The Girl Who Makes Me Scream

There’s one professional I haven’t had the chance to thank for aiding me in my recovery — and that’s because I kept forgetting to take a photo with her all the months I went to see her last year.

This is my physiotherapist Chris. She is the only person who has full permission to make me scream.

Me and Chris at Physionique, where she sets me straight!

After my surgery in June last year, I could barely walk. My radical TRAM Flap forced my body into a deeply uncomfortable pose — I was bent over and my right shoulder was thrust forward. I felt kind of like this:

After three months I’d had enough. It was torture sitting down and being unable to straighten up. It hurt at night to sleep. I couldn’t lift my right arm to get my clothes off my wardrobe rack.

Chris came to mind. It’s a story too long to tell but we had done a Nuskin business together many years ago in our lives, and I recalled she was a physiotherapist. I had never been to her professionally, but I knew she had an amazing bedside manner, and hopefully wouldn’t be too hard on me.

I hunted for Chris’ number in my phone — and amazingly, even after nearly 7 years, I still had it. Even more amazingly, she was still at the same number, and yes, she was now back to being a physio.

I went to see her at Physionique, a really cool, brightly lit physio and sports therapy centre at 8 On Claymore. I shuffled in through the door, and she was like, “What happened to you?!!”

Seeing Chris was great — she had not changed one bit. She is tiny but the woman is super, super fit. Toned arms, tight butt with the face of a 10-year-old. And she always had the best hair—funky, colored and spiky!

Chris eyeballed me with some sympathy—but not enough to go easy on me. She taught me to stretch my right arm using the wall (“Owwwww!”), to bend to one side till I felt like my really-tight-torso was going to rip open, and she would massage my stiff right shoulder with that mix of pain and comfort that only she can. She may be small but she is strong!

As the weeks progressed, she gave me “homework” to do—after every session she wrote down a list of exercises for me to practise daily. I would diligently do all the stretches she gave me because, truly, they made me feel more flexible and my posture did begin to inch back to some semblance of normality.

What a departure from my teen years when I was forced to undergo physio for two years at Tan Tock Seng Hospital. At the age of 12, I discovered I had scoliosis — a wedge-shaped vertebra twisted my lower back into an S-shaped curve (it’s still there) — and had to quit all my extra-curricular activities (including my beloved National Cadet Corps) because marching, running, jumping, etc was deemed to be harmful to my spine. On top of that, I had to wear a prosthesis in my left school shoe, because my left leg was an inch shorter than my right. And every Wednesday I would go with my Dad to his workplace at TTSH, do revisions till 10am, then walk over to the Physio department where my stern (but pretty) physio made me do an hour of excruciating and seemingly “stupid” exercises. I hated physio – I felt like a freak. But being forced to do the exercises did actually reduce the degree of my spinal curvature, and to this day there are a few of those exercises I still do whenever my lower back seizes up.

Chris brought all those memories back for me, only this time I was much better motivated to obey my physiotherapist! After seeing her for about three months, she released me. I had improved over the weeks, and as long as I kept practising the exercises I would keep getting better.

Yesterday I went to see Chris because I’m training for a 10K run in 10 days. I’m running up to 8km now, which is pretty good for me, but am experiencing stiffness in my right lower back, and a painful lump in my left heel. Chris was pleased and surprised to see I had been keeping fit — to hear it from her was gratifying! I mean, not many of us can tell “toned” from “skinny” but she’s a pro.

Chris said I’m just not stretching enough. She took me through some deep stretching exercises — I need to do them after every run — to help me decompress my lower back. For my heel — my Planta Fascitis — it’s a matter of not stretching my left calf enough. She made it sound so simple, but those 40 minutes I spent with her yesterday will serve me well for the weeks and months to come (if I do sign up for that Standard Chartered run…).

To begin with I was really, really happy that Chris did not tell me, “Sorry, Threez but running’s not for scoliosis patients,” which is something I have heard over and over again throughout my life. She’s a runner too, and she laughed when I told her I was glad she was greenlighting me to run.

As an extra treat, yesterday she made me lie on my face as she worked the hard knot out of my lower back — I ooh’d and owww’d a lot! Only Chris gets to hurt me like that, haha.

So, Chris, if you’re reading this, I credit you for my recovery. Whenever people ask me how I got back on my feet I always tell them I have an amazing physiotherapist who knows just what to do. You’ve been a pivotal part of my getting all better, and I’m so grateful for you.

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