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By Doley Henderson

PROMPT — The way I see it ...

Scoliosis is not a deformity. It is just a different state of spine. It is not a disease and not infectious. We are all altered by our experiences—mentally, physically, spiritually. Those memories live in our muscles and bones and nerves. So when someone calls me deformed, I remember that word and it sits inside me, hunched over in a dark corner, torqued and twisted like my spine.

But magically, when I remarried as a senior, I wore a low-backed dress that showed off my 12-inch spinal scar from surgeries to straighten an extreme curve that threatened to crush my lungs. Did you know that scoliosis is over 2000 years old in the western world? Its origin is unknown and it is present in ten times more females than males. It is incurable. Hippocrates diagnosed it in 400 BCE and had four grown men stand on a patient's spine to straighten the curve. Guess what? It didn't work. From the 1500s to 1900s, women wore iron corsets to straighten their spines. Guess what? It didn't work either. Instead the iron crushed lungs and deformed organs.

The way I see it, if this were a mainly-male condition, there would have been a lot more research focused on scoliosis and maybe a solution to its origin and predominance in females over these 2000 years, instead of centuries of little progress. Doctors wouldn't have forced bizarre, experimental treatments on patients without hell being raised.

My mother was my role model, living with an even more extreme case of scoliosis as a teen in the 1930's. She was told to simply hang from a tree to straighten her curve. She lived in pain and never let on. Her motto was: "Just put on some lipstick and carry on."


Doley Henderson is a Toronto/T’karonto-based, Ontario, Canadian writer of fiction and creative nonfiction in Canadian and U.S. journals/anthologies. She has taught English, written book reviews, edited journals, and narrated talking books. Her novel features Scottish servants and selkies and her story-collection shares adventure travel on five continents. Doley is an MFA candidate at the University of King’s College in Halifax, where she is writing a scoliosis memoir. World music inspires her; writing brings her joy; and family keeps her dancing on and off the page.


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