In 2014 I had major back surgery where half of the discs in my back were removed, my spine was fused and two metal rods were screwed into either side of my spinal column.
I am sharing this story for a few different reasons. The first is to show how being fit helped me through this. The second is to prove that there is no excuse good enough to justifying giving up. And the third is to give hope to all of you who are working through injuries and disabilities.
When I was 13 years old in Junior High P.E. class, we were given the bend over spine check in the girls locker room and I was spotted as having scoliosis, which is an abnormal curvature of the spine. I was x-rayed and measured and diagnosed with S-shaped scoliosis with two 15 degree curves. I was monitored and it wasn’t progressing quickly so I never had to wear a brace. Thank goodness because I was 13 and 5’7” with braces, glasses and no boobs. The last thing I needed was a huge back brace over my clothes.
By the time I graduated high school in 1996, I was 5’10.5” and my spinal curves had progressed to 30 degrees each but the doctors weren’t concerned as long as it stayed there now that my growth plates had closed. I led a very active lifestyle: track, volleyball, water sports, and just being a teenager and my back never slowed me down or limited me. I was never in pain from it but the curvature did cause twisting, which resulted in my ribs pushing out on the right side of my back causing a hump, which I was very unfond of.
I was married in 2000 and had 3 kids in 2004, 2006, and 2008. If you have read my About me page then you will remember that this is the time that we were living in Texas and Hiit Mams was born. So I had been doing the WODs for about a year and was paying more attention to my body and my progress. When you are busy baking kids, your body image goes a bit by the wayside. So for the first time in 4 years I was noticing that my back seemed worse, meaning that the degree of the curves had increased. I thought that my husband (who is only 1.5” taller than me) seemed extra tall lately but I never chalked it up to my back worsening. I went to see an orthopedic surgeon and sure enough, my curves had doubled to 60 degrees each throughout my pregnancies and I was now 5’8”.
It was determined that my back would not stop progressing without surgical intervention so the surgery was scheduled for January 2010…….but in November we got a surprise!
I was pregnant with our 4th child and the surgery needed to be postponed. We had our 4th and final kid in July 2010 and moved back to California shortly after.
I had to restart the process for my back with a new surgeon in California. He was very impressed with the flexibility of my spine, which I attribute to my fitness level, and was very optimistic about the degree to which he would be able to correct the curvature. But he wanted me to wait until my baby was at least 3 years old so that while I was recovering, I wouldn’t need to lift him into a high chair, car seat, changing table, crib, etc.
I continued to progress in my fitness journey for the duration of the almost 3 year wait and finally had my surgery in March of 2014.
My surgery lasted 7 hours and went very smoothly. They were hoping to get my curves corrected to about 20 degrees but because of the flexibility of my spine and my physical fitness, they were shocked to correct my curves to 15 degrees and 12 degrees, which is not even recognizable as a curvature to the human eye.
I was not able to resume working out for 3 months. I had lost 10 pounds and looked anorexic and weak. I had to relearn how to run, lift, do sit-ups, everything, with my new back. Some things I can no longer do, like knees to elbows. My spine cannot curve the way it needs to for that particular exercise….which forced me to progress and challenge myself with toes to the bar instead. When I do body surfers or supermans, I cannot lift my arms and legs at the same time because my back doesn’t bend like that. I have had to modify a few exercises but I never allowed myself to make any excuses.
My recovery was so fast and smooth. By 3 months I was off all pain meds and running again. I was 35 years old but these workouts had prepared my body to take on this surgery and overcome it with flying colors. If you keep a positive attitude, expect only a good outcome, and work hard, nothing can stop you.
I hope that my story will inspire you and drive you to keep pushing with no excuses. All we need to do is take one day at a time and do everything we can. You can overcome!