Day Ninety–Four (94): Wednesday, June 2nd, 2010
94) Everything Is Constantly Evolving
Alchemy to the hermetic alchemists meant change/transformation. The were fascinated by change and their alchemical symbols, according to psychologist Carl Gustav Jung, have been welling up for centuries from the collective unconscious into sensitive souls. Jung spent the later years of his life fascinated by and absorbed in research on alchemy.
Hermetic alchemists were sometimes thought of as practitioners of black magic as they attempted to turn base metal into gold. They were seeking ways to speed up nature’s evolutionary process, as they understood it. Metals were believed to be living things that were undergoing a process of change to become perfect–in short, to eventually become gold.
My back is beginning to bother me . . . a lot. I have certainly had a long history of back issues, too. I was born with a curve in my spine, more severe than most. Round shoulders, actually no shoulders, really. Still don’t have very defined shoulders. In fact, the best times, fashion-wise, for me, was the 1980s. The beauty of shoulders pads on a round/no shoulders person is amazing!
My curved shoulders, diagnosed years and years later, as hyper-kyphosis was misdiagnosed for years — I was told at 15-years-old I had scoliosis. An x-ray, years later, proved that I actually do NOT have scoliosis, at all.
In fact, at 16-years-old, for a few months I was fit with those hideous back braces they give to teenagers with scoliosis. My mother and I kept noticing, even with the brace on, my back, where my shoulders blades should be, were very rounded. My mother thought they should invent a brace that pushed my shoulders back and straight — like she did with her knuckles in between my shoulder blades trying to force me to stand up straight!
Considering, though, at aged-16, I was fully grown (being 5’9″) and the brace wasn’t even helping the correct area of my spine; and they are put on “growing girls” so the crooked (scoliosis) spine grows straighter — it was not what I needed.
We were offered the surgical route. In this delicate surgery they would break my spine (yes, break it) and put in a steel rod (titanium) and take bone fragment from my hips and put them in my spine to make it straighter. Of course, the risks: 1) quadriplegic or 2) death. I opted out and chose some spine exercises and hoped for the best.
At my refusal to have the spine surgery, the doctor told me, just a teenager, that I would be in a wheelchair by age 40. I took my chances. I went on to continue dancing, ice skating and doing gymnastics! I had been doing them and saw no reason to stop … although, I do recall taking gymnastics at about that age and every time I did a front walkover or back flip, my instructor said I grabbed my lower back.
It was odd, because, I didn’t feel pain…but must’ve felt pressure. He was afraid to teach me and I had to leave the class. I went to ice skating for a while.
Let’s jump ahead to 1985ish. I was in New York and attending The American Academy of Dramatic Arts. I had health insurance and some of my instructors at AADA had mentioned my rounded shoulders. They said it may prove a “distraction” on stage and affect my acting career. I mentioned to them one very famous, round-shouldered actress, making quite a good living on a tv series: Penny Marshall. [she may have the same condition–hyperkyphosis].
So, then, in 1986 or so, I thought about the surgery — since they were improving all the time, perhaps the surgery, now with lasers, may be less scary. I visited this very old orthopedic doctor in Manhattan. Before taking one x-ray or asking my spinal history this old man said, “You have osteoporosis!”
One of the symptoms of osteoporosis is rounding shoulders, it’s true. But osteoporosis, for the most part, afflicts elderly people. I was in my 20s!!! I also knew what I had and it had a name and it was NOT osteoporosis (brittle bone disease).
I told the stupid man to do an x-ray and that I have hyperkyphosis, not osteoporosis. He said, fine, but you have what I said. He did an x-ray. When he showed me this x-ray . . . it was devastating! I saw a spine that was solid (like arthritis of the spine) and the worst lower back scoliosis I had ever seen!
It was confusing and I was angry . . . that spine didn’t look like an x-ray I saw at a chiropractor’s office only a year or so before. WTF? I could still stand up relatively straight (I still can today, in fact) — I just have trouble keeping my shoulders in that position. It seemed odd.
I was so scared of the diagnosis, etc. I ignored it for years; in fact, I still don’t really do much about it. Of course, I have no health insurance and have never really had any money for any sort of surgery or specialist.
On an occasion or two, I have gotten severe back pain that eases in a day or two. I am not in a wheelchair and a few years ago, at age 40, at USC. The pharmacy students were offering FREE bone density readings (via the ankle). They did say I had “pre-osteoporosis”, but not the full thing.
And around the same time, a good doctor at a clinic in California, did a xray of my spine. Well, the spine I saw in the orthopedic office in my 20s is NOT the spine I have! Apparently, that surgeon (in 1986 or so) showed me the xray of someone else. There was absolutely no match to my spine and the one in the 80s! Damn quack!!! Happy I didn’t let that jerk operate on me.
Through the years, too, I’ve had a lot of ridicule about my posture — and it is painful to hear. People can be cruel. Even recently, at the theatre where I perform, someone said, as I bent over to pick up something, “You could play the Hunchback of Notre Dame” or something of that nature. It was hurtful and I made that clear . . .I don’t understand why people have to be mean. And then, think its funny or right to do.
I’d like to have a straighter, more normal spine . . . and yes, I can stand straighter; but knuckles in my back or telling me I look like a hunchback, or saying I am, only makes it worse! It makes me want to crawl in a hole and never come out. If I do hold my shoulders up straight for five minutes, I end up with even more back pain and any longer than that; it can be downright excruciatingly painful.
And before you suggest yoga or some technique … I’ve done them all: Pilates, Alexander Technique, Yoga, Chiropractic, etc., etc. … those do not CURE me, they just cause pain, after a short while, and make it worse. And until I can afford a personal trainer and hours and hours at a gym and am independently wealthy; it is difficult to take the months and years and dollars it would require to try to cure it in one of those ways. Or, for that matter, get the surgery — which would help tremendously — yet, it is considered cosmetic and would cost a few thousand.
Any benefactors out there?
Otherwise, love me for who I am . . . Penny Marshall is a great lady and she stoops a bit, too. I’m still a great woman, a talented actress, writer, singer, etc. Please, don’t call me names or think it helps to do so. Be gentle and be conscientious of what you say to others. Calling me hunchback won’t make me stand straighter, it just hurts my feelings, really.
I don’t want to be “disabled” this way . . . I just am. It has a name, hyperkyphosis:
Hyperkyphosis, colloquially called “dowager’s hump,” refers to excessive kyphotic, or anteriorly concave, curvature of the thoracic region of the spine. A kyphosis angle over 40° – the 95th percentile value for young adults – is currently used to define hyperkyphosis.
Love, Light & Laughter,