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Abimbola Oladapo: Lessons I’ve Learned From Living with Scoliosis

Whether or not you’re a scoliosis warrior, I hope you read this piece. I also hope it inspires you and positively impacts how you treat people you perceive as “different.”

Beyond A Curved Spine

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My name is Abimbola Oladapo, a happy person, a scoliosis warrior, Nigerian and oh such a lover! (Haha, that’s the one thing I like to be labelled as.) I am co-founder of a non-profit called Beyond a Curved Spine, where we advocate for scoliosis awareness. On most days, you can find me consulting on Brand & Strategy at Alder Consulting.

However, there are nights when I play blogger at onepowerwoman.com. When there’s a chance to choose my own way, I prefer to discover new places and/or make someone’s day by simply showing up.

Did you read the part where I spoke about raising scoliosis awareness? It’s Scoliosis Awareness Month (June) all over the world, and I’ll like to share with you my scoliosis story.

Act one, scene one.
The year was 2004 and little Bims, as my squad calls me, was in year 9. Like most eleven year olds, I was poised at the very beginning of teenage self-consciousness.

It was at this point that my older sister noticed that my back wasn’t “looking normal” – there was a slant to my walk. At first, she (and everyone else) thought I was trying to be cool; they constantly cautioned me to “stand/walk straight and stop spoiling my posture.”

Nope, it wasn’t “swag.” Rather, it was simply a symptom of scoliosis. Fast forward to few months later, my back was looking like a capital letter “S”. At this point, it was obviously more than a bad posture. From there on, life ran along like a fast paced movie, with the plot anchored on one fateful Easter holiday. I returned home from boarding school and mum took me to the hospital. I’ll never forget, it was the first either of us would hear of scoliosis.

Scoliosis is an abnormal curvature of the spine. Simply defined, it’s when a normal, straight spine curves into an “S” or “C” shaped spine. It’s a condition that usually just happens “for no reason” – statistics show that 80% of scoliosis cases are idiopathic (meaning they have no known cause). It mostly affects adolescents between ages 10 – 16, and while both male and female are prone, the latter are eight times more likely to develop a progressive curve than the former. A progressive curve, left untreated, can cause problems with heart and lung functions. Although treatment options are available, there is no 100% cure for scoliosis yet.

Early detection is the sole way to manage scoliosis effectively.

It’s been fifteen years since I was first diagnosed. Apart from wearing a hideous back brace (made of blue, jerry can plastic) for two years, I haven’t really gotten any treatment.

Living with scoliosis comes with its own baggage, of course. There’s the random craaazy backache. There’s also the psychological aspect, which is perhaps the inspiration for today’s story.

Scoliosis warriors everywhere typically face the same challenges – clothes that won’t fit, strangers staring, name calling. “Hunchback,” “bent,” “that thing on your back”: these are some of the derogatory words with which people refer to us. I’ve definitely had my fair share of self-esteem crushing moments. One incident stands out.

I remember doing an interview where I shared my scoliosis experience, particularly the bit about guys and dating. I told about how I once overheard a male “friend” saying he couldn’t marry a person like me because “that one no normal.” My dad read the interview and literally broke down in tears, said, “Bimbo why does this have to happen to you? You don’t deserve this.” It broke my heart to see him that way, and I’m glad to have succeeded in making him smile later that day.

But as we Nigerians like to say, we move! I’ve survived so far and I continue to thrive.

Three things this scoliosis journey has taught me:

There’s so much life in truth and vulnerability
One thing my journey has taught me is that vulnerability is power. I like how Brené Brown put it: “You either walk inside your story and own it, or you stand outside your story and hustle for your worthiness.” For me, it’s not just about worthiness, it’s about living. I’ve found an increasing sense of freedom by sharing about this condition. Even writing this piece has got the same effect on me – vulnerable and free.

Don’t ever forget, whatever you expose to light, you shield from darkness. So here’s my current disposition: It’s true that my spine is curved. It’s true that my back isn’t “normal.” Yes. I’m not hiding that from you (or the rest of the world). So what else you got?

People actually do not care until you do
“The same people who screamed ‘Crucify him’ once shouted ‘Hosanna!’” This still happens in 2019 A.D.

