Before undergoing spinal fusion, I was very conscious about my body and never wore clothes that drew attention to my rib hump which was a result of my spine twisting and bending for years during my early adolescence. But afterwards, everything changed.
What challenge does this story focus on?
The challenge of recovering from such a serious operation, of learning how to walk and stand again, how to elevate my legs so I could tie my shoe laces and put on my socks, of adjusting to my new posture and coping with the post-operative pain.
How has this challenge affected you?
I knew it wouldn't be plain sailing after a spinal operation, but I also knew it would be worth it. Not only would it significantly change my physical appearance, but it would also make me feel better about myself in general. My confidence has just kept on increasing and I feel comfortable in a lot more clothes these days, and even one of my friends pointed out that I dress better for my figure. The way to describe this positive change, is that I feel stronger, both mentally and physically.
What has or is helping you to move forward with this challenge?
Reflecting on what I was like prior to spinal fusion. I was shier, and I felt my body was deformed, which in turn affected my self-confidence. I view pre-op me as 'the old Jemma' and often think about how much I've grown as a person since I was 19 - the age I had my scoliosis corrected. Certain friends and family have helped me overcome the challenge that is scoliosis, and I will be forever grateful.
What have you learnt as a result of this challenge?
I have learned who my true friends are. Three friends plus three ex-work colleagues came to visit me when I was recovering, and I will always remember that. I even kept hold of the cards I was sent from relatives and friends when recovering because I am a sentimental person and like to remind myself of people's kindness when it was most needed. I have also learned how much things such as surgery can really impact your life and enable you to work towards goals that might have otherwise been near impossible.
How do you use this learning in your life now?
I use it to inspire others. I have come across other scoliosis sufferers online and have reassured them about the operation process and that it really is worth it if their condition is as bad as mine was (the bend/twist was nearing 70 degrees just before it was operated on!). I also use this learning to encourage myself to keep on reaching my goals, even if those around me are not quite sure how I will reach some of them. I now look forward to the near future as a university graduate and will not let scoliosis get in the way of me securing a fantastic career.
What positive message would you like the reader to go away with?
That sometimes you have to experience something you find scary in your life to reap the benefits on the other side of the situation. Fear can certainly hold us back from things, but sometimes pushing yourself through them anyway can be incredibly rewarding as you end up reaching (and even exceeding!) milestones where you doubted your amazing ability. The human body is amazing, both somatically and mentally, meaning it's possible to overcome many things.