Dear Judy Blume: from Lila, age 12

May 3, 2013

Dear Judy Blume,
 The idea of deformation has always been very freaky to me. Weird faces, legs, arms, bodies, and even backs. Especially hunchbacks. A big bump on your back seemed like something that would happen from old age, or maybe from hurting yourself. I had no idea that you could get one from scoliosis. I also had no idea how common scoliosis is. Or that I had it. I read Deenie before I found out about my back. Of course, I was sure I would never be stuck in a big clunky Milwaukee brace like Deenie was.
Six months after finishing the book, I went to a regular check up at the doctors. I was asked to touch my toes the same way Deenie was asked to do so many times. He took some notes, and told my mom to go to the hospital as soon as possible to get an x-ray: He had found a curve in my spine. My mom assured me that the x-ray would probably show only a minor curve. After getting the x-ray, I learned that I had a 45 degree curve in my spine- a pretty big curve. When I first learned about it, a bolt of shock was sent up my (apparently curved) spine. I was sure it was just a bad dream. But I didn’t know how to wake myself up. It didn’t take long before I was put in a Boston brace. It wasn’t like Deenie’s brace- not big and clunky, and ending much lower than my neck- but I could tell right away that it would be hard to deal with.
The first time it was put on me, I knew that it was a bad dream, but it didn’t look like I would be waking up anytime soon. I felt like I couldn’t breathe, much less walk or sit down. I was scared. How would I do everything I was so used to doing? It all seemed so much harder, from leaning over my desk in class, to eating a meal, to bending down to tie my shoes, to finding clothes that I could wear (not just tops), to going to sleep and staying asleep after a day of dealing with all these new limitations. I felt like there was no human person I could relate to, so I found a fictional person. Over and over again, I turned to Deenie to compare problems, and hear (really read) things that made me feel less alone. Even when I remembered about how Deenie got rashes from the brace, or had her clothes get ripped, it made me feel like I had someone to share my experience with. Someone who I learned from, who helped me get ready for some new challenges, like being open about my brace. I even went up in front of my class and did a presentation on it to get people more comfortable with my brace. I guess it worked because, soon, people were begging me to put my brace on over their clothes when I wasn’t wearing it.
I felt like I had a friend who wasn’t scared to help me, even if she was scared to face her classmates for the first day of school after she gets her brace. A friend who helped me not to be afraid of the many challenges my brace brings me. Of course I got used to my brace, and it now even feels normal to me… sometimes. I wear it as I write this, and I no longer feel like I can’t breathe, or eat, or do anything I usually do. I feel fine, I know that when I grow up, I won’t have a bump on my back. I’m no longer in a nightmare, but I’m glad that I had the book Deenie to help me get through the hardest part of it.
 Your Fan,
Lila T.
 [This letter was a semifinalist in the 2013 Massachusetts Letters About Literature competition, Level 1 (grades 4 through 6). The author is 12 years old.]
To join the project, go here.

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Pamela May 3, 2013 at 10:46 am

Wow. What a brave and amazing girl!


Jane May 3, 2013 at 12:25 pm

I’m speechless. What an amazing, articulate young woman.


Lisa @ The Meaning of Me May 3, 2013 at 4:05 pm

Ugh, my heartstrings.

You know, I went to elementary school with a girl who ended up with a brace for scoliosis. I didn’t know her well and really we just didn’t bother with one another. Some kids – mostly the boys and the beautiful, cool girls – made fun of her. Kinda wish I had bothered.


Jamie May 3, 2013 at 4:22 pm

This girl has CHOPS!! Great read. Hope she continues writing, the world needs her words!


Ayala May 5, 2013 at 4:21 am

Wow, a brave little girl. I hope she continues to write.


faemom May 7, 2013 at 12:09 am

That was truly amazing. I’m so glad she shared that with us and the rest of the world.


Lisa May 8, 2013 at 3:04 pm

Wow! Lila, you are such a brave girl! Thanks for sharing your story, you have a real talent for writing!


TKW May 11, 2013 at 3:00 pm

Thanks, all! Over 2,000 views on the Judy Blume Project Facebook page–congrats, Lila! We love you!


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