Imagine feeling restricted, all day and all night, and not being able bend down. That is what wearing a scoliosis brace feels like.

Scoliosis is the abnormal curving of the spine. It not only affects your spine, but it also puts a physical strain on your body. This can include your lungs, heart, nerves and joints and also can cause chronic pain throughout many areas of the body.

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Since I was young, my mother had always noticed a curve in my back. After examining my X-rays the doctor diagnosed my condition as scoliosis at 29 degrees. He informed us I had a moderate curve that without treatment could develop into a severe curve and require surgery.

The treatment was a large piece of plastic molded to my body that I had to wear day and night. At the time I was only 9, and had many mixed emotions about the situation. The brace went from my tailbone all the way up to below my shoulders. Wearing it to school at first was a challenge, but I had more than enough support from all of my friends. Instead of making fun of it, they became curious, and even wanted to try it on. It was hysterical when kids tried to knock on my brace and ended up hurting their knuckles. Still, sometimes wearing the brace was unbearable, especially when living in Florida with the hot weather.

The second summer I had my brace, I ended up moving to New York, meaning that not only did I have to make new friends, but I also had to introduce them to my brace. My new friends gave me both moral and physical support. Time passed, and I grew taller, and had to get rid of my old brace because it was too small, much like crabs when they grow out of their shell.

It was not until last summer that my curve really increased. My curve went up a stunning 12 degrees in a matter of three months due to a growth spurt, leaving me with a 41-degree curvature. My doctor warned me that if it went up 5 degrees more, I could face surgery in the foreseeable future.

I still wear my brace and have avoided surgery for the moment. My brace can be both my best friend and my archnemesis. It has not only taught me independence and self-confidence, it has also taught me to embrace my condition and it gives me the courage to talk about it with many kids and adults. Though having scoliosis can sometimes be a struggle, it does not define me, it only makes me stronger. After all, I’m bent, not broken!