As a freshman in college, I remember going round in jackets and scarves to “cover up” (hot weather notwithstanding!).

Of course, there were questions and stares, but I managed to maintain a low profile. However, the moment I stopped caring and started to dress more confidently, everyone fell in line. Instead of more curious questions, I got more toasters. Haha! As a matter of fact, I got (and still get) a lot of “I didn’t even notice you have scoliosis” comments, even though my curve is actually quite obvious. Humans are so awesomely fickle. I’ve come to realise that people will only dwell on a thing to the extent that you dwell on it.

Your heart is where you really live
I ponder on Proverbs 4:23 – Above all, carefully guard your thoughts (heart) because they are the source of true life – a lot. It’s my favourite scripture, and it’s so true. In all of my life’s battles and apparent wins – when the world cheers, bashes or doesn’t even seem to notice, I realise that what really matters at the end of the day is what I think. If your heart doesn’t validate you; if it doesn’t say happy, strong, thankful, etc., there’s no form of external push that’ll ever satisfy you. Fight for your heart, literally. That’s what I do and oh, there are days when it seems I’m losing the fight. But then I never give up. I think that’s the biggest win.

Now in scene 2019, and I think I’ve kinda gotten used to living with an “S” on my back – the good, bad and ugly that comes with it. Sometimes I just really want to get out of my skin. Other times, I feel like I’ve got my own back. Overall, I think I’m at that place where I’m intentionally stronger than Scoliosis.

P.S.: Whether or not you’re a scoliosis warrior, I hope you pick something from this piece. I also hope it sways your views and how you treat people you perceive as “different.”

Happy Scoliosis Awareness Month!

It’s Scoliosis Awareness Month and the scoliosis warriors at Beyond A Curved Spine are sharing their #Scoliwarrior stories! Beyond A Curved Spine is a non-profit initiative on a mission to raise scoliosis awareness and provide support for scoliosis warriors in Nigeria. Find them on Instagram @beyondacurvedspine or via www.beyondacurvedspine.org.

28 Comments

  1. motiiver

    June 18, 2019 at 1:16 pm

    what a great lesson

    • Ozioma

      June 19, 2019 at 11:55 am

      Very inspiring

  2. inspireddose

    June 18, 2019 at 1:18 pm

    nice lesson

  3. Esso

    June 18, 2019 at 5:22 pm

    Absolutely love you and love reading your story! “We move” is the way. Keep shining #scoliwarrior

  4. Physio Tinu

    June 18, 2019 at 7:26 pm

    Great job Abimbola, its so good to see you being consistent about increasing awareness of scoliosis. We at PhysioCraft are proud of you and we’d keep working with you to give scoliowarriors options for scoliosis treatment in Nigeria. Keep the flag flying!

    1
  5. Cynthia

    June 18, 2019 at 8:05 pm

    I am also a warrior of scoliosis..and it affected my self esteem alot while growing up. But then I decided that I will never let it get in the way of me living my life to the fullest. Recently I heard a colleague of mine said that my husband tried alot for me to have married me as I am ‘bent’… When I heard I just smiled because the man I married will never look at her scoliosis free body even in amillion years even though she wishes he would! Own any body type you have.. I personally think my condition makes me unique and I take pride in it.#bornthisway #bornunique..great job dear

    9
  6. Bunmilayo

    June 18, 2019 at 9:08 pm

    A few more things learned. Thank you Bim! And yes, WE MOVE!

  7. Kini

    June 18, 2019 at 9:42 pm

    I am also a warrior of scoliosis. Growing up, it was really challenging for me because I was mocked. Iwent to several hospitals doing scans upon scan. Nobody gave a concrete answer because I was not having pains then. When I got to SS3, that was when I googled it myself and found out it was scoliosis. I tried getting braces. Nothing changed. Now, I don’t let define me. I wear clothes I want to wear without thinking if it would be obvious.

    5
  8. Oluwakemi salami

    June 19, 2019 at 2:54 am

    I am in my 50’s and I have mild scoliosis discovered and monitored from when I was 16.when I was about 21 the monitoring ended. As it hadn’t gotten worse.I have two children an married and live life to the fullest. When I was younger the band was more obvious so I was called all sorts of names but people thought I posing as it was those days. I was glad to be diagnosed as I tried to straighten up to no avail. I still get some back pain, but I stretch out as much as I can support my back and get Chinese acupressure massage when I can I found that by accident. Oddly a grown up usher in my church was mocking my walk recently behind me. I just ignored. Youngs ones I wish you all the best. You will all live with a scoliosis, victoriously.

