Guest Post: Meet Sam, The man behind 'Pigeon Chest Problems'
My name is Sam, and I have a condition called pectus carinatum. I call it “pigeon chest”, partly because that is what it looks like, and partly because it makes me feel better about my condition. Looking at me from a distance, you would be forgiven for thinking that I don’t have any disability whatsoever. But although my condition is not easily visible, it affects me both mentally and physically on a daily basis.
Essentially what I have is a chest deformity, where my chest bone sticks out further than it should. I can appreciate that to those of you suffering from disabilities that restrict you from carrying out major life activities, it may sound like I have it pretty easy. And I suppose I do have it pretty easy. I can still do most of the things that I want to do, even if it tends to hurt a little now and then. Generally, it doesn’t stop me from doing anything physically. But mentally, it affects me every day.
It is the apparent mildness of my condition that is perhaps the most damaging aspect for me. On the surface, I come across as a very able human being who could do anything he wanted to. This often makes it harder for me to exclude myself from certain activities. Take for instance, a recent trip to the beach with some family. My cousins were confused as to why I didn’t want to go swimming. Although my condition doesn’t physically restrict me from swimming, mentally I would feel very uncomfortable taking my top off. My pigeon chest is very visible, and I have passed up countless opportunities to do fun and interesting things because of my weird chest. I’ve even passed up opportunities for girlfriends (I’m not just saying that!). Basically, my chest rules me.
Or at least, it did. Tired of not being able to do the things that I wanted to do, I decided to try and beat my pigeon chest and take control of my life once and for all. I told my parents about my condition, and tried to explain to them how it restricted me both mentally and physically. To my surprise, they were really understanding and admitted that they’d never realised there was anything wrong with me. I had always been good at hiding my emotions, and I was just relieved to have them out in the open.
If only everyone could be as understanding as my parents. The first thing that my parents wanted to do was take me to the doctor. Although I had reservations, I accepted that it might be good to get a professional opinion on my condition.
However, our visit to the doctor turned out to be one of the most eye opening experiences of my life. I’d learnt everything that I knew about my pigeon chest from reading articles, watching videos and hanging about forums. Yet, I still felt that I knew more about the condition than my doctor did. He immediately recommended that I undergo surgery, something that not only scared me, but also seemed completely unnecessary. I’d read stories online about people beating their pigeon chest through other methods, and although my doctor advised me not to try these methods, I decided to give them a shot.
My parents bought me a brace that would apply a constant pressure to my chest, which I’d read could be beneficial. I also joined a local gym and started a strength-training program to try and build a stronger body. Within a few months, I’d already noticed a significant improvement in my posture, which had always been poor due to my condition. My chest was looking less protruded, and I felt more confident than ever. I’d challenged the advice of a medical professional, and I felt like I’d made the right choice.
To me, Diversability is a celebration and recognition of a topic that is so often the source of bad news. Although I haven’t physically defeated my pigeon chest, I feel like I have mentally. I can now talk about my condition openly, and even with a sense of pride. I know that pectus carinatum is not necessarily a common condition to have, but I hope that my experiences resonate with anybody who has to live with something that makes them feel different, and I hope this post gives people the courage to challenge the advice of medical professionals when the options that they’re giving you don’t feel right.
Follow my journey at Pigeon Chest Problems.