Dance helps keep scoliosis in line


Junior Catherine Stephenson’s problem with scoliosis has gotten better after joining the drill team.

Story by Brianna Sellers, Viewpoint Editor

First day of sophomore year. Finally not a freshman anymore.

But as soon as she swung the doors open, she noticed the entire bed intruder song written up and down her arms.

“Hide yo kids, hide yo wife, hide yo kids, hide yo wife.”

That’s super. Now everyone thinks she’s a freak.

If only she were normal

Normal people didn’t have to face the first day of school with writing on their arms that they couldn’t reach around to erase.

Normal people didn’t have to wear a back brace to bed.

Normal people didn’t have to worry about putting their dreams on hold because their body wouldn’t cooperate.

If only she were normal.

Catherine’s father insisted she take a random spinal check at the local mall on a Wednesday night at the end of eighth grade.

“It’s free Catherine, you are getting checked out–like it or not.”

“…okay, Dad.”

The scan they did on her back told of more than just the stress on her muscles.

“I’m sorry, ma’am, but your back is about to explode.”

“Wait, seriously?!”

“No, but you do have scoliosis.”

Catherine’s great uncle had died from scoliosis before she was born.

It was a bad enough case that his spine completely collapsed into his lungs, instantly killing him.

So it made sense that she surpassed “freaking out” and went straight to paranoid.

Catherine went to see an expert at Children’s Hospital in Little Rock, Ark., just a few weeks later. To keep calm, she prayed to the Lord to have mercy on her spine and did major google-ing to find out what was going on back there.

Why do things like this always happen to me…?

Catherine’s back was at a 12-degree curve. Not too bad. The doctors told her it would stop and she didn’t have anything to worry about. She was ready for freshman year.

Six months passed by and it was the end of football season.

Time for her next check-up.

Twelve degrees to 29 degrees–something a 40-year-old lady would have. Fifteen degrees of added curve in six months. Her scoliosis had turned into a severe problem.

Hope of being on drill team or becoming a good dancer slowly faded.

The embarrassment began when she first tried on the bulky, white back-brace that she would now have to wear for 17 hours a day until her spine corrected. Only Lord knows how long that will take. The sides had indentions where her hip bones fit, but this only made her look like she had love-handles.

But the look of the brace wasn’t her biggest worry.

Wearing the brace made Catherine feel like she was in a sauna. It added about 400 more degrees than the already 200 degrees outside.

Obviously, motivation was lacking.

From the moment she got home from school, she went right to the brace to strap it on. It definitely added a unique touch to the Nike shorts and T-shirt she would change into.

The worst part wasn’t that Catherine’s friends would push her over when they were with her at night, since she wouldn’t be able to get up–the brace was heavy and hard to move in.

Falling over a few times a night quickly became typical.

“Guys, will you PLEASE help me up?!”


And they laughed, and laughed.

But it was hard for Catherine not to share a few laughs, too.

No, the most embarrassing part was walking into school the first day of sophomore year with the bed intruder song, in Sharpie, up and down her arms. When Catherine’s friends would sign her brace as if it were a cast, the pictures and words they drew would rub off on her skin when she slept.

Looks like “oh-my-god, what-a-freak” and “What does she do when she goes home…” were going to be a daily thing.

Catherine didn’t let it phase her.

The next appointment made everything worse. Everyone expected Catherine’s spine to get just a little better, but this wasn’t the case. The once 29-degree curve was now a 37-degree curve–only three degrees away from unavoidable surgery.

And if she had to have surgery, then she would have to carry around some dinky roller-backpack.

God forbid she ever have to carry a roller-backpack.

Drill team seemed impossible for Catherine to even consider, but she was determined to go for it.

She proudly walked out of tryout doors with a open smile stretched across her glistening face.

Take that, doctors.

Of course, it became a struggle to keep up. All the other girls had years of experience.

Catherine had scoliosis.

Stretching into “flat-backs” and “splits” were incredibly difficult. But Catherine wasn’t giving up that easily.

Stretch. Kick. Stretch. Kick.

One, two, three, four degrees.

Make or break appointment–very end of football season, sophomore year. Catherine was ready to turn in her hat and boots.

“Catherine, we have good news…”

Doctors still aren’t sure what caused her back to straighten. It could be that all the stretching in drill team helped align her spine.

But, according to everything known about scoliosis, that’s supposed to make it worse if it does anything at all.

Catherine didn’t really care what the reason was that her back miraculously healed. A dozen chocolate cupcakes did the trick, celebration-wise, and she left the reasoning at this, “It was either a God thing, or drill team just has my back.”