A Long Journey from Anxiety to Gratitude
Written by Marja Heinonen
My daughter, Kaisa, was seven when she was diagnosed with scoliosis. She wore scoliosis braces for nine years, from seven to 16. I could have hardly imagined that the foremost emotions seventeen years later would be gratitude and pride. But those are the feelings on the surface now. At the beginning of the treatment, I was furious, disappointed, sad, and foremost worried—emotions far from gratitude and pride.
I can still remember the shock when I first heard about the disease. I tried to adjust to the thought of ten long years with the treatment with no sure promise of a positive outcome. At that time, I couldn’t find much information on the Internet, and there was no peer support available. I was a suspicious and demanding lion mother because I was worried about my child.
The first year was full of disappointments as the curve increased on Kaisa’s back despite bracing. That didn’t ease my worries at all. My biggest concern was that she wouldn’t get the best possible treatment. But over the years, we started having more positive news at the doctor visits at the hospital and Kaisa’s back got progressively better. I learned how the treatment “system” worked and got more information about scoliosis. I also learned to take Kaisa’s scoliosis as a part of our everyday life.
In the beginning, I easily made issues bigger in my mind. And often reacted very strongly. With scoliosis, as with other issues, Kaisa’s ability to live in the moment bore more wisdom than my long-term worries. It took me some time to accept the fact that in the beginning, it is normal to take time to find the right treatment for scoliosis. I learned that mistakes are a part of the process, and everyone does one’s best. Along the way, Kaisa grew, and all kinds of questions emerged. In these situations, I learned to proceed one step at a time. Consider only the question that was urgent at that moment. Look for a solution to it and forget everything else.
Now back to the feelings of gratitude and pride. We wrote a book about our scoliosis treatment experiences in 2014 in Finnish (our mother tongue). The Finnish book was received so well that we thought it could be helpful for children and parents abroad, too. Therefore, some years ago, we started translating the book into English and adding some new thoughts seven years after the end of Kaisa’s treatment.
During the writing process, I went through old texts. After years of Kaisa’s scoliosis treatment, I found myself thinking about what my prevailing emotions were now – gratitude and pride. Pride in the fact that Kaisa pushed through all the years and kept going despite the setbacks. Gratitude for many things. Gratitude that she is the strong woman she is. Gratitude that people around us saw her as a whole person and not just a girl with a brace. Gratitude that the treatment went as well as it did, by no means a foregone conclusion from the start. As I mentioned in the book’s afterword, I remember visualizing Kaisa as a young woman with a straight spine when she was a little girl in a brace. Now I’m grateful we’re there, and she has grown to be a strong-minded young woman with a warm heart and living life to its fullest.
Feelings are real and always tell us about something. They help you to know when to ask more, to do more – or less. They help you to take a stand in the treatment process. Even though I’m now at the positive end of the spectrum of feelings, I still think it was meaningful to have and feel the whole array of emotions and worries during the years.