When I was younger, I thought scoliosis had to do with your skull. Little did I know I would experience the true meaning of a curved spine.
For years I’ve performed and taken classes in ballet, tap, jazz, gymnastics, and musical theatre. Because of my activities, I thought my back was ‘tight’. I’ve been to the hospital and doctor for colds, stomach issues, concussions, but we didn’t know to ask ‘to get checked’ for scoliosis.
My diagnosis went unnoticed until one day at the age of 13 while at my Orthodontist’s office, the manager spotted my shoulder blade sticking out recognizing that as a sign of scoliosis. She called my mom later that day after talking to my Orthodontist as to whether she should say something. We’re so grateful she spoke up.
I got an x-ray at a local hospital and when the spine surgeon came in to share the results I thought he’d say I had a little curve or worst case that I’d need a brace. So I was shocked at the news of having severe scoliosis with a 48º curve and that I was too late for bracing to be effective. I began sobbing as he said my best option was fusion and to wait until I was done growing. I was crying mostly because I saw my dream of performing on Broadway as over.
My family didn’t ‘wait’ though. My mom started researching online and came across videos and a Facebook group about VBT (vertebral body tethering) to maintain all my flexibility. No surgeons in my state of Indiana perform this, so we consulted doctors in other states. We learned VBT is an option for those still growing so now time was of the essence. We selected Dr. Lonner at Mount Sinai in NYC who did my VBT from T5- T12 Dec. 4th, 2019. I returned to school about 7 weeks later and I feel better than I have in a long time. Prior to surgery, I’d go to the nurse’s office nearly every day for pain relievers – now I don’t have to!
Because it’s important to know the signs of scoliosis and that kids ages 10-15 ‘get checked’, I created my non-profit Keegan Cares to advocate for scoliosis awareness, and therapy dog registration because therapy dogs’ visits helped me laugh and recover in the hospital. At my website, I sell fun pet bandanas (Care ‘Danas) to raise funds for my platform, provide a downloadable flyer of the signs of scoliosis, and that VBT is an option. My mission is to speak to schools/groups on the signs of scoliosis and to lobby the state legislature to mandate scoliosis screenings in schools.
Now I’m back to dance and voice lessons preparing to take the stage on Broadway someday as scoliosis won’t stop my dreams.
Keegan Cares, Inc is a 501(c)(3) organization.
See story also on Setting Scoliosis Straight