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Olympics Thursday 9th August 2012

As I said before, we’d planned some great things for the summer of 2012, and we were lucky enough to have got Olympic tickets, which really is a once in a lifetime chance. So, on Thursday 9th August 2012, we were off to watch the Women’s 10m platform diving at the Aquatics Centre in the Olympic Park. We’d even bought special Olympic T-shirts for the occasion!

We set off on the train in the morning – although the event wasn’t until the evening, we wanted to be able to soak up the atmosphere beforehand and not be rushing. It was pretty busy, but my mum managed to find an ex-colleague in the seats behind us and I also sat next to a boy who subsequently joined my sixth form – it’s a small world! The train journey was pretty uneventful, except for an incident with the emergency cord in the toilet. Someone must have pulled it by accident or something, so the train was sitting in a station while the conductor announced ‘We are sorry for the delay, this is due to a potential problem in the toilet in coach 6’. Of course, that was our coach, but no-one was in trouble and we got back on our way.

As part of our Olympic tickets we also had free Zones 1-6 Travelcards, so we could go anywhere on the underground for free. The Royal Opera House in Covent Garden had a free exhibition on, called the ‘Olympic Journey’ so we decided to go to that. This was another anxiety pressure point for me, and I absolutely hated standing around in the queue. I was getting really stressed about it, even though we were in it for all that long. We got to the front and I was still a bit stressed, but once we went in I relaxed a little bit, because it was interesting – it went through the history of the Ancient Olympics and then into the foundation of the modern games, before the Torch Gallery, which had all the Olympic torches from across the years. There was another room with more information about athletes and sports I think, and it also had all the medals from the modern Olympics, which was really fascinating. Before we left, we also had the opportunity to have a photo with the 2012 Olympic Torch, and I have inserted mine below:

Me 'holding' the Olympic Torch

Me ‘holding’ the Olympic Torch

I actually am not a great fan of this photo at all – I look a bit jaded if I’m honest. However, it does show how curved my back was at the time, and it’s probably the best photo I have that does this.

Once we were done in the Royal Opera House, we went for dinner at my favourite restaurant, Café Rouge. I had steak and chips, as usual, and I may have also had some ice cream for pudding, although I can’t remember if I had pudding at all. The great thing about it being games time is that there were loads of stations around the city where you could pick up maps and get advice on how to get to places, so once we’d finished our food we grabbed a map from one of these and went…I can’t remember if we went anywhere else before the Olympic Park if I’m honest.

Assuming we went straight there, we made our way to Stratford Station on the Tube. It was all very well organised – everything about the Olympics was pink, so we followed the pink channels to leave the station and were directed round towards the gates. I was hit (metaphorically) by a wave of excitement and sort of nervousness, because this really was a great experience and something really exciting for everyone.

Despite all the stories in the news about poor security arrangements and the failure of G4S, the security was all fine. There were few queues when we arrived, because we were quite early, and we got through security easily. To get in we had to cross a sort of bridge and there were Games Makers being really enthusiastic and happy. Once we were through the gate, we had a wander around but it really was like a sea of people everywhere you looked. There were some rather sophisticated port-a-loos (i.e. portable blocks of toilets, not rows of blue cubicles as some people excepted), and the Orbit tower, which was quite strange – we didn’t go up it though, as my dad is scared of heights.

We thought it would be a good idea to get some food well before our event started. Initially we’d thought about going to McDonalds, but it was busy, so we settled for sitting on the floor next to it and buying some sandwiches. There were loads of mini outlets to buy from so my parents got sandwiches from there, and I think I ate a roll from home (I’m a very fussy eater!). I was a little unimpressed by the World’s Largest McDonalds…except it turns out the McDonalds we were sitting by was NOT that McDonalds – it was one of four across the park! It was still pretty big though, but there was no indoor seating (I believe the large one did have seating!)

Once we’d had food etc, we made our way to the Aquatics Centre. They’d really made an effort to make it look great and there were Olympic rings everywhere. We were quite high up, so had to climb some stairs which looked out towards Stratford station. There were some big Olympic rings mounted on the outside wall, which even looked impressive from the inside, but this also drew attention to how high up we were. My dad is scared of heights and he was suddenly very snappy and annoyed. Once we got into the actual ‘stadium’ it was really amazing – this was a place you saw on TV and then we were actually there. We were directed up a few rows and found our seats (with my dad clinging on for dear life, although I felt a bit wobbly too).

