Lo­cal group sup­ports girls with sco­l­io­sis

Lo­cal group sup­ports girls with sco­l­io­sis

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By SARA NEW­MAN snew­man@somd­news.com Twit­ter: @in­dy_­com­mu­nity

Be­ing dif­fer­ent from your peers in school can be tough and one group is mak­ing that chal­lenge a lit­tle eas­ier for girls with curvy backs.

Curvy Girls Sco­l­io­sis is an in­ter­na­tional peer-led sup­port group for young women with sco­l­io­sis, or cur­va­ture of the spine. Treat­ment for sco­l­io­sis in­cludes surgery in more se­vere cases and wearing a back brace in less se­vere cases and par­tic­u­larly in ado­les­cents who may still grow.

“I had to wear a brace for 23 hours a day and it would squeeze my spine straight so the bones would go back to be­ing straight,” Me­lanie Watkins, 14, of Port Tobacco, said of her ex­pe­ri­ence. “...I wasn’t a big fan of the brace be­cause dur­ing the sum­mer it gets hot and itchy and it would stick to my clothes and it wasn’t the most pleas­ant thing.”

Watkins is the leader of the South­ern Mary­land chap­ter of Curvy Girls and a sopho­more at Lackey High School in In­dian Head. She was di­ag­nosed with sco­l­io­sis in 2012 at the end of her fifth grade year. She was tasked with wearing her brace all day and one day, when she was eat­ing at Ledo Pizza with her mother, a wait­ress no­ticed her brace and told her about the lo­cal group.

“I went and I re­ally loved it and af­ter that I kept go­ing and got in­volved,” Watkins said.

At the time, the meet­ing took place at a leader’s home in Calvert County. Now, Watkins hosts monthly meet­ings in her home where the girls talk about how they deal with sco­l­io­sis, ask ques­tions and have fun get­ting to know each other.

Watkins said there are only a few girls cur­rently in the group which isn’t sur­pris­ing be­cause she has yet to meet any­one at her school or in her com­mu­nity who also has sco­l­io­sis.

“It didn’t make me feel dif­fer­ent,” Watkins said of be­ing the only per­son she knew with the di­ag­no­sis. “My Dad also has back is­sues and a lot of peo­ple on his side of the fam­ily do so I fig­ured it was some­thing that ran in the fam­ily.”

Ac­cord­ing to the Sco­l­io­sis Re­search So­ci­ety based in Mil­wau­kee, Wis., about four in 100 ado­les­cents have sco­l­io­sis and a ma­jor­ity of those cases are id­io­pathic, mean­ing that the cause is not known. Sco­l­io­sis de­vel­ops most fre­quently in preteens or teenagers.

Watkins had surgery in Novem­ber 2014 where rods were placed in her back that she will have for the rest of her life but that means she no longer has to wear the brace. Though Watkins said she didn’t en­joy wearing her brace she was never ashamed of it.

“I was never em­bar­rassed about my brace. Some­times I thought it was kind of cool,” Watkins said. “I would dec­o­rate it with stick­ers and mark­ers and so that was an­other ac­ces­sory that I wore… I thought it’s just my back it could be worse so I’ll make the best of it.”

Un­like other girls Watkins has known with sco­l­io­sis, she says she was never teased about her brace in school or per­haps she never no­ticed be­cause she has al­ways been a con­fi­dent per­son.

“I’ve al­ways been a very ac­cept­ing per­son for these kinds of things so it’s not like it was painful so I just thought it’s a back brace so I’ll just have fun with it and here goes noth­ing,” Watkins said.

“Girls like Me­lanie amaze me be­cause of the pos­i­tiv­ity they’re spread­ing,” Rachel Mul­vaney, vice pres­i­dent of Curvy Girls in­ter­na­tional, said of Watkins. “They’re fu­eled with em­pow­er­ment be­cause they con­tin­u­ously give back and are learn­ing to ad­vo­cate on be­half of the fu­ture gen­er­a­tion of sco­l­io­sis pa­tients and I never thought I would see that in my life­time.”

Mul­vaney, 21, of Long Is­land is a se­nior at the Univer­sity of Rhode Is­land ma­jor­ing in health pro­mo­tion and span­ish. She met Watkins at the Curvy Girls Sco­l­io­sis third bi-an­nual con­ven­tion in Long Is­land where girls ages 6-22 and their par­ents from around the world learned about new sco­l­io­sis de­vel­op­ments and even mod­eled clothes they can eas­ily wear over their braces.

“Brave girls like Me­lanie are want­ing to share their sto­ries and reach out to other girls and it’s in­spir­ing to see how the or­ga­ni­za­tions grow­ing,” Mul­vaney said.

Since the or­ga­ni­za­tion was founded in 2006, it has grown to to 83 groups in 12 coun­tries. Watkins said be­ing part of the group has al­lowed her to make new friends and sup­port other girls who may not have the same con­fi­dence she had.

“It gave me a bet­ter out­look,” Watkins said. “If I never went to the group I would have started hat­ing the brace more and maybe not felt as OK with it as I did.”

To learn more about Curvy Girls Sco­l­io­sis, go to www.curvy­girlss­co­l­io­sis.com. To get in­volved with the lo­cal chap­ter, email cur vy­girl­sofsm@ gmail.com.

SUB­MIT­TED PHO­TOS

Me­lanie Watkins, left, leader of the South­ern Mary­land chap­ter of Curvy Girls Sco­l­io­sis, and Rachel Mul­vaney, right, vice pres­i­dent of Curvy Girls, met at the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s con­ven­tion in Long Is­land in June.

Par­tic­i­pants at the Curvy Girls Sco­l­io­sis con­fer­ence in June com­plete a weav­ing ac­tiv­ity. The or­ga­ni­za­tion is an in­ter­na­tional sup­port group for girls and young women with sco­l­io­sis.

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