You know that moment when you are staring at an impending doom that is about to occur, and there is nothing you can do to stop it? It can be something simple, like watching as someone is about to drop a glass of water, but all you do is watch it happen. You obviously want to react, but in the moment, you can’t. You just stand there, paralyzed. Even though you may be able to say something or do something to stop the glass from falling, you don’t, and eventually, the glass shatters into a million tiny pieces.
In a way, I experienced this exact scenario. My scoliosis was this impending doom, about to take over my life, yet, somehow, it was as if no one could do anything to change it. As if I were watching myself, wanting to do something to prevent it from getting worse, but trapped by my mental paralysis; I didn’t have a chance to stop what was happening or even to react.
Here’s how it happened: There I was, sitting in Dr. Gray’s waiting room with my mama, waiting for Dr. Gray to give me my X-ray results. I could tell my mama was nervous. She sat there in the waiting from with her arms crossed and her right leg shaking as she heavily chewed on her gum. I could sense that, even though she was nervous, she was trying her hardest to remain calm as she rambled about the errands she needed to run after the appointment. I was too preoccupied with my thoughts to pay too much attention to what she was saying. Luckily, Dr. Gray called us in almost immediately.
I walked into the room and sat down on the exam table. I could hear the paper crumble underneath me, my hot legs sticking almost immediately to the surface as if my sweat had created an adhesive; I was now trapped to the table. My palms were sweaty as well, and I could hear the sound of my heart palpitating as if it was screaming out to me with every second that passed.
At that point, I could see my mama hoping and praying for a positive result, and I was too. And then, just like that, he delivered the news.“We’re going to have to put you on more frequent adjustments,” he said. Although he had a pretty blunt demeanor about him, sometimes I think he was expecting me to be able to read his mind.
“OK, why do we have to do that?” I asked.
“It’s because your curvature is progressing, but don’t worry. I know that my treatment will be able to stop the progression from getting worse. And trust me, you don’t want to go to another doctor; they’ll just put you in a brace that you’ll have to wear every day, and you don’t want to wear a brace for the rest of your life.”
At this precise moment, my synapses fired as I reflected on what he said. He’d mentioned that there was another doctor out there in the world that could help me in a different way. But as I sat there pondering what he had just said, it was like I was watching the glass fall, knowing that I could stop it before it fell, but still, doing nothing. I let it fall. I didn’t ask him anything about the other doctor that was out there. I didn’t question the bracing, or Dr. Gray’s ability to help me. I believed in his ability. He had promised me so much. He had told me that he would fix all my issues. Even though I hadn’t seen any positive results, I believed him. And I believed in him.
“OK, I understand,” was all I said as I watched him gather his clipboard and step out of the room.
Somewhere within myself, I wanted to believe that I was the exception, and that my fate would look different. I wanted to think that my daydreams of having an entirely straight spine would one day come to fruition, and that if I wished for it, if I prayed for it, it would happen. But that’s not at all what happened. Instead, I was faced with the harsh reality that my curvature was progressing, and instead of getting better, I was getting worse.
My mom was staring at me, waiting for me to translate what had happened, but at that moment, I couldn’t speak. My parched lips were chapped and dry, and I immediately searched for water, for some evidence of saliva remaining somewhere in my mouth. But I couldn’t find it. I was too distracted by my panting breath. I needed to move around, but I was still glued to the exam table. I started to panic, and my lips began to tremble. My eyes felt heavy. But I kept trying to inhale. I needed to breathe. I needed to calm my nerves. I needed to stand up and gain control of my anxiety, of my body, but the more I tried, the harder it was.
A few minutes passed, and I finally regained control of my thoughts and emotions. With fear and reservation in my eyes, I looked at my mama, and I told her what Dr. Gray had said. Typically, she would try to cover up awkward moments with her banter, but that moment was different. Instead, she just sat there, mute but desperate to do something, anything to change my fate, to help me, to stop my curvature from progressing, but there was nothing she could do. The truth is, no one could do anything for me, because at that moment, just like that glass of water that’s bound to end up on the floor, shattered into a million pieces, I too was doomed from the beginning.