Scoliosis tennis stories

The 2019 Wimbledon Championships are in full swing right now, and even if you're not usually interested in tennis, it's hard not to get swept up in all the excitement and prestige. This year's tournament has already made headlines - the first round saw 15-year-old Grand Slam newcomer Cori Gauff defeat five-time champ Venus Williams - and there are no doubt plenty of thrills still to come.

Here at the Scoliosis SOS Clinic, we've treated a number of avid tennis players whose curved spines were threatening to force them off the court for good. Here are some of their stories:

Scoliosis SOS patient Abigail playing tennis

Abigail Bendall

"Scoliosis completely rocked my world...I really felt like my world had fallen apart, and I didn't know how to cope with all the emotions that were going around in my head. I cannot wait to get back to the specialists at the hospital and show them what I have achieved."

Read Abigail's Story >>

 

Louise Alexander with tennis racket

Louise Alexander

"I was amazed by what I had achieved in a relatively short time. To see the improvements that I had made from before and after the course was unbelievable. I am no longer dreading the possibility of surgery and I can concentrate on my tennis again."

Read Louise's Story >>

 

James Taylor playing tennis

James Taylor

"When my parents told me about the treatment, I was ecstatic. I love sports, so doing exercises to keep my back in good condition and to avoid surgery was not a problem. I'm looking forward to the summer as I missed out on so many tennis games last year."

Read James's Story >>

 

Rebecca with tennis racket

Rebecca Larett

"The staff at the clinic were amazing, they made me feel normal again. I cannot wait to get back to playing tennis. I am also so excited about life again."

Read Rebecca's Story >>

 

Scoliosis SOS patient Sarah on tennis court

Sarah Nunn

"When I was told that I had scoliosis, I didn't really understand to start with. No one ever sat me down and explained what was going on until I got to the Scoliosis SOS Clinic."

Read Sarah's Story >>

 

Stephanie on the tennis court

Stephanie Wood

"After completing the therapy, my life completely changed. My back looks a million times better, and I feel stronger."

Read Stephanie's Story >>

The Scoliosis SOS Clinic is a non-surgical scoliosis treatment centre in London, UK. Learn about our treatment methods here, or please get in touch if you'd like to arrange a consultation.

Scoliosis Explained Infographic

Beyond a Curved Spine is a Nigeria-based nonprofit whose goals are to raise scoliosis awareness and provide support for people with scoliosis ('Scoliwarriors', to borrow their term).

BACS co-founder Abimbola Oladapo very kindly agreed to answer some questions from the Scoliosis SOS team and tell us a little bit more about her own scoliosis story, as well as the past, present and future of Beyond a Curved Spine.

Abimbola Oladapo, co-founder of Beyond a Curved Spine 

First of all, please tell us a little about yourself - who are you?

My name is Abimbola Oladapo and I'm such a lover (haha - that's the one thing I like to be labelled as). I'm a happy person, scoliosis warrior and Nigerian.

I am also the co-founder of a nonprofit called Beyond a Curved Spine - where we advocate for scoliosis awareness - and I occasionally blog at onepowerwoman.com. Some of my favourite things to do include unravelling new places and making strangers smile.

 

What's your experience with scoliosis?

My scoliosis story started in 2004. I was about 11 years old and in Year 9. My sister noticed my back wasn't looking "normal" - it was slanted, and it showed in the way I walked. At first, she thought it was as a result of bad posture ("swag") and constantly cautioned me to "stand / walk straight and stop spoiling my posture".

Everyone thought I was trying to be cool, when it was simply all shades of scoliosis symptoms. A few months down the line...and my back was looking like a letter 'S'. At this point, it was obviously more than bad posture. I had just returned from boarding school for the Easter holidays. I'll never forget: my mum took me to the hospital and it was the first either of us would hear of scoliosis.

It's been fifteen years since then. I haven't gotten any treatment apart from bracing and exercising, although my curve isn't mild. I think I've kind of gotten used to living with an 'S' on my back - and the good, the bad and the ugly that comes with it. Sometimes I just really want to get out of my skin; other times, I feel like I've got my own back.

Overall, I think I'm at that place where I'm intentionally stronger than scoliosis. I'm positive that someday and soon, I will be scoliosis-free!

 

You came to visit the Scoliosis SOS Clinic some years ago. What did you think?

Yes, in 2011. I was visiting family in London and we'd found the Scoliosis SOS Clinic on Google. It looked really good online, so we booked an appointment and visited the clinic - I've actually still got my consultation report!

The clinic looked even better in real life. The facility was great, the staff were friendly, and reading testimonials from Scoliwarriors who'd been through the treatment was really encouraging!

I think the treatment Scoliosis SOS provide is gold (ScolioGold - ha!), and I'll advise anyone who can afford it to give it a try.

