When I was 40, I began experiencing pain in my right hip while training for a triathlon. The pain became more excruciating; I experienced numbness in my foot and even had to use a cane for a bit. Dr. Slosar at SpineCare Medical Group determined that I had a grade 1 spondylolisthesis at S1/L5, a disc that had herniated enough to reach the sciatic nerve, and a fractured L4 vertebrae. Spine fusion was the only treatment that would correct the situation and eliminate the excruciating pain. Dr. Slosar recommended that I initially have a cortisone shot and the pain was significantly reduced. I decided to use this temporary pain relief as a way to “train” for surgery.
Instead of lamenting my misfortune, I decided to work out hard in the gym 4-5 times each week, rode my bike, and swim “like there wasn’t any danger lurking inside”. I was afraid that after surgery I would be physically limited, gain weight, and weaken over time, and I wanted to make myself stronger for the recovery process.
As the weeks progressed, the pain began to slowly creep back.
Treatment & Recovery
A two-level spine fusion was done one year after I first started feeling pain. Because of my hard work, I was able to walk on the first day of recovery. I didn’t need a physical therapist in the hospital; I was getting up on my own, walking numerous laps around the facility, and walking up six flights of stairs. Walking served as the catalyst for my recovery and I used the app MapMyFitness to track my daily progress. Six days after surgery, I walked 1.3 miles in 24 minutes.
When I tried to pick up the pace a bit, my progress came to a halt and I had to stop walking for a week and rely on medication. An ice vest helped reduce the need for medication and I highly recommend one for anyone recovering from a spine fusion. I began physical therapy eight weeks after surgery, and went on my first run at thirteen weeks!
I am currently running 17 miles a week, and I ran my first half marathon just prior to participating in my first We’ve Got Your Back Race/Walk event in San Francisco, where I placed first in my age group! I am a member of a spondylolisthesis support group on Facebook and I want to prove that the human body can persevere despite the odds.
A professor once said to me “instead of using the roadblocks in your life as an excuse, one must get to the point where he or she can say that despite the roadblocks, I succeeded”. I know I have succeeded and will continue to provide hope to others in any way I can… but don’t let my determination fool you, I also had a tremendous surgeon and support team who did the work to get me to this point. They got the ball rolling and I had to keep it moving forward.
Watch Raf’s video here!