We’d got there relatively early, so we saw some of the warming up and videos meant to excite the crowd. But obviously it was the real event that was the highlight on the day. There was an amazing atmosphere, even though there were no Brits in the final and the majority of the audience were British. The divers were amazing – I can’t even dive from the side of the pool let alone a 10m platform with added tricks! The only odd thing was that loads of people left before the medals were presented, it seemed like they wanted to get a head start for seats on the Tube or something! Bit rude, but they missed out on Chariots of Fire at the medal ceremony.

Once it was over it was time to go home. Me and my mum braved the toilet queues, while my dad waited, and then we made our way back to Stratford station. Everyone was being recommended to go to West Ham station as Stratford was congested, but my dad was adamant we’d go back the way we came, so we went to Stratford. The athletics events were still going on and you could hear the roar of the crowd coming from the Stadium. It was quite a nice walk to the station, through a parade of Olympic-y shops, and when we got there, the staff were watching Usain Bolt win the 200m, and the platform was literally empty. We got on a deserted tube train, then changed onto our train home at Victoria. I assume when we got there we went to bed!

On a related note, I have found an article which proposed that there will be an Olympic Museum built in the Olympic Park and opened in 2014 (i.e. this year) – if that’s so then I would definitely go and visit again. (You can read the article here: http://www.insidethegames.biz/olympics/summer-olympics/2012/16025-olympic-museum-to-be-opened-on-olympic-park-after-london-2012) I was so glad that I had the opportunity to go to the Olympics, and it was definitely a happy memory that helped keep me going through recovery.

As always, please comment/follow etc!

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Search Terms that have led you to my blog!

So, I had a little look at the search terms that people have used to find my blog over time. The most popular by far is ‘scoliosis evelina’ and variants (i.e. st thomas’ or with extra detail) – it has been searched 78 times! The second most popular is to do with the Sunday Times article I blogged about with 24 searches. The next one on the list was ‘one direction scoliosis’ – originally I thought maybe a member of One Direction had scoliosis or something, but it’s probably just someone searching for information about scoliosis which only goes in one direction! However, my post about going to see One Direction is one of the top posts, as well as some fan fiction, so maybe that’s not the best search term for scoliosis!

Another one on the list is ‘break apart the word scoliosis’ – I assume that this is someone wanting to know where the word comes from. I looked it up and it says “New Latin, from Greek skoliōsis crookedness of a bodily part, from skolios First Known Use: circa 1706”. So that answers your question, whoever you two people who searched that were!

Another question searched is ‘does everyone that has scoliosis have to get surgery’ – the answer is NO! Firstly, you never have to do anything, even if it is advised. But it may not even get to that point – that is the point of watchful waiting, so that they can monitor changes and get an idea about whether the curve is going to progress. However I must stress that if you are diagnosed with scoliosis you should certainly be monitored by a scoliosis SPECIALIST. Your GP should be able to sort this, but it can be good to check the person you are referred to just by googling them (it could be that they are nearby but only specialise in the general field). A lot of people have to have surgery but a lot don’t, and I’ve done a whole project on treating scoliosis – for more information please comment and I can get in touch!

‘Mr Lucas scoliosis’ and variants is also a popular search term, and it’s great to see people searching for information on their potential surgeon – I can recommend him greatly. What I am really pleased about is that 3 people have actually googled my blog name! Mine! It’s amazing to think that people actually want to read what I’m writing!!

Random searches include ‘interesting news articles’ (cool!) and ‘cat scan mock tests’ (I assume someone had a cat test coming up and just clicked on the first prediction from google), there were also a few which were exactly the titles of some of my posts (bit weird) and one asking what time the scan bit in a&e at st thomas’ opens (I have no clue, good luck with finding that out).

And finally somebody searched ‘the Sunday Post scoliosis’. What I found when I searched that is far more inspiring that I am – there’s an article about a girl called Sophie Equi who had a long operation to correct her curve and is now training to be a doctor. You can read the whole story here: http://www.sundaypost.com/that-s-life/real-life-stories/sophie-s-spine-surgeon-was-her-inspiration-1.160274.

