Allison Weissensee

At age 15, I started having back pain while figure skating. My doctor sent me for physical therapy, and I tried chiropractors and massage. I stopped figure skating at age 16 and my back improved, although it was still sore.

I entered college in pre-vet studies and had a job with a pet clinic. One night my back went out. The pain in my back and shooting pain down my legs was intense, and I was in so much pain I could not stand. An x-ray and MRI showed herniated discs at L4-L5, and L5-S1.

I tried more conservative care, and injections. I was walking with a limp and guarded gait. I withdrew from college, unable to work with the farm animals. At 19, I proceeded with discectomy surgery at L4-L5. I was happy to have what seemed like a full recovery.

A year later while playing frisbee, I felt a familiar twinge in my back. The MRI showed a disk bulge at L5-S1 and spinal stenosis. My surgeon sent me to the chief neurosurgeon who recommended a fusion. At age 20, I asked for a referral to a teaching hospital in Boston. This spinal surgeon recommended discectomy, laminectomy, and laminotomy. This surgery immediately relieved my pain, but it took months of physical therapy to regain more function.

I performed my stretching and core strengthening activities daily and started taking yoga classes. I went back to college in business administration, graduated and found a career in disability insurance. By age 30 I started more vigorous exercise classes at the gym. By age 35, I decided I was in great shape and that I should give skiing a try to be able to join my family on the slopes.

I’m now a regular on the slopes and for my 40th birthday, we celebrated with a family ski trip to Breckenridge where I experienced my first ski bowl.