BY ISABELLA MORDEN-WHEELDON
Curvy Girls is a global network of peer-led support groups for girls up to age 18 suffering from scoliosis. For those unfamiliar with the condition, scoliosis is a lateral curvature of the spine that tends to occur in girls during adolescence. Treatments usually involve a plastic back brace that covers the entire torso which is worn anywhere from 7 to 24 hours a day. The emotional weight of the disease is extremely taxing at such a breakable point; it takes the teenage experience to a different level of emotional turmoil. As a patient, you start to ask yourself questions. The list of treatments is extensive and daunting: bracing, physical therapy, surgery, tethering—but they all sound the same when you are submerged headfirst into an unfamiliar diagnosis.
I was 11 when I was first diagnosed, and 12 when I got my first brace. My ability and willpower to wear the brace dwindled as I began to gain social awareness and those questions kept emerging.
I have since ceased bracing (three braces and four years later), but the weight of it still seems to be there. This is but a fraction of a story nearly identical to hundreds of other teenage girls with scoliosis. An experience such as this is not something you can just put behind you. Here at the Minnesota chapter, we meet once a month in the Nokomis neighborhood to recollect and ask questions about our treatments, coping mechanisms, and diagnoses. We come from a myriad of wildly differing lifestyles, homes, and ways, but the story we have to tell is the same. Our link is clear-cut, but not visible, and conflict is what brings us together. The emails I receive from parents with daughters newly diagnosed are often calls for help, desperately seeking support—a sort of safe space. The girls who enter our doors are apprehensive, sometimes reluctant. I relive my own experiences every time a new family is welcomed, and that is what is so incredible about this position. This is a hand-me-down story. I know what happens next.
“Having once led Curvy Girls I learned more not only about myself but also about other girls,” says member and former leader Sheridan Follis. “While I had never been too worried about my scoliosis (for better or for worse), I learned many girls were. I wanted to not only help them but in the same way, it helped me break out of my shell and push myself to meet new people.”
From the start of this chapter in 2015, we have gained more than just members. We are answering questions, living up to what our motto truly means: ‘“You are not alone.” We need not question ourselves, but instead ask, what can we do for others?
Questions, or in need of support? https://www.curvygirlsscoliosis.com/