I didn’t expect this post at all,  but I hope the search terms have enlightened you, and I will post more about my scoliosis journey very very soon. If you’ve found my blog through one of these links then please comment and say which one!

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Interesting Article on BBC News

I promise that before Friday there will be another post about my journey with scoliosis (I’ve already written it after all!), but I was directed to an article about a new surgery for younger sufferers of scoliosis, which reduces the number of operations they need to replace rods as they grow. I am so glad that I was pretty much done growing before I needed an operation, but this sounds like a pioneering new procedure.

You can read the article here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-25911384 

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Part of an article on the Channel 4 News website

Breaking away from my posting on the run up to my operation, I just wanted to flag up an article that I’m quoted in about being a teenage girl in Britain today. I’m quite far down, under the heading ‘We have more opportunities’. It’s nothing to do with my operation but have a read anyway! Thanks!

Here’s the link again http://www.channel4.com/news/teenage-girl-2014-culture-society-sex-appearance

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Downton Abbey and Harry Potter Studios

OK, so we already knew that the operation was imminent pre-phone call, so we’d planned some nice things to do over the summer holidays, one of which was a trip to Highclere Castle (aka Downton Abbey) and the Harry Potter Studio Tour on 6th and 7th August 2012.

Downton Abbey

Downton Abbey!

As you can see above, Highclere is pretty popular now, and it is so impressive to see close up! We drove up in the car and arrived in time to have our picnic lunch under the trees on the left of the picture. We were able to see around the house – I hadn’t got massively into Downton at that point but it was still really cool. There was also an Egyptian exhibition which was also interesting, but I was slightly disappointed by the gift shop – definitely not as good as the National Trust!

Once we were done at Downton, we drove to St Albans to a B&B. We thought we’d get takeaway fish and chips, seeing as the shop was just down the road…except the road was VERY long (for anyone with local knowledge it was London Road). In the end we gave up and went back for the car. The shop was pretty much empty and we had to wait about 10 minutes for our food (we got some free spring rolls though), but we finally got it, drove back, and even had some cutlery from the B&B. It did sort of make the room smell of grease and chips though so we had to leave the rubbish in the bathroom. We watched a bit of the Olympics – women’s cycling omnium and the women’s pole vault.

This is the point where I apologise to Imi and Claire, my friends who live in St Albans, who were extremely put out that I had been in their home town and not told them (actually I can’t remember if they both know now, so sorry!) – I didn’t know until we arrived that we were going to St Albans, and I was shattered – not great company.

Anyway, the next day we went off to nearby Watford to Leavesden Studios, to see the Harry Potter Studios! It was SO good – I don’t want to say much about what’s inside because I want you to find it just as surprising and magical. What I will say is that it is really good, AND the gift shop is great (although very expensive, my only purchase was a T-shirt). Also you can ‘ride’ on the Knight Bus, as you can see below.

Riding the Knight Bus

Riding the Knight Bus!

You can see that I’m standing with one leg bent, but I’m definitely noticeably crooked, even with all the layers and bag etc on. But the good thing is that I’m smiling, so I had a good day. Apart from the small worry about having to rush through the exhibition to find a toilet (that didn’t happen, they are provided if you’re wondering), I really enjoyed it.

Thanks, as always, for reading – I thoroughly recommend these places, especially if you’re looking for some treats pre or post-operation! Please comment/follow/read on etc!

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2nd August 2012: The Phone Call

So, as you know I came home from Bredon on 1st August 2012 (see my previous post if you have no idea what I’m going on about). I’d had a lovely week and barely thought about my back, and also suffering from post-Bredon blues, as usual. But, what better to cheer me up than visiting my cousin and her 2 year old daughter Bethan.

Me and my mum drove up to Croydon to their house, we had some lunch, played with Bethan, and then my cousin had to go out (part of the reason we were there is so that we could babysit). Everything was fine, Bethan was wonderful, and then the phone rang.

