I ’ve always had a lot of hobbies and interests, but when I was a teenager (a few years ago), instead of being known as “the girl who plays guitar” or “the girl who writes nice poems” or even “the girl who’s so kind to her younger sisters” or whatever, I became known as “the girl who wore a back brace.” I suppose it could have bothered me, but my back brace was so much part of my story that it didn’t… at least not so much.

This is my story: I was diagnosed with thoracic kyphosis when I was 13 and I had to wear a back brace every day for two years.

I’d heard of scoliosis, but not of kyphosis. Scoliosis is basically when the spine is growing in more of an S shape instead of a straight line, like it’s supposed to. Kyphosis is also a curvature, but it’s a rounding in the upper spine, which makes the shoulders look almost hunchbacked. Some degree of a kyphotic curve is normal, but mine was too severe. Kyphosis is apparently hard to detect, much harder than scoliosis. Back in my day (“back” — that wasn’t even an intentional pun!), we had scoliosis screenings with professionals in school and even they didn’t catch it.

Actually, it was my Bubby who caught it. Apparently, it’s quite common for close family to spot it. My friend Goldie, who was diagnosed with scoliosis as a teen, told me that her cousin was the one who noticed it for her. They were walking into shul together one Shabbos single file and her cousin said to her, “Why are you walking funny?” She wasn’t; that’s how she walked! But that was what got the ball rolling for her.

My Bubby always told me my back didn’t look straight. “Stand up straight,” she’d say, and I’d say, “I am!”

She even urged my mother to take me to a physiotherapist, and she did. The physiotherapist said I was fine but my Bubby did not like that at all; she really felt there was something wrong.

My mother sighed and said, “Ma, if you want, call him yourself.”

So she did! My Bubby (who is awesome, by the way, in case you couldn’t tell by now!) took the phone and spoke to the physiotherapist and even when he reiterated that he thought I was fine, Bubby said firmly, “I’m sorry, but I really think there’s something wrong with my granddaughter’s back. Where can we go for a second opinion?”

Actually, it turned out that the physiotherapist was kind of thrown off by my grandmother’s certainty (I mean, everyone says “mother knows best,” right? So it’s triple best when it comes to grandmothers!) so he referred me to an orthopedic surgeon. There, I had an X-ray and the orthopedic surgeon diagnosed me with thoracic kyphosis and told me I’d need to start wearing a back brace immediately. (Excerpted from Teen Pages, Issue 667)