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Teen advocate shines light on scoliosis challenges during awareness month


For 17-year-old Cecelia Elliott, scoliosis has been a defining part of her life since she was diagnosed at age ten. Now, during Scoliosis Awareness Month, Cecelia and her mother, Dixie Elliott, are sharing their journey to help others understand the condition and its impacts.

Scoliosis is a medical condition characterized by an abnormal lateral curvature of the spine and affects about 2-3% of the population in the United States, most commonly developing in children aged 10 to 15. The condition can be mild, moderate, or severe, with curvatures often worsening during growth spurts. While many cases are idiopathic, meaning the exact cause is unknown, scoliosis can also result from congenital disabilities, neuromuscular conditions, or spinal injuries.

Cecelia’s scoliosis diagnosis came unexpectedly. A routine urgent care visit for a severe cold revealed her condition, despite her showing no outward signs or experiencing any pain at the time. “She wasn’t in any pain and didn’t have the typical signs like uneven shoulders or a protruding shoulder blade,” Dixie said. “We only found out because we went to urgent care to check if she had pneumonia.”

The diagnosis marked the beginning of a long and challenging journey. Cecelia remained pain-free for a few years, but by sixth grade, the discomfort began to interfere with her active lifestyle, particularly her passion for dance. “It started about three years before my surgery,” Cecelia said. “I would be in so much pain dancing because of my scoliosis. I just couldn’t bend the correct way.”

In August 2023, Cecelia underwent spinal fusion surgery to correct her S-shaped spinal curvature, which had progressed from 33 degrees at diagnosis to 50 degrees by the time of surgery. The procedure involved straightening her spine with rods and screws.

“Recovery was tough,” Cecelia said. “I was in the hospital for four or five days, and it took about six months before I could do light dance again. But now, I’m back to doing everything I love.”

Dixie shared the physical and emotional toll the surgery took on both Cecelia and their family. “Recovery was awful. She had a huge incision down her back, and it was difficult for her to move or even sit up on her own for weeks.”

Despite the hardships, Cecelia’s resilience and positive outlook have inspired many, including younger children at her dance studio who also have scoliosis. She now teaches classes and offers support to those facing similar challenges. “I love helping kids, especially those with scoliosis,” Cecelia said. “I want them to see that it will get better.”

Cecelia’s determination extends beyond the dance studio. She is advocating for scoliosis awareness through her participation in beauty pageants. Her platform, “Straightening the Curve,” aims to educate others about the condition and the importance of early detection.

Early detection of scoliosis can significantly impact the management and treatment of the condition. In some cases, braces can slow the progression of the curve, although surgery may still be necessary for severe cases. Without proper treatment, scoliosis can lead to chronic pain, respiratory issues, and in extreme cases, complications affecting the heart and lungs. “In my research, I found that most kids are diagnosed between the ages of nine and 13,” Dixie said. “Cecelia is working hard to promote awareness and advocate for the return of scoliosis screenings in schools.”

Cecelia plans to continue her advocacy while pursuing her dream of becoming a cosmetologist and opening her own salon in Georgetown after graduating from high school.

As Scoliosis Awareness Month progresses, Cecelia’s story serves as a powerful reminder of the importance of awareness, early detection, and the resilience of those living with the condition.

For more information on scoliosis and how to support her awareness efforts, visit Cecelia’s Facebook and Instagram pages dedicated to her cause: “Straightening the Curve.”