My dad was on the phone, speaking to my mum about a phone call he’d received at work, and I could hear them talking about dates – ‘12th August…but we’re away’ etc. Immediately I thought ‘oh, that was quick for my dad to get his cataracts done’ (because he was also waiting for an ‘op’ date). When she came off the phone, I said about that, and then she had to tell me that it wasn’t his cataracts but my back that they’d got an operation date for.

I was stunned, I think. To be honest I can’t really remember, even though I expect it was a moment I played back in my head a few times. And I didn’t want to cry, because I didn’t want Bethan to realise there was something wrong. I didn’t really talk for a little bit, unfortunately the house was pretty open plan so it wasn’t like I could hide, except in their bathroom, which I did for a short while. And then I composed myself and played kind of half-heartedly until it was time for us to leave.

I guess finding out in a situation where I felt I needed to be happy and smiley may have been beneficial – I wasn’t lying on the sofa at home crying whilst watching back to back box sets or daytime TV. But I think it did all dawn on me later in the day that everything that it was really happening now, and in less than two months time I was going to actually have the operation. I can’t remember but I’m pretty sure I didn’t eat much for the rest of the day, and I definitely cried myself to sleep (writing that sounds really really bad, but that’s what I did!)

Sorry this was all a bit gloomy and depressing, but that was how I felt. I promise I will write some nice things about the summer holiday before I go back to the heavy stuff, but, as always, thanks for reading, please comment and follow.

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Bredon 2012

So, I’ve been talking about writing this post for ages, and here it is. Bredon 1 is a week long Christian camp I go to in the summer (July-August) – but it’s not camping, we stay in a boarding school in Tewkesbury, which, as you can see below, is lovely.

Image2012 was my third year and I can honestly say it’s the best week of my year, and I’m now going to tell you why, through the medium of a life in a day (which was a possible topic for my English coursework last year)

8 o’clock. A leader opens the door and tells us to get up. I’m often awake anyway but a need to stay in bed forces me to clutch my duvet and pretend I’m still dreaming. We have 20 minutes to get up, but in reality it ends up being about 5 if you’re lazy or tired.

Once dressed, my dorm assemble back in our room and sit there as if we’ve been up for hours, just as one of the leaders comes in with the book of the week – 20 minutes of each morning is taken up with listening to someone read a Christian book so we can absorb some Bible truths without having to think too much.

By 8.40 I’m fairly hungry so it’s off to the breakfast queue downstairs. The boys are always there before us but we don’t really mind, there’s still plenty of food! The cooks do something cooked for breakfast each day, even if it’s only spaghetti hoops and toast. We also get a chance to catch up with people from other dorms and see how they are. Breakfast time isn’t just for chatting though, it’s also when we find out exactly what we’re doing that day.

One thing that is unchanging is the morning meeting at 9.30, one of the key parts of the day. It lets each person reflect and praise God in their own way. I find the talks less taxing than those in the evening but thought-provoking all the same, especially when they follow on from what we did the night before.

Once the meeting is finished there’s a game. Not being very sporty, me and my friends will usually sit outside playing cards. Our card games range from Sopio to Pit to random and crazy card games depending on our mood and the time of day – some people start to avoid us when it gets a bit crazy!

The 10 o’clock game is followed by the 11.15 game or craft, with myself and other less sporty girls (plus a few boys) veering towards the craft room. Our creations range from stained glass windows made from acetate, handprints in clay, painting on old bathroom tiles and simply painting canvasses. It gives us yet another chance to have a good chat and everyone gets on really well, leaders and members alike.

Once we’ve washed the paint off our hands, and possibly clothes, it’s time for Wordsearch – a chance for us to look at what the Bible says about topics we face in our lives. We’ve looked at beauty, relationships, social networking and TV, to name a few. I like the fact that we can discuss our own opinions and also that the leaders are so honest to us and tell us what they’ve done relating to that topic.

Everyone’s hungry by 1pm so we make our way to the lunch queue. One of the best things about Bredon is the food. There’s such a wide variety of meals across the week – fish and chips, chicken pie, spaghetti Bolognese, pizza, BBQ, the list goes on. However it’s not always consistent, one day I was served gloopy, lumpy macaroni cheese whereas the next day we get delicious, flavoursome chicken curry, it’s a mystery how the two meals come out of the same kitchen!

