Michelle Spray’s book about scoliosis started out as a diary, penned when she was a child. “I was diagnosed in fifth grade and I would write down everything that happened to me and circle the tear marks on the page,” says this Fairfield mom, who self-published “Growing Up With Scoliosis”, an emotional, personal memoir, in 2002, to help others. While it sold well, years passed and life moved on. “I got married and had two children, who actually have health issues, then I got divorced,” she explains. Now 41, and looking for a fresh start, she decided to revive her work and provide support to today’s teens struggling with progressive curvature of the spine.
“I found this great site called Kickstarter which really has kickstarted a new opportunity for me,” says Spray, who turned to this online funding platform for assistance in raising $3,300 to re-publish her book. The response was overwhelming and donations were plentiful, surpassing Spray’s goal by $700. “I can get the book printed, I’m working on an e-book version and I’m going to record it and do an audio version that I’m excited about,” says this para-educator in the public school system, with enthusiasm. The book will be sold on Spray’s website, HavingScoliosis.com, as well as Amazon.com. It will also be available to teens in waiting rooms at doctor’s offices.
According to the National Scoliosis Foundation, the condition affects an estimated 6 million people in the United States and there is no known cure. Onset of scoliosis most often occurs in youngsters ages 10 to 15. “I felt like I had differences and I was alone and no one was going through what I was going through,” Spray says, remembering her brace over a hump on her back, making her feel embarrassed and insecure. “It was important for me to let kids with scoliosis know that they’re not alone.” Spray didn’t relate to books, such as “Deenie” by Judy Blume, because she felt they didn’t explore the future for a scoliosis patient. So, in the new edition of her book, she is including information about her adulthood. A spine-straightening surgery, when pins and rods were placed in her back, changed her life, enabling her to feel good, lift her kids and be active.
Completely taken with writing, Spray is also working on a piece about Alzheimer’s disease, based on her experience with her grandmother, and a children’s book, with characters resembling her own kids. Kaitlyn, age 7, deals with kidney problems, and Brendan, age 5, has DiGeorge syndrome, an immunodeficiency disease that causes a speech delay and altered facial features.
Despite her challenges, Spray is an incredibly positive person. She tells teens with scoliosis that it’s OK to be angry but there are also options, advances and hope: “I want to be a source of inspiration, for sure.”
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