, grades, jobs, health, fitness ect. but if you’d ask me this 5 years ago, I’d never been worse in all the aspect mentioned.
At times you wonder why you’re going through what you’re going through, whether that’s a back brace, surgery or any bad time in your life, but right now I’m telling you it is worth it. I’m able to look back from the point of view of the light at the end of the tunnel, and I promise the bright light of blessings is worth the pitch black journey.
I questioned everything for so many years. What did I do to deserve it? Was I experiencing all this from karma when I commented on Jess’ instagram saying she looked pretty even when she didn’t? Is that why I’m having my spine ripped out? I’m serious, I questioned everything, and I didn’t get my answers for years. But boy was it worth the wait!
2. “Turn the Pain into Power”
I learnt this the hard way, but you cannot change the pain. I mean maybe if I listened to the doctors like I probably should have, I would perhaps be in less pain, but realistically you need to put your head down, pop some paracetamol and move on. This may sound super hypocritical because the first 10 minutes of speaking to me I’ll probably mention my back story of my back story, but I’ve changed what I want the response to be. I no longer want sympathy, this would only encourage the pain to take control of my body, but I’m doing it for the power. I could have easily done this blog post and spoke about how I wish I never had a back brace because it was no help or I shouldn’t go running because I’m scared it will flare up the pain but that’s not going to help me. It’s all in how you respond and turn the pain into power. It’s not easy but it’s the key to recovery.
3. “Bent not Broken”
Again, it’s crazy how it’s taken me 5 years to feel this but I did not have an easy recovery, and the mental impact was 100 times harder than the physical for me, and keep in mind that I learnt to walk again! I hated my scar. P.E. changing rooms were terrifying, swimming, off the shoulder tops, low backs, you name it, I’d avoid it. It didn’t matter what people said, I just was not comfortable with it, but I learnt that I am not broken, just bent and I learnt to love again (sending a virtual cookie to all those that got that reference!). I also learnt not to hide it but to share as it’s a cool story to tell! Usain Bolt has scoliosis, the fastest man in the world has a bent spine, but he’s definitely not broken and yes he’d be faster if he didn’t have it, but he is THRIVING, so why can’t you own it too?!
4. “The past is a place of reference, not residence”
As mentioned, I will refer to my surgery with everyone I meet! You never know who is an underecover talent scouter, willing to put me on the finals of X factor, despite me not being able to sing, but gets through each week with a sob story and a message from my Nan. But shifting this perfectly rehearsed award speech into a reference and not a permanent location took some time, but made all the difference.
5. “Climb the mountains so you can see the world, not so the world can see you”
This is your journey and only you and your close members of family will understand what you’ve gone through. I had a P.E. teacher once say to me “you should really join in with sport as I had asthma as a child…” two months after my surgery. Uhhh what???! You will try and explain your journey to everyone, show them the X-ray photos, tell them the morphine stories but they will never know how it feels, and it sucks but why do they need to know the war you’ve been fighting? Instead of telling people your story, show them and yourself what you’ve learnt from it.
Finally I wanted to mention how they often tell you after surgery how long it takes to do exercise or be ‘normal’ ect. but there is no mention of how it impacts you mentally and how long that takes. And of course every individual is unique. It may be 6 months, 1 year or in my case 5 and of course when experiencing the worst, it bloody sucked, but I wouldn’t change it for the world. I wouldn’t be me without it. All my best qualities were learnt from feeling so low. My motivation, drive and ambition started when my dad helped me walk again for the second time, 17 years after the first! I learnt who my true friends were, and how important education is, because when you’re lying in a hospital bed, school actually seems like heaven. I feel maturer than everyone around me, as if I’ve visited a parallel universe and have the secrets to existence. I get excited about the smallest things, like jumping on a trampoline to being able to write an assignment. It sounds weird but I missed so much school that the fact I’m at university despite my lows is another achievement. I’m a “look at the moon” girl and a adventure seeker, all because of the set backs from my scoliosis and now I’m living the comeback. I would not change one aspect of my journey as the harder it got, the stronger I became. I’d also like to give the biggest shoutout for the doctors, nurses, NHS, friends and family who not only saved my life, but changed it for the better. (I’d also like to apologise for how bad this blog is, it’s hard to type when you’re balling your eyes out!!)
Always got your back (no matter how curved!)