I wasn't actually aware that I had scoliosis until it was almost too late!
When I was 16 I went to the doctor for a check-up and she lifted the back of my shirt to hear my breathing and noticed the scoliosis - curving of my spine. I had had a lot of pain in my back as my curve was so large (over 60 degrees from straight). I remember that carrying a school bag was very painful. I used to come home from school in tears because my back was aching so much.
What kind of symptoms can people have?
Generally the common factors are back pain, uneven shoulders, uneven waist or hips and having a noticeable 'S' or 'C' shape in the spine. If I (or my friends and family) had been aware of my scoliosis much earlier, I may not have needed to have surgery. This is why early detection is so important. Make sure next time you are getting a check-up you ask your doctor to check you for scoliosis. It only takes a few minutes.
When the doctor first told me I needed surgery I burst into tears and freaked out. I was so scared and nervous about having surgery but I knew I needed to have it, otherwise I wouldn't have been able to walk in the future.
I now have a straight spine - with a titanium rod on each side. There are titanium nails that are keeping the rods together. I also have a pretty sick scar to prove it!
Is scoliosis the same for everybody?
No. There are different types of scoliosis. Some people don't need treatment. Some people only need to do exercises to correct their curve. Some people need a brace and some people need surgery. There are lots of different factors such as age and the size of the curve in your spine.
Do you ever fully recover?
It's different for different people. Generally, if you have surgery you won't have any problems after one year. Post-surgery recovery took me about six weeks, but it can vary from person to person.
I remember after surgery it was really hard to carry out day-to-day activities. Having a shower was hard as the water pounding on my back was so painful it made me sick. I had to get my mum to do simple things like open a jar or open the fridge door because I just wasn't strong enough. After 20 minutes of standing it became very painful. The pain was managed by taking prescribed medication, going for short walks around the block and using a pillow as a back rest.
Now my back is fine I can run and jump and my back is a lot stronger than it used to be. I do love to reflect on the times when my back wasn't as strong and now I'm so thankful to have a straight back!
I'm an introvert, so I love taking time out of this crazy busy world and heading to the park or a cafe. I am passionate about reading the bible because I love Jesus. I love learning about Him and finding out what it means for me as a young adult to live the life He's given me in a crazy and often not-so-positive world.
When I had the surgery I shared a room with another girl who had scoliosis surgery at the same time. We soon became friends and it really helped me recover well. It was so fantastic to have someone who knew what I was going through when no one else did. I'm so glad we stayed friends after we left hospital!
I want to give other girls the opportunity to be supported like I was. After the surgery I became obsessed with googling all things scoliosis and found an international foundation called Curvy Girls so I decided to start up a similar support group for girls with scoliosis in Sydney.
Since then I have had contact with lots of different scoliosis clinics and surgeons who are going to help me spread the word to encourage others needing treatment. I also had the amazing opportunity to go to New York and attend the International Curvy Girls Conference and to speak at the Annual Scoliosis Conference in Sydney.
I love sharing my story and hope it will help many girls who have scoliosis.
Gemma Campion, 20-years-old
Photography by Beatrice Waller