Going in sticking out, coming out flat by Nathan...
24th January, 2014. It was a Friday, I think. It was a day that changed my life, how I saw myself before and after. It was also one of the most painful experiences I have ever been through, for me and for my parents, because they couldn't do anything about it. Was it worth it? God, yes!
Going back months and months, I was standing on the side of the swimming pool at school and the boy next to me stared at my chest, pointing, "What's that?" I didn't know what he was talking about, I had a lumpy chest, so what? But now it was being pointed out I kind of took more notice of it, thought about it more, felt more uncomfortable about it. I am tall, really tall and thin, but I started to wear big, baggy t-shirts to hide my lump. I wanted to forget about it. There was no way that was going to happen. It started, or seemed to start, to grow. Maybe I didn't notice it before, maybe I didn't want to take any notice but there was no hiding it. In the end I showed my mum. She was stunned, dragged me to the GP who hadn't seen anything like it before and sent us off to A and E where we spent a day having x-rays, blood tests to rule out anything nasty. Anyway, finally we found out about pectus and this great lump was my sternum being forced out through an overgrowth of cartilage, weird. Did finding out what it was make me feel any better? No, I just wanted rid of it, now. It felt like it didn't belong to me, wasn't part of me but at the same time I felt it was totally who and what I was?
After loads of different appointments, talking about surgery, time off school, when was the earliest I could be operated on and the lump getting bigger and more twisted something different came along. My mum had read loads of stuff on the internet about a brace that was being used in America, the only trouble was no one seemed to be using them over here. This is the point when if you believe in fate having a hand in stuff you'll have evidence to support your theory. We were in with the consultant, Mr Hunt talking about how surgery could fit in with GCSE's when he said there's this man who is visiting the UK who fits chest braces, you can see him tomorrow! Mum was all yes, fine, definitely. I was all WHAT? Too fast! I need time to get my head round this, this is my body, my lump, it's me, it's who and what I am.
Next day, there we were driving to see Joe, one of the most respectful, caring, careful, nicest people I have ever met. I'm not going to say anything that isn't true to make people do this. Whoever has this procedure needs to know it hurts, it takes time, it makes you feel sad sometimes, it's frustrating and depressing BUT it's one of the best decisions I have ever made. It gave me back to me.
An extract of Nathan's experiences (15-year-old boy treated with bracing for his pectus carinatum in January 2014)