 

What inspired you to start Beyond a Curved Spine?

A number of things, actually. After being diagnosed with scoliosis in high school, I was pretty much left alone, with no resources, no information, nothing. I'd gotten a back brace from the national orthopaedic hospitals here in Nigeria, but that was about it. And it was pretty awful! I didn't know how to care for my brace or what activities to avoid. I resorted to emailing doctors abroad and reading stuff on Google.

Abimbola with scoliosis brace

Fast-forward to many years later, after I'd finished university. I started to notice more people with scoliosis symptoms. I also realised there was a huge gap! No one was talking about scoliosis in Nigeria, yet many people suffered from it. Also, there was (and still is) a cultural belief that scoliosis patients - popularly referred to as 'hunchbacks' - are suitable candidates for money rituals, because the 'hump' on their backs is as a result of stored-up mercury that creates money. I pondered a lot about these issues.

Back in high school, I noticed a schoolmate's back was looking 'funny' while in the bathroom. I alerted her immediately, and because of this, her parents were able to immediately seek information and help, which resulted in a significant control in curve growth. This schoolmate became the co-founder of Beyond a Curved Spine.

All of the above factors, I believe, make up the foundation upon which BACS was established. We are driven by the notion that:

  • Spreading awareness will dispel cultural myths.

  • Early detection gives the best prognosis.

  • Every scoliosis warrior needs a support community rooted in love and strength - no one should walk this journey alone.

 

You've made it your mission to raise scoliosis awareness. How are you achieving this?

Raising scoliosis awareness is such a broad objective! However, we do try to take it one step at a time. Following our famous slogan - "raising scoliosis awareness, one city at a time" - we execute awareness projects in selected communities each time. For example, in 2018, we targeted secondary schools (based on the target age group 10-16) in some Local Government Areas in Lagos, Nigeria. We did a tour around a number of schools in the Yaba region alone, and we reached over 5,000 students.

This year, we're running a '5,000 for 5,000' campaign with the goal of distributing 5,000 infographics across 5,000 public spaces (schools, primary health centres, etc.) in Nigeria.

Beyond a Curved Spine raising scoliosis awareness

Apart from these targeted projects, we raise awareness via social media, traditional media (radio, newspapers, blogs and TV features), and at events/gatherings where we're given the opportunity to share.

 

What are Beyond a Curved Spine's goals for the future?

Although plans may be subject to future tweaks, our goals can be summarised into three:

  • To ensure that every household in Nigeria is scoliosis-aware.

  • To facilitate support - mental support, resource materials, and accessibility to quality treatment - for scoliosis warriors in this part of the world.

  • To advocate for improved and affordable healthcare on behalf of Scoliwarriors in Nigeria.

 

Finally, what advice would you give to someone who has just been told they have scoliosis?

Don't panic! You will be fine, you will still look good, you will meet someone who adores you silly, and you will inspire other people with your story!

Beyond a Curved Spine event

Now that you've been diagnosed, seek knowledge! Talk to your doctors and other professionals. Ask questions. Get to know all you can about your condition, and get treatment early! I like to say early diagnosis is a life saver - literally!

Also, be sensitive to your body and your curve. Take note of changes, pain, and how you feel. Be serious with your treatment and medical appointments. And never ever underestimate the power of a support system! Join a scoliosis support group - surround yourself with positive vibes and positive people who are readily available to walk you through this journey.

 

And what advice would you give to that person's family and loved ones?

Being present is healing! As much as you can, be there for the person. Listen when they need to share. Listen when they say they're tired. It's nice to do some research in order to better understand what they might be going through. Hold their hands through treatment. Just stay supportive and loving!

Be careful with words. Avoid using words like 'hunchback', 'deformity', 'disease' or 'bent'. 'Curvy' is a safe word to use, all the time.

Be caring, not pitying. While it's awesome to always watch out for Scoliwarriors and help them with physical tasks, you should never throw a pity-party around them. Treat them like 'normal' human beings, because they are normal - only curvy (and curvy is beautiful, by the way!). The keywords are compassion and thoughtfulness, not pity or condescension.

Thanks so much to Abimbola for her thoughtful, insightful answers. Be sure to follow @beyondacurvedS on Twitter and visit their website for more information.

 

More Q&A posts:

The World Wide Web makes it relatively easy to find factual information about scoliosis, its symptoms, and the available treatment options. But fictional tales about people with scoliosis are a little harder to find.

Today (11 June) is Empathy Day, and with the accompanying #ReadForEmpathy campaign, the organisers are hoping to highlight the power of stories to help us understand each other's lived experiences. In that spirit, then, here's our all-ages guide to stories about scoliosis and what it's like to live with a curved spine:

 

Scoliosis Books for Children

Ideal for younger readers, these books can be a great aid for parents who are looking to help their young children understand scoliosis and the effects it can have on one's body. Better still, they also help to highlight the fact that a scoliosis diagnosis isn’t the end of the world, and that courage and perseverance can help to overcome even the biggest obstacles.

