Princess Eugenie’s name often graces the front page of newspapers, magazines, and online publications because of her royal title and her iconic fashion choices. But this time around the focus is not on her style but rather her scar.
In a brave Instagram post, Princess Eugenie revealed the prominent scar that acts as a daily reminder of the scoliosis surgery she underwent at the age of 12. The eight-hour surgery took place at the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital and has impacted the royal’s life tremendously.
Ever a source of quiet inspiration, the graceful Princess Eugenie has never shied away from discussing her struggle with scoliosis. She is quick to encourage her fellow scoliosis survivors to embrace their scars.
Here’s what you need to know.
Defined by Mayo Clinic as “a sideways curvature of the spine”, scoliosis is a condition that is most often diagnosed in prepubescent children. Six types of scoliosis pose a threat to children, ranging from neuromuscular scoliosis to adolescent idiopathic scoliosis which is what was thought to have plagued Princess Eugenie.
It is thought that 3% of adolescents have scoliosis although the degree of the condition can vary from slight discomfort to agonizing pain.
Most of the time no treatment is needed and the spine straightens out on its own over time. For those who have more severe cases, surgery is needed. As you may have guessed, princess Eugenie fell into the latter category.
The beloved younger daughter of Prince Andrew, Duke of York, underwent back surgery to correct her scoliosis in October of 2002. Before the grueling eight-hour operation took place, the tenth in line to the throne admits that she still vividly remembers feeling nervous in the time leading up to the operation but that her dominant memories of the experience are happy ones.
The surgery was a success and eight-inch titanium rods were inserted into each side of the princess’s spine while one-and-a-half inch screws were inserted into her neck. After spending three days in intensive care, the 12-year-old spent six days in a wheelchair and seven days in a ward before being able to walk again.
Scoliosis surgery leaves behind a prominent scar — the length of which depends on the number of curves in your spine but is usually around 10 inches long — on the back of the patient. Many people choose to hide their scars but this princess chooses to flaunt hers and went as far as designing her wedding dress around her scar.
The dress, designed and created by Peter Pilotto and Christopher de Vos, was the princess’s “lovely way to honor the people who looked after me and a way of standing up for young people who also go through this.”
This photo, shared on her Instagram page in celebration of International Scoliosis Awareness month, is just one example of how the illustrious influential embraces her scar. Speaking about her scar to The Telegraph, Princess Eugenie said “Your scars are a way of communicating.”
The Social Impact
In the day and age of the internet, people that would have once been considered inaccessible are able to share their lives with their followers in a much more personable and intimate way than ever before. Thanks to social media, Princess Eugenie is able to share her journey and parts of her life with her millions of followers.
Princess Eugenie — along with other A-list scoliosis sufferers such as Chloe Sevigny, Kristin Kreuk, Shailene Woodley, Usain Bolt, and many others — is able to use her social media presence to spread awareness on the condition and offer support to those who need it.
Speaking of support, it is not uncommon for the royal inspiration to share the stories of others on her social media pages. She is quick to encourage her followers to tag her in posts sharing their journeys or showing off their scars, which she then reposts to her various social media platforms.
There is healing found in sharing and this is a fact that the princess is well aware of. Referring to her back portrait, it’s safe to say that a picture speaks a thousand words but Princess Eugenie’s powerful accompanying message speaks even more.
Princess Eugenie is a woman of many titles including princess, philanthropist, director, global ambassador, feminist, wife, sister, daughter, granddaughter, friend. And now a new title must be added to that list: role model for scoliosis sufferers and survivors.