One shadow. That was all it took to upset the rhythm of my life.

There were whispers after one of my twice-yearly echo-cardiograms. Something wasn’t right.

I was introduced to the X-ray machine and then to a spine doctor. As a teen, I was actually allowed to see the X-ray and hear the doctor’s diagnosis: the whitish-gray shadow was my spine, twisted into an S-shape. My scoliosis required surgery, the doctor stated, and he described a 12-hour procedure that involved attaching two metal rods to my spine.

To me, it sounded unappealing. To my doctor-wary mother, it was out of the question. Why would she put her delicate daughter through this tough surgery? A local chiropractor helped her silence any doubts and encouraged her, calling the surgery “barbaric.” As I buried myself in novels about superheroes who saved people from danger at the last moment, my mother began the frantic search for an alternative treatment for my scoliosis.

My married sister, miraculously allowed in on this part of the secret, discovered a chiropractor in New York who claimed to have the cure for scoliosis. My mother gave a sigh of relief and canceled the tentative date for surgery the spine doctor had insisted we book.

With a suitcase full of exercise clothes, I flew to New York, to be greeted by my heroic sister who was tasked with hosting, chauffeuring, and supervising me. My first trip away from my parents was a tantalizing taste of independence. I loved the junk food my sister let me eat and the milkshakes the doctor prescribed to help me gain muscle. The chiropractor was proud to be the only American running the program, which was created in Russia. The program consisted of a bunch of random exercises, some slightly painful chiropractic adjustment, and then a round on a number of vibrating machines, each of which pulled me in various directions. There was a lot of mind over matter talks and an important part of the program was standing in front of the mirror and pushing my body to stand straight. I learned to twist my body into a position that looked good, and after three months out of school, I was sent home with instructions to keep doing the exercises for the rest of my life and to swim twice a week.