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Scoliosis & Me or Bent Out of Shape

Last week in Who the Heck is this Becks Davis Chick? I gave Detroit Moxie readers a choice between two future posts. Bent out of Shape was the clear winner and here is what came of it. Read the other choice: Walking on Sunshine.

Deformed. That is how doctors describe me. That’s a powerful, crazy, horrible term. Me? I just think I’m crooked or bent out of shape. You see, I have severe scoliosis and when I was 18 my life expectancy was 40.

Scoliosis is a lateral curvature of the spine, sometimes in the form of a C, or as in my case, an S or double curve. About 3 in every 100 people have scoliosis and for most it isn’t a problem.

For me, it was a problem.

I went from being monitored for a slight curve to being confined in a Milwaukee Brace. Later it was chiropractor visits, surgery on my spine, and pain.

The Slight Curve

My pediatrician noticed a slight curve and said it should be monitored. He must have forgot about it after that because the next thing I knew my mom and I were heading down to Children’s Hospital to see an orthopedic.

I was 10. We were sitting in the room waiting for the results of my x-rays. My mom has what I call a jumpy stomach. If she’s nervous her tummy acts up. We were both nervous. My mom excused herself and went to the ladies room.

I sat in the room alone. The Doctor finally came in. I explained that my mom was in the bathroom. He was impatient and decided to tell a 10-year-old girl that she would have to wear a back brace for the next 8 years. Eight years is forever when you’re 10! He also mentioned I’d have to wear it 23 hours a day.

I tore out of the room, down the hallway, tears running down my face, and started beating on the bathroom door screaming for my mommy.

Then there was Beth.

Beth and I weren’t friends but we went to grade school together and she was put into a Milwaukee Brace a year before me. What do I remember about Beth? Scoliosis was her excuse for everything.

She didn’t participate in gym class because of her brace. She even used it is as an excuse that she couldn’t read her textbooks. She would get out of everything by saying, “I can’t.”

Beth taught me how NOT to live.

I refused to be defined by scoliosis or my stupid, cumbersome, hated-it-more-than-anything, Milwaukee Brace. I wasn’t going to stop living my life.

I caddied in my back brace. At first, the members at the golf club would ask if they could carry the bag for me. I would simply tell them that it was my job and I’d be fired if they carried their own bag. Girl caddies were rare enough back then so one in a back brace took getting used to. Yes, I carried doubles too.

I was an avid skier and skied with my back brace. I was a good skier but not very graceful. That means I didn’t always look good but I rarely fell down. I only mention this because getting up off the snow by myself in the brace was impossible.

In Junior High my friend Marybeth and I were out at Pine Knob and ventured towards the intermediate hill. The chairlift attendant wasn’t there and we hopped on. But I wasn’t all the way on. About 15 feet up, still inside the snow fence, I fell off.

No, falling off the chairlift wasn’t the bad part.

The bad part was that I couldn’t get up on my own. A line started forming for the chairlift and as everyone passed above me they would laugh at the beetle like creature, I was like a bug on its back that couldn’t right itself. I had to wait for Marybeth to ride all the way up the hill, ski down, and climb over the snow fence to help me up. Nope, no one else offered to help me.

I learned at a very young age that sometimes you just have to try harder and that it’s OK to be different. I learned compassion and that real friends will stick by you.

I’ve never used my back brace or scoliosis as an excuse. I never said, “I can’t.”

My scar from spinal fusion surgery.If I were given some sort of magic powers to change anything in my life, it wouldn’t be my scoliosis. I own that and it has made me who I am, not by its limitations, but by my own choices and determination.

Eventually, I stopped wearing the brace. My top curve rose to 62 degrees, surgery is recommended at 40 degrees. I also refused surgery for many years.

Yes, when I was 18 my life expectancy was 40. That is why I was so excited to turn 40 this year.

I did end up having surgery, a different procedure that wasn’t originally offered.

I made some stupid choices along the way but I’m proud and so grateful that my parents let me make those choices. As Frank Sinatra said, “I faced it all and I stood tall. And I did it my way.”

I have a scar from my surgery that goes from my neck to my ass. My scar is my tattoo. It’s my ink. It says, “don’t tell me what I can’t do.”


Obviously, I couldn’t include everything in one post. I’ll continue the story and fill in the missing pieces. If you have any questions about scoliosis, just ask.

