On Curves and Chronic Pain

On Curves and Chronic Pain | My Scoliosis Story

Yesterday, I sat down with yet another doctor to talk about the story of this curve.

About how a titanium rod was screwed in to help straighten it when I was a freshman in high school. About how a decade later, I felt a frightening snap. About how after going from doctor to doctor to doctor — begging for months for someone to figure out why I was suddenly in so much pain — I woke up one morning and couldn’t move my knee. Then later felt a mysterious bump. Then, after being told by multiple doctors “not to worry about it”, eventually discovered that half of my scoliosis rod had somehow broken off…and (unheard of) come unscrewed…and (crazier yet) “migrated” down past dozens of critical organs, where it was lodged in my calf muscle.⁣


The radiologists clustered around the x-ray machine that day told me it was impossible. The nurses told me it was a miracle that I was alive. The orthopedic surgeon on call broke the news that — contrary to what we had originally been told — my spinal fusion a decade before had actually failed, leaving my spine unstable. But that unfortunately, it was too dangerous to re-operate and see if the remaining half of the rod was still screwed in tightly.⁣

Ever since, this curve has haunted me. I try hard not to think much about it. But every time my back pops, or I twist an inch too far in yoga, or think about the next 5…15…50 years, I worry about that rod. And say my thousandth prayer that it stays snugly in place.⁣

Ever since, this curve also just hurts. Most days, it’s a chronic ache that I’ve learned over the years to live with. Some days when I push too hard, it lights my entire back on fire and clears my calendar. Some days I forget all about it, although those days are fewer as I grow older.⁣

Ever since, this curve is also my most visible reminder of the sheer preciousness of life. I used to look in the mirror and only see asymmetry and scars. But today, I see a strong body that still gives me the extravagant gift of being able to walk, travel, do my job, and go on living.⁣

It’s the one precious body I’ve been given. And even though we’ve had a complicated relationship, I’m learning how to fear it less and love it more. And be so very grateful.  

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109 comments on “On Curves and Chronic Pain”

  1. I had this same surgery also at 14, but on my right side. What you described has always been a fear of mine, but I always imagined it happening from twisting too far or pushing my body too hard in some way. Despite how your body may feel you have managed to live a full life and enrich others and I hope you continue to do so! Praying for you!

  2. I have been caught up in the busy-ness of life, and completely missed this entry. My most positive thoughts and prayers are now flying heaven-ward! My mind is having trouble believing that nothing can be done. I will also pray for the specialists involved. You are so brave, strong, beautiful inside and out – God bless you.

  3. Your strength, insight, courage and sweet, sweet spirit are both inspiring and humbling. You will be in my daily prayers Dearest Ali. You are being lifted up by hundreds of devoted fans. Any time you need to have a virtual decompression session, we are here for you!!!!

  4. Your gratitude and outlook are so admirable! I am praying now for you and even more thankful for all the ways you serve me, and so many others you don’t even know, who haven’t done a thing for you, by sharing with us not only a wealth of delicious and beautiful recipes, but pieces of your story. “Mercy, peace, and love be multiplied to you,” (Taken from the book of Jude, verse 2). Praying for a comfortable day for you today!

  5. God bless you!
    I to have a screwed up spine….and I know constant pain!!
    But you are so much stronger than I.
    I’m not upbeat about it as you….. I’m pretty darn depressed.
    I do hope they can help you in the near future.

  6. Whoa! What a story! You are certainly fortunate to have gotten through the rod migration without terrible injury. I also have rods from an injury in a tornado and have worried about the same thing. I’m cautious about doing twisting poses in yoga and have often wondered just how long the rods will hold. But.. worry is useless and if we can put our minds to something positive, we’ll be better off. It’s a process to get to that point, though. I’m happy that you are grateful for the function you have and that you can see past the ‘curve’.

    I don’t know how I found your blog but I tried a soup recipe the other day and it was stellar! I gave the chicken marsala on my list to try next. Thank you!

  7. Wow, that is absolutely insane and God most definitely protected you from further spinal and vital organ damage! I was gripped with sorrow to read that you are living with Chronic Pain, but seriously so impressed and thankful that you continue to pursue your dreams and share your well thought out, perfectly executed recipes, beautiful photography and stories with your readers. I’m very slow and new to this blogging thing and even though I haven’t posted much, I have a glimpse of how much work goes into it. Bravo for you and thanks be to God for giving you the strength to live your life to the full in spite of Scoliosis.