    2
  9. charles chukwu

    June 19, 2019 at 6:20 am

    Deeply Inspiring and motivating!

    1
  10. Akinleye

    June 19, 2019 at 9:22 am

    Thanks for this awesome piece bimbo.

    2
  11. omotoke

    June 19, 2019 at 3:48 pm

    Well done Abimbola and the BACS team.God bless you all . I am so proud of you all. #scoliwarrior #bentnotbroken

    2
  12. Teni

    June 19, 2019 at 4:05 pm

    Rooting for you ALWAYS.

    1
  13. Seun_Ore

    June 19, 2019 at 4:56 pm

    You’re such an inspiration Bimbo, you have turned this situation into an opportunity for love, light and glory. I am especially proud of you and God must also be proud of you. Kisses!

  14. Shalewa

    June 19, 2019 at 7:25 pm

    You are amazing Bimbo. Picked more than a few things. Love!

  15. Tosin

    June 20, 2019 at 12:39 am

    Thank you bimbo for this beautiful and most inspiring piece. Much strength and love to you, the BACS team and everyone living with a curved spine.

  16. Abby

    June 20, 2019 at 9:12 am

    Very inspiring piece. Well done Bimbo.

  17. sagir carpenter

    June 20, 2019 at 4:00 pm

    Real one power woman. Keep it burning B

  18. Adedoyin

    June 20, 2019 at 6:19 pm

    Tnks Bims for this piece. My two daughters are scoliosis warriors presently . Its devastating & heartbreaking experience for me, stil i am been strong for my girls with God. I encourage them to be strong for themselves irrespective of the truama , pains, mockery among peers etc ; & above all i will not giveup . Keep up the good work .

    1
  19. Eunice

    June 20, 2019 at 8:02 pm

    Yesss I’m also a scoliosisgirl And I have never looked down on my self no matter the circumstances

  20. Lanre

    June 21, 2019 at 1:15 pm

    Bimbo I will always love, hmmmn, time and chances sever our would be bond, even if I have heard, I would have pitch my tent with you because of your good heart
    Lot’s of love dearie
    Lanre

  21. Frances Sergeant

    June 21, 2019 at 4:17 pm

    My beautiful granddaughter has scoliosis. She does exercises every night. She has stopped it getting worse in fact it is almost unnoticeable. She is one of the happiest enthusiastic wonderful individuals it has been my privilege to know. I admire and love her so much.

    1
  22. Deborah

    June 22, 2019 at 1:45 am

    Wow…I am super proud of you Bimbo. Thanks for being an inspiration. I pray that God Almighty will continue to strengthen and uphold you. Luv u from the bottom of my heart.

    • Clara

      June 22, 2019 at 12:53 pm

      wow! its an inspiring story. I love these words of hers ” you either walk inside your story and own it or you stand outside your story and hustle for your worthiness, for me its about living not worthiness, i am INTENTIONALLY stronger than scoliosis”. thanks for sharing sis, I am inspired.

  23. Idowu Ajayi

    June 24, 2019 at 2:46 am

    What a piece! I agree completely that there’s strength in weakness. ‘I would rather glory in my infirmity for when I am weak, then am I strong’ The Joy of the Lord shall be your strength. Your miracle is on the way.

  24. ADEBISI ADE-ONOJOBI-DANIEL

    June 28, 2019 at 5:57 am

    Thanks a million for this. Mine is Kypho-Scoliosis for about 40yrs now. This was confirmed due to postural. That was not disease indused. Because of my tiny frame and carrying heavy things, earned me that. I have had to leave with pains and doing specific Excersices from time to time. It should not prevent daily activities and achieving goals though.
    Appreciate this opportunity.

  25. Bisola

    July 3, 2019 at 11:47 pm

    Inspiring, Bims. Thank you.

  26. Entrepreneur

    July 23, 2019 at 1:07 am

    nice write up, keep it up

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