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Reader Comments (27)

Wow, Becks. I can't believe you went through all that as a teenager. I will remember you and Beth next time "I can't" starts bubbling up.

May 28, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJen

What an incredible & inspiring story. Thank you for sharing it.

May 28, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCatherine

You are an awesome woman! Great attitude & excellent post :)

May 28, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAndrew

The raw emotion you evoke in this post is very heartfelt and inspiring. Thanks for letting us into your world and sharing this part of your life! My aunt has scoliosis, so I know how it can easily put a burdening strain on a person's life. A huge cheers to you for not letting this hinder your ability to enjoy life!

May 28, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterNikki Stephan

Thank you for sharing part of your life. It's amazing what doctors think they know, and feels so great to prove them wrong, isn't it? :)

May 28, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAngela

We all know that we say "can't" in our lives, but how many times have most of us just gritted our teeth and said, loud and clear, "YES I CAN"? Probably not very often. Definitely not often enough.
I've known you for quite a few years, Becks. I've always known you to be a strong and very capable person, whom I admire for all your various talents. But I've never known how strong. Now I do and I'm glad to know you for the amazing person you are.

May 28, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKirsten

I love it when I learn new and thought provoking things from my friends... Yeah Becks!

May 28, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMatt Dibble

You never do know how strong you are until you have to call on that strength to move forward. Thanks for sharing :)

May 28, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDominique

Thank you all for your awesome comments.

One of the reasons I wanted to write this was that quite a while ago I came across a blog talking about scoliosis. The mom was hoping that her daughter wasn't diagnosed with scoliosis. And I'm sure the daughter was feeling the same way. That is the only way to feel. No one wants anything to be wrong with their child.

I didn't want it when I was a kid and I know my parents hoped beyond hope that it wouldn't be my fate. It's only in hindsight that I can say I wouldn't have it any other way.

I just want both parents and their children to know that a) yes, it sucks but b) most of the time it isn't the end of the world.

May 28, 2010 | Registered CommenterBecks Davis

Becks, this story really touched me personally. My little sis, who is now 16, had to wear that same Milwaukee brace when she was younger. I believe it was also around 9 or 10 years old. It was a rough time to say the least but she was always so strong and kept a positive attitude throughout the whole ordeal. I always thought that for as young as she was, she was so brave.

Thank you so much for sharing your story!

May 28, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJosh

You're welcome, Josh. I hope your sister is doing well. You know, I never thought about how it affected my older brother. So, thank you for sharing, it's given me something to ponder.

May 29, 2010 | Registered CommenterBecks Davis


This is a touching story. I love that you embraced being different, and didn't let it get in the way of the goals you wanted to accomplish. I suffer from heart valve disease myself, and I can relate with having something that's debilitating and not wanting to go through with surgery. Like you I stay positive and nevertheless continue to work toward my life's goals.

May 30, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMargarita

Thanks for stopping by and sharing. Keep staying positive and continue on with your dreams. :)

May 31, 2010 | Registered CommenterBecks Davis

i enjoy reading your blog daily!

May 31, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJason Raznick

Why, thank you Jason! :)

June 1, 2010 | Registered CommenterBecks Davis

Becks: wow, what a raw piece. I knew you were a special person and now that is confirmed. My father had polio as a child and spent every day stewing with bitterness. I grew up knowing I could never be that person. Its internal poison and a waste of time. Instead I've decided to surround myself with positive and inspiring people like you who bring joy to my life. Thank you for sharing your story.

June 14, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJen R

Thanks Jen! I too, like to surround myself with positive people, bitterness is a waste of time.

June 15, 2010 | Registered CommenterBecks Davis

Holy cripes lady. You caddied doubles with scoliosis ? That sounds like borderline masochism. I was caddying the year you were born, at the Country Club of Detroit. Your personal recollection of that experience reminded me of my own experience.
And also it reminded me of the time in high school when I saw a nun "deck" a physically disabled girl during a conflict of wills between the two. Fortunately, I wasn't observed to be witnessing this event. I think I may have stopped believing in god or religion after seeing that.

July 29, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterchris rizzo

When I carried doubles they were usually Sunday bags, very light. Wow! Seeing a nun deck a physically disabled girl is crazy.

July 29, 2010 | Registered CommenterBecks Davis

How much time was there between your operation and this picture? when does the scar become less red and less prominent?

December 18, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterjean

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