Being Grace Scoliosis Story

Being Grace by June Hyjek

Ideal for educating young children about the ins and outs of scoliosis, Being Grace follows the story of a Grace, a young giraffe who has a curved neck.

As in the Christmas story of Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer, Grace the Giraffe is singled out and ridiculed for being different. Despite this, Grace's crooked neck allows her to do things the other giraffes can't.

Grace ultimately learns to be happy in her own skin, accept her differences, and appreciate the way they make her unique. The author June Hyjek has scoliosis herself, adding authenticity to the story and its message.

View on Goodreads >>

 

The Bravest Thing

The Bravest Thing by Donna Jo Napoli

The Bravest Thing centres around pet-loving 10-year-old Laurel and her pet rabbit. When the rabbit has babies, the rabbit's unwillingness to feed her offspring leaves Laurel (who has scoliosis) to take the lead and keep them healthy herself.

The book focuses on optimism in the face of adversity, providing a good introduction to the effects of scoliosis for children.

View on Goodreads >>

 

S on My Back scoliosis book

There's an S on My Back by Mary Mahony

Mary Mahony’s 1999 book There's an S on My Back is a great way to educate pre-adolescent readers about the implications of scoliosis while also reinforcing hope, instilling courage, and dispelling anxiety.

Written as a first-person narrative from the perspective of lead character Maisey MacGuire, There's an S... provides children with an enlightening insight into scoliosis, from diagnosis to treatment, including brace fitting and the social situations around it.

View on Goodreads >>

 

Scoliosis Books for Older Kids & Teens

For older children who have just entered their teenage years (or soon will), the following books provide a more mature analysis of scoliosis while still effectively maintaining engagement in younger readers. Centred around early adolescent characters, these books are a great way to improve a child's knowledge of scoliosis while still capturing their imagination.

Abby's Twin

Abby's Twin by Ann M. Martin

Part of the Baby-Sitters Club series, Abby's Twin tells the story of twin sisters Abby and Anna. Anna is diagnosed with scoliosis after a routine school screening, and the twins are left to come to grips with the revelation in their own way, with Abby's excessive attempts to comfort her sister ultimately leading to a falling out.

Bridging the gap between children's literature and teen reading, Abby's Twin is a good introduction to scoliosis for young teens and pre-adolescents, highlighting the importance of communication and family.

View on Goodreads >>

 

Braced scoliosis book

Braced by Alyson Gerber

Braced is the debut novel from Alyson Gerber (who has scoliosis herself). It tells the tale of Rachel Brooks, a 7th-grade student with a place on the school soccer team, a crush on a boy named Tate, and a great year ahead of her...until she's told that she has to wear a scoliosis brace for 23 hours a day.

Told from an authentic and honest perspective, this heartfelt story recounts the trials and tribulations of a maturing teen coping with scoliosis, with great underlying messages of compassion and triumph over adversity.

Published in 2017, Braced came as a welcome modern addition to the realm of scoliosis fiction, and it has been repeatedly praised online as a great read for teens and young adults alike.

View on Goodreads >>

 

Dear Isaac Newton Book

Dear Isaac Newton, You're Ruining My Life by Rachel Hruza

Another recent publication to add to the growing list of scoliosis novels, Dear Isaac Newton... was originally published in early 2018 and follows the story of Truth Trendon, a 12-year-old with scoliosis.

The main protagonist in this scoliosis story aims to keep her scoliosis a secret from her classmates. Of course, the lies soon start to snowball, and disaster looms...

Touching and quick-witted, this book is full of adolescent angst and important life lessons, with the scoliosis theme prevalent throughout. Another great read for early teens.

View on Goodreads >>

 

Young Adult Books About Scoliosis

These books focus on a variety of themes and plotlines, and while they are predominantly aimed at young adults, they are just as suitable for those that fall outside of that category, providing a good literary experience for adults too - particularly those with an interest in scoliosis.

Deenie

Deenie by Judy Blume

Perhaps the most famous book on this list, Deenie is considered somewhat of a cult classic, achieving both critical acclaim and controversy.

First published back in 1973, Deenie has seen its fair share of controversy, primarily due to its sexual references. As a result, Deenie has been banned in countless schools, even landing on the American Library Association's list of the '100 Most Frequently-Challenged Books' in the 1990s.

However, this was nothing new for author Judy Blume, who has had numerous other books on the same list over the years. And none of this has impacted the book's popularity; Deenie is still held in high regard and frequently cited as a 'coming of age' classic, and it's a great scoliosis story to boot.

