Strangely Optimistic

If you know me, you know optimism is not exactly my strong suit. I’m more like an “envision the absolute worst case scenario and prepare for the apocalypse” type of person. That’s why it is weird that I’m feeling pretty optimistic about my recovery.

Let’s rewind. I had my surgery on Thursday, but it did not go as planned. First of all, Dr. V showed up to the hospital at 6 am in full cycling gear because he had ridden his bike to work (it was 36 degrees). Clearly, I had found the right doctor! Although he intended to go in and do a microdiscectomy (removing bulging portions of the discs that were pressing on my nerves and causing pain), he did not do that. Ultimately, when he actually opened up my back, he decided that the pain was not a result of the herniated discs but rather a combination of pain from my degeneration and a very angry set of nerves that were pressing up against the bony channels in my back. When the openings for the nerves are too small (as a result of inflammation of the nerve or some other condition), it’s called spinal stenosis. So instead of removing portions of the disc as he intended, he widened the channels that my nerves go through in hopes of relieving some of the pain.

Jesus take the wheel!

When I woke up, he was straightforward with me about what that meant. As expected, I will still need a fusion at some point. However, he is optimistic that this will relieve some of the pain in my legs for now. He wanted me to go immediately into physical therapy and said he would try and set up an appointment with the PT that he sends all of his athletes to. I thought there was no way I would get an appointment, but sure enough, I got a phone call from Dr. V at 7:45 on Sunday morning (he couldn’t believe he woke me up) telling me that I would be going sometime on Monday. So today, they called and told me the PT would see me on his lunch break. How nice is that?!

Hobbling the streets of Downtown Boulder


I went into the waiting room and immediately noticed pictures of some of the most famous triathletes in the world on his wall along with their signed singlets. One of them was Chrissie Wellington, a four time Ironman World Champion who is undefeated at the Ironman distance. Oh, and did I mention she’s my personal hero? She goes to the same physical therapist as me. I died.

The physical therapist asked me a lot of very pointed questions about my running history, why I run in the first place, how I got injured, and what I expect my recovery to look like. It kind of felt like an interrogation, and I oddly found myself getting nervous. I said that my goal is to run in a healthy way again, but in my dreams that looks like probably 4 full marathons a year with some other distances in between. He didn’t respond to that, which I took as a positive sign. At least he didn’t laugh.

If Chrissie is taking applications for a new BFF, I am available.

He had me do a few exercises just to get started, and I’ll be heading back to his office tomorrow, where he’ll be squeezing me in again, after my post-op appointment and before my flight home. He’ll remain my physical therapist while I’m home and we’ll communicate online, which is ideal for me. I’ll go back out to Boulder for my 6 week checkup, at which time he should clear me to start running again! I do have a secret goal race in mind, but I’m not spilling the beans until I know it is realistic.

Both he and my neurosurgeon have no doubt I will run again. I have to be honest – I have had my doubts during this process, no matter what kind of sunshine and rainbows I puke onto this blog. As much as I’ve liked the idea of running again, it hasn’t always seemed possible. Now, it feels entirely within my reach, which is funny given that I can’t even bend over enough currently to tie my shoes. I know that what my training and race schedules look like will change, but I’m ok with that as long as I stay healthy and put off my fusion for awhile. This is the first time in months that I have felt truly optimistic about my health. I’m grateful for a wonderful team of doctors and of course, my awesome parents (especially my mom) for nursing me back to health and putting up with my grumpiness. This will probably only last a few days, so enjoy this non-macabre blog post while it lasts!

“Danielle’s Great Comeback” – I like the sound of that.


33 thoughts on “Strangely Optimistic

  1. I’m so happy you got the news you wanted. So if my math impaired brain calculates right you should be running again by ben’s birthday and definitely by Drew’s awesome!

