Friday 15 January 2010

Brace Yourself!

I've been feeling a little low over the last few days, so I'm doing this post in hope that a bit of irreverent self- mockery will jolt me out of my gloomy mood.
As some of you may know I have a spinal condition called scoliosis; it's a lateral curvature and rotation of the spine. I won't go into the horrors of all the surgery I've had over the years; it's too dull for words, but I did want to do a little piece I am calling, "Orthopedic Fashion Through The Ages."

I suppose I better start with some images that show the results of scoliosis first

This is not my own x-ray, but near enough.

It was 1976 and I was 11 when we first discovered this and I was duly sent off to a children's hospital for non surgical treatment. After being stretched on a rack type contraption (I kid you not!) I was sent home in this:

People...I give you the Milwaukee Brace worn by every spinally challenged adolescent in the 70's.

(This is not me)

I had to wear this from the age of 12 to 16! The most formative years of my life and I looked like a cyborg. It was only my rapidly acquired sense of humour and good right hook that saved me.

My mother, on the other hand was rather pleased. Any burgeoning sexuality was put on hold. It wasn't exactly an alluring look, except to those boys with latent fetishistic tastes! Or so she thought! Ha!

Fast forward a few years to the surgery; my insides look something like this:

But, more importantly, the brace designs had moved on; they were smaller and sleeker and I wanted to get my hands on one!

The Boston Brace

See what I mean? I was 27 at this point so could carry this sexy little thing off with no problems. Unfortunately, I only got to wear it for 3 mths. Medical knowledge had advanced a lot and we were no longer required to wear scaffold like structures for years. Ah well!

After, my final surgery I was given something to wear that I think had been procured in an Adult Shop.

This is me wearing the original. Now, look at the image below and tell me if you can spot the difference? Jo vs Dita Von Teese. At last, disability just got sexy. No more Quasimodo, from now on I can be Esmerelda!

On a serious note, ideopathic scoliosis affects adolescents more frequently than people realise. Boys can have it, but it is more prevalent  in girls, approx. 1 in 30. If you have pre-pubescent children or grandchildren, a simple test will alert you to any possible curvature. (See here) I'm very keen to promote awareness of this condition, so please go to this link if you would like more information. Scoliosis UK

This is me today, the first image is one I steeled myself to show, because I hate the way I look, with scarring and deformity, but that's just how it is.
The second image is by Simon, and I love it because it makes me look and feel good naked.

I may remove this post when I'm appalled at my wallowing of self-pity, but it can stay.......for now.

Sometimes Always
by Simon


  1. Not a skerrick of wallowing here ... you're brave and beautiful. xo

  2. Thanks Cherie, now "skerrick", there's a word I've never heard before!

  3. omg! you are gorgeous and so very brave to share your body and all of your curves with us! I cannot help but feel like you are a modern Frida,in that horrid contraption, and I really honor you and your courage! do not pull this down, if you can touch others as you have touched me, then it is a gift of immense proportion. xo

  4. Those scars are evidence of a battle and that second picture shows how beautiful you are. I see no self pity in there.

    Oh, and glancing at the books to inspire - we have several in common...

  5. ...your face has fallen sad now
    for you know the time is nigh
    When I must remove your wings
    and You , you must try to fly.

    I just want to give you a big huge hug friend. You're a precious girl Jo Archer!


  6. This has been a very cathartic post for me and I'd like to thank you all for your kind words.

    Rainey J, that song is one of mine and Simon's "special" songs! It makes me cry every time I hear it. xxx

  7. Holy crow I had no idea Jo. I have scoliosis too and found out when I was 12. The pain is constant and sometimes pretty bad but it must be a milder case because I never had surgery. The doctor wanted me to wear a brace too but I refused.

    Your scars hardly show but I understand the feeling of being deformed. I have really bad scarring from having my twins but most days I am OK with it.

    The last photo is so awesome and that is the real you-- a work of art. :)

  8. Fancy you having it too Kerin! This is what I find, that it's more common than people think. I'm sorry you suffer with pain; it's so debilitating. I bet you're pleased you refused a brace now after seeing these contraptions. Take care and hope that the book is going well.

  9. I had no idea Jo. How brave of you to post your pics and don't worry, you look gorgeous! Don't you dare take them down! I agree with Cat, hopefully this post will help to draw awareness of the condition to others!

  10. Glad you shared this Jo, you brave soul! Nice of you to speak out about this condition.

  11. Hi Jo and thanks for your nice comment. I already read this post a couple of days ago and wanted to comment, but then I was interrupted so I do it now!