Lunch finished, we have a half an hour gap which is often called ‘The Calm Before The Storm’. In reality it is far from that, usually being taken up with frantic changing into different coloured tops, messy clothes, or packing bags ready for a trip out. Then, at 2pm, the afternoon activity begins.

Every afternoon is fun, but each is very different. My favourite afternoon is the dorm outing. Having spent most of the time around one place, it’s refreshing to go out with great friends for some retail therapy. Not only that, but we also filmed part of the Titanic parody, with some hilarious shrimp puns. It’s probably the most sedate of the activities but I see nothing better than hitting the Cadbury Outlet Shop and then relaxing with a Caffé Nero and some scones in a car park.

Another popular activity is the Hollywood Boot Camp. This consists of several mini activities, each with a different theme, where you win points for your dorm. There’s something for everyone but somehow the boys’ dorms have an edge and so win. It’s also rather messy – me and my friend managed to get golden syrup in our hair. We did make a parody song of ‘What Makes You Beautiful’ though, which involved spelling Jesus with our knees – and it got us third place.

If the weather isn’t too bad, I wander down to the swimming pool and take a dip. It’s freezing but after a hot afternoon it’s very refreshing. Often it’s mostly boys in the pool, thrashing about and trying to knock each other over, but there are also a few girls who brave the waters, even if it’s only for a short while.

Swim over, it’s time for workshops. Workshops give us a chance to learn something new, or enjoy doing something we like with people who are experts. I’ve done salsa, cooking and photography workshops, which have been both fun and a learning experience. If there isn’t anything that interests me on, I’ll go for a walk with friends and chat or take photos. There’s free time after the workshops anyway, so we’ll take our time and explore, unless there is a leaders vs. members football match, in which case, we’ll watch that – it’s a big rivalry between the leaders and members but unfortunately the leaders often win.

At 6.30 it’s finally time for dinner and then we have the evening meeting an hour later. This is often more in depth than the morning meeting; besides we have more time and are all much more awake. One key point that struck me was that Jesus died and took our judgement – we don’t even have to be judged by God for our sins! After the meeting we always have a chance to chat to a leader or friend about what we’ve heard and be encouraged or strengthened by them.

9pm is the last big part of the day – Evening Entz. Each night is themed; one day will be action, another Disney, and another sci-fi. Sci-fi night was my favourite, my dorm winning the feed your leader rice pudding through their arms competition will definitely be a highlight I remember. We also learnt Klingon (actually Welsh) and failed at the paper spaceship (aeroplane) competition.

After all this fun, it’s almost time for bed, although not before dorm bible study. We’ll usually spend about half an hour looking closely at a passage in the bible and then talk about it. This is also the time when we eat our dorm stash of Cadbury Misshapes and get an immediate sugar rush. This has hilarious consequences, which often delay the end of the day for both us and the leaders.

Finally I’ll get changed in record time and settle into bed. The fun doesn’t end there though, and whispered conversations often ensue, usually about life at home or what happened in the day. Often a leader will come in and tell us to be quiet but after a while they go to bed too. We feel tired in the morning but for a week it doesn’t particularly matter.

Bredon doesn’t end after a week either. Once it’s over I always look forward to reunion and another youth event called Sorted which most people go to. They’re both great fun too, but nothing really matches up to life at Bredon, and I always look forward to the next year.

Now if you’ve ploughed through that, well done. But one point I really wanted to make was that throughout the whole week I did not once think about my impending operation with any great dread. It must have been in my subconscious, because one girl in my dorm asked about my back being curved (here’s your explanation Mariam!), but when asked about things to pray for in my one-to-one chat, I did not mention the op at all. This prompted an email when I found out the date of the operation to say, actually I forgot to mention this!!

Anyway, this has been a great post to write because of all the memories! But now it’s going to get a LOT heavier so I’ll leave you with the more optimistic video of Bredonwood.

http://vimeo.com/46810347 – I had hoped this would come up as an actual video embedded in but no (I’ll try and get my IT friend to sort out some html if you really want) If you’re interested, you can see me in the centre of shot at 05:32 (in the gray hoodie)

If you want more information about Bredon, see this link http://www.ventures.org.uk/venture-holidays/details/2389 It would be amazing if someone came because they read this blog!