    1. If all goes according to plan, yes! I didn’t really get the news I wanted since the surgery didn’t go as planned, but I will get to run again at some point, so that is good 🙂

    1. I know! Weird, right? The pain post-surgery is not unbearable. I’ve had good and bad days. Yesterday was a bad day, I think because my body was reacting to the PT. There is definitely pain but it kind of depends what position I’m in. I take different times of pain meds a couple times a day, but I get around ok, just slowly. No one can believe I’ve had back surgery since I’m moving around pretty well, so I guess that’s a good sign!

  2. Woot! Great news! This probably means you’re not on the pain meds silly me assumed you’d be on when I commented on your previous post. So, instead I say, “Enjoy a post-op beer or glass of wine!” and then have another to celebrate the fact that you have an AWESOME doctor and PT. Just celebrate 😀

    1. Hahahaha oh no, I am DEFINITELY on pain meds. A lot of pain meds. I mostly do not drink beer while taking them, but sometimes I do…meh

  3. Have you ever heard of the Egoscue method? It’s posture alignment therapy, with a primary goal of getting your body back to where it is designed to be to eliminate pain and restore function. My friend owns a clinic in Houston; I do it preventatively and have had success over the past few months. I wonder if it could help you on the road to recovery and keep you balanced going forward. If you’re interested, check out or the book Pain Free by Pete Egoscue. You actually came to mind as I was reading the book last week. Weird. Anyway, so glad to hear good news – keep it coming.

    1. Thanks so much for the tip, Amy! I have not heard of the Egoscue method, but I will definitely check it out. It can’t hurt to try! Thank you for thinking of me.

  4. I’m glad your surgery went well even if it wasn’t what you expected and you got in with a good PT! looks like he has a great track record with athletes, no pun intended… and that’s so awesome that Chrissie Wellington went to him. I think optimism is great and plays a big role in success in running, hopefully it will be the same with the recovery. Keep us posted!

    1. I will, Amy! I was so floored when I saw pictures of Chrissie on the wall. The PT is great and he definitely is used to seeing the type of crazy runner that I am/used to be. You can’t get anything past him! I think it will be a huge help.

    1. Thanks, Hollie! I go back and forth and I definitely have my moments of despair. Actually, yesterday was one of those days. I just have to keep in mind that there will be good parts and bad parts, but I have to keep going forward! I wish I could have made it to NJ – it looks like y’all had a great time!

  5. I have been thinking about you and sending well wishes your way. I hope they’re helping. Also, have you ever heard of the ElliptiGo? It’s supposed to be awesome for low-impact crosstraining (from the reviews that I’ve read). Maybe something like this will help when you are able to start training. I can’t wait to get mine sometime in the next couple of months.

    1. I have heard of that! And I’ve seen the cool commercials. I think it looks like so much fun, but I thought they were pretty expensive? Maybe I’m wrong.

  6. Ugh – was wondering why I never got a ‘subscribe to comments’ email, turns out my comment never ‘took’. Oh well, No biggie!

    Really just wanted to let you know that I am thrilled and optimistic for you to get back nice and slowly and start running in a healthy way again! This has been a heck of a year for you, but you are one of my fave online peeps and I am really pulling for you to get through this safe and completely … and I know you will have ‘Danielle’s Excellent Recovery’! 🙂

  7. That is all good news. I am so impressed with your doctors. So different from the ones I work with right now.

    I have ONE MORE DAY of grad school then I am DONE!!!! I plan to start running like Forest Gump this summer. 🙂

    1. To be fair, I did have to fly across the country to find them… but I’m impressed with them too 🙂

      Congratulations on finishing grad school!!! Hooray!

  8. Great to hear that you’re on the road to recovery! I’d say that was a good sign that your doc came in wearing in cycling gear. Reading about what you had done reminded me of a procedure one of my friends/co-workers had last summer to relieve her migraines. She’s a runner, and her migraines sometimes interfered with her running — especially at the end of a half marathon. She had surgery to loosen muscles that were basically squeezing the nerves in her neck, causing migraines. She had to wait a while after surgery before she could run again (I think it was 6-8 weeks), and it was slow starting out, but she’s run four (I think?) half marathons since then! (Oh yeah, she’s a blogger too: Best wishes for a speedy recovery!

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