    It´s good you posted about your condition, very honest and brave, and I agree with the others, you look fantastic! No one is perfect anyway! I´m very sorry though to hear what you needed to go through, it must have been awful. I hope you´re able to have a somehow pain-free life now and are not too restricted by your condition?

    I have psoriasis, only on my hands luckily, and right now I haven´t any outbreak, but earlier my hands looked awful and was so ashamed when people looked at them or asked me what I´d done to my hands... it really effects your self esteem, so I understand you so well - alyhough your condition is of another character, but still.

    Have you seen that I joined the dottie angel challenge?

    See you, take care Kirsten

  12. Thanks Kerin and Kirsten. I'm sorry you have to suffer psoriasis Kirsten; you're right about self-esteem; when you don't have it, it's very depressing. I hope you don't have too many outbreaks.
    Glad you've joined the challenge!

  13. What a hearfelt post. I grew up with a girlfriend that had to wear the "large" brace so I was familiar with scoliosis. My daughter was diagnosed with it when she was about 12. But over time, miraculously, her curvature got somewhat better with her growing. She had been monitored for years and you can see it if you look, but it has been a "non issue".
    You look stunning in your picture- more beautiful than 99% of the ladies I see in the "communal try on rooms". I can't imagine what it's like- but know there are people that are scarred inside that you can't see and suffer in secret. Brain illnesses and people with emotional problems suffer in different ways as well. I so love that you were able to share your story. I am very touched reading it.

  14. Thanks Jill, I'm so glad that your daughter didn't have to have surgery. I've had 6 lots and although it stabilised the curves in my spine, it threw up a whole lot of secondary problems. I sometimes wish I'd tried the non-surgical road, but it was getting too severe. Even after 5 operations, I couldn't walk without a stick or a walking frame, but op. no. 6 did the trick!

  15. Thank you for sharing this. I've had two friends with scoliosis and never knew this much. You are not wallowing! This is important, and I think the more often people address what gives them a secret sense of misfit, the less misfit any of us need be. This is touching. I wish you all the best in your efforts to live with pain.

  16. I've been sitting in front of the screen speechless for a while....feeling humbled. I think of scars as medals of bravery. Simons photographs are indeed beautiful but then you are beautiful as is your indomitable spirit. As someone said before me, I see no self pity here. Thanks so much for sharing Jo.

  17. Thank you Robyn. I've had such kind and heart warming comments from everyone. I'm very lucky to have such good blogging friends.

  18. Hell Jo - how'd I miss this??? Shit. I complain when I get the odd neck pain but my god, this is something else.
    But you know what, hun?
    You rock!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Anyone in my boos who has had to endure 6 operations of that magnitude are more than survivors...they are gods.

  19. arrgghhh...that's BOOKS not boos....

  20. my sweet and gorgeous friend! this is a wonderful and beautiful and honest and pure post -- don't delete it. you are such a beautiful soul (inside a gorgeous body -- i wasn't sure which of si's photos was you and you are just stunning!). i feel horribly for not reading this soon, wallowing in my own self-pity with my comparatively small issues.

    i so admire your strength and honesty so very much, sweet friend. and i agree with debs -- you're a goddess. :)

  21. Jo I have been tardy in not looking around at others posts these last few months and have missed this post. I was reading it and love the fact that your not wallowing in, or looking for, pity. I work for a charity in Cheltenham that deals with socially excluded and isolated parts of the community including adults with learning difficulties and children who have been through tough times at the hand of others; the scars we all carry make us who we are; there is little we can do about some things and as you have shown you just have to be strong, know yourself and get on with it. We all deal with our scars in our own way. You are inspirational to others out there who don't yet know how to cope or start to move on. The picture 'Sometimes Always' is breathtaking and how your seen in your partners eyes regardless of the visible or invisible scars. Keep the post up, I will want to revisit sometime to help me move on from something so much more trivial in my life. Kind regards Dave.

  22. Thanks for your supportive comment Dave. What a brilliant job you do yourself.

  23. My eldest has cerebral palsy and slight curveture of her spine, sometimes I am saddened when I think of all the potential surgery to come. That's usually when try to stop looking so far ahead! Concentrate on now. It's nice to see that the brace's are no-where near as bad as I thought they were!

  24. I just re-read parts of your post...honestly that scar is not ugly, it looks like it was from something very painful but but it's also a mark of bravery and triumph. The bottom image is just beautiful.

  25. Thanks Lisa. I do hope your daughter doesn't have to have surgery.