View on Goodreads >>

 

Mannequin Girl

Mannequin Girl by Ellen Litman

The second novel from Ellen Litman, Mannequin Girl is another coming-of-age story, but this one is set in 1980s Moscow.

The action - which takes place within a boarding school that's specifically for children with scoliosis - centres around lead character Kat, who enters first grade at the age of six as the book begins. We then see Kat's experiences over the eight years that follow.

Themes of identity, independence and rebellion emerge; Litman herself grew up in Moscow, allowing her to draw upon her real-life experiences for a narrative that's authentic, engaging and heartfelt despite being written in third person.

View on Goodreads >>

 

Heaven Sent book

Heaven Sent by S.J. Morgan

The most recent entry on this list, Heaven Sent is the debut novel of British ex-pat S.J. Morgan. A trained occupational therapist, Morgan has real knowledge of scoliosis, and she uses this knowledge to great effect throughout Heaven Sent.

Another coming-of-age novel, relationships are the key theme here, with particular focus on friendship, family and love. The well-developed characters and thought-provoking narrative make Heaven Sent a solid read that's even more appealing to those with firsthand experience of scoliosis.

View on Goodreads >>

Scoliosis SOS is a specialist clinic in London, UK for people with scoliosis and other spinal conditions. Learn more about us here, and if you'd like to arrange a consultation, please don't hesitate to get in touch.

X-rays of people with scoliosis

As you may already be aware, June is Scoliosis Awareness Month (culminating in International Scoliosis Awareness Day on Saturday 29 June).

If you're looking to help fly the scoliosis flag this month, there are lots of ways to help raise awareness - here are just a few ideas to get your cogs turning:

 

1. Social Media

It's no secret that social media is an incredibly powerful tool. This applies just as much to your personal social media accounts as it does to those owned by businesses, brands and celebrities.

If you want to get the word out to your friends, followers and family members, a simple Facebook update, tweet or Instagram post can go a surprisingly long way. Including a 'please share' request within your post will encourage people to spread the word to their own social spheres.

 

2. Flyers

If you're not big on social media, offline methods can work too. Printed flyers can be extremely impactful when it comes to informing and educating your community.

Producing flyers can be surprisingly economical, too - particularly if you shop around. Once you've got a stack of flyers ready, distribution can be as simple as standing in the centre of town and handing them out. You may also be able to place your flyers in local cafés, shops and other locations (but be sure to ask permission first).

 

3. Viral Challenges

Remember the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge? It was a sensation back in 2014: countless people, including a number of politicians and celebrities, shared videos of themselves getting soaked in order to raise awareness and funds for motor neurone disease charities across the globe.

We're not suggesting that you subject yourself to a bucket of ice-cold water, but you could definitely look to the viral success of the Ice Bucket Challenge for inspiration. Why not think of your own unique challenge, give it a catchy name, and get filming? Then post the video online, challenge three of your friends, and see where it leads!

 

4. Posters

A memorable, well-designed poster can be a great way to get a point across. If you're not much of a designer yourself, it's well worth paying a professional to put something together for you - posters work best when they're really eye-catching!

Strategic placement is important to make sure your poster is seen. Ask you family and friends to help you get your posters in densely-populated, high-footfall areas like busy streets, community centres, and places of business.

 

5. Speeches

If you're a confident public speaker, Scoliosis Awareness Month is a great time to put that talent to use. Giving a talk at - for example - a local school is a superb way to get the message out to people who might not otherwise have heard it. This is especially true if you yourself have scoliosis and can comment on what it's like to live with a curved spine.

If appropriate, you could even follow up your speech with a collection bucket to make the most of your platform and raise funds for a scoliosis charity of your choosing.

 

6. Merchandise

Pens, badges, hats, T-shirts...branded merchandise is a great way to promote a cause, and if you can afford it, you may want to consider using customised merch to raise awareness of scoliosis.

You could give your merchandise away for free as a promotional exercise, or sell it to raise funds for a worthy charity - either way, don't be afraid to get creative!

 

7. School / Work

Whether you're in school, university, or the world of work, getting your classmates / colleagues involved in your quest to boost scoliosis awareness will help you to cover a lot more ground.

Here's the golden rule: the simpler the task, the more likely people are to participate. Try to keep your requests nice and straightforward - for instance, you could encourage everyone to wear green for scoliosis, or change their email signature in recognition of Scoliosis Awareness Month. If you're feeling ambitious, you could even organise a bake sale and donate the proceeds to a scoliosis charity.

 

8. Local News

Even in this ultra-connected era, lots of people still read the local paper - or indeed the local paper's website.

Journalists are always looking for ideas, and they love local interest stories that focus on real people and the challenges they face. If you have struggled with scoliosis and achieved something special, now is the perfect time to celebrate it. In a world that can sometimes feel like it's bursting with bad news, a slice of positivity should be an easy sell that your local journos welcome with open arms.

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