As a teen, being diagnosed with scoliosis always made QUEK SHI YUN feel ugly and different. She shares her story of how her insecurity changed into a quiet confidence in Christ.
It all started with a routine health checkup in school when I was 13. I was told to bend over and touch my toes while a measuring device was placed on my back. The nurse scribbled a note in my health booklet, and I was given an appointment letter for a follow up check at a hospital.
The diagnosis was mild scoliosis, a sideways curvature of the spine. Six months later, the curve had increased so drastically that they recommended surgery to correct it. Metal pins and rods needed to be inserted permanently around my spine, which would cause major scarring on my back. The podiatrist (foot doctor) also revealed that my legs were of different lengths, my hips were uneven, and I had flatfeet. I remember lying in bed in tears that night, asking God why He made me so imperfectly.
My parents and I eventually decided against the surgery, but scoliosis continued to define most of my teenage years and impact on my self-esteem. The curvature in my spine meant that I walked “funny,” and often stood on one foot to balance my weight more comfortably. A classmate dubbed me a ‘flamingo’ because of that. My back would hurt under the weight of my schoolbag, I had difficulties running long distances during Physical Education classes, and sitting for long hours was a literal pain. One day, my crush even pointed out that one of my shoulders was higher than the other, and that it looked “weird.”
Throughout those years, I battled insecurity. I thought that my body was deformed and ugly, and even if I could look past how my body looked, the physical discomforts were a daily reminder of what was wrong with my body.
I don’t remember a definitive moment when my outlook changed and my self-esteem improved. Rather, it was a slow but steady journey of accepting that while my body is imperfect, it doesn’t make me any less loved by God. He didn’t get distracted while making me and forgot to give me a straight spine. It wasn’t a punishment for past sin. No! In the midst of brokenness about my bent body, God assured me of my identity in Him. In fact, Psalm 56:8 showed me that God “keeps track of my sorrows,” and the tears I shed were seen by Him. Through His word, He told me that I was deeply loved and accepted, and that He empathised with my suffering.
These days, the usual aches and pains still bother me. Things haven’t improved — if anything, it’s gotten worse with age. Yet they no longer make me feel different or unloved, because I am secure in God’s love and how He has made me.