Faster. Higher. Stronger |Part 3

This is the final installment of my mini-series on my back operation. Things were finally looking up –  I was getting stronger and a little bit faster. This is where I really should mention my Dad. Sometimes (actually a fair amount đŸ˜‰ ) he drives me bonkers – he’s all about exercise. But to be honest I really don’t think I would have come out as I did had I not been walking about as much (under his instruction) before hand. After the operation Mum and Dad alternated their time off work week by week so I’d always have someone at home. Dad had the first week after I’d come out of hospital. We’d go on small walks near forward and back to our local postbox which makes it about a 20 minute walk. It’s not much but that probably played a vital role in building up my muscle strength!

These are my before and after x-rays – the one on the left is the before shot. The slightly strange bits on the x-ray are the metal parts of my back brace!

My physical ability kept on improving and so did my stamina and concentration. That seems like a funny thing to say but after the operation it takes a while to build up your stamina and concentration. Sometimes it would be challenge to do stuff like watching a long TV programme, you’d have to do things in short bursts. Throughout my recovery I continued to have work sent home from school – as much as I hated school I wanted a lot more work, I wanted to be busy (again not much has changed!). After two weeks at home, I went back to school part time doing only the really vital lessons. I was told to expect 6 weeks, so this was pretty amazing! Of course I was off sports for about 6 months until my spine had fully fused – I was a year, so again this was another fab milestone to hit! Don’t get me wrong at no stage was I doing any athlete level sport, but being active – yes. I was pretty much back to normal – all be it this new version of normal. In the context of time, there was all the pre-London 2012, build up – I had absolutely no hope in hell of being any where near even remotely good at any sports but equally the whole Olympic spirit and atmosphere inspired me. I wanted to be faster, higher and stronger.

I had various follow up appointment, x-rays and so on. X-Rays I initially had creeped me out a bit – suddenly seeing this metal monster acting as scaffolding keeping me upright – yet I could feel absolutely nothing. I also had one appointment of hydrotherapy, that was the biggest waste of time EVER. Not saying it wouldn’t be useful to other people, but I’d gone (in my opinion), way too deep into my recovery, I was stronger – not the strongest, but equally it felt a bit like like doing a gorilla doing perfect mini pigeon steps. I was capable of much, much more.

During 2012, I visited Italy with school, and attempted what I believed to be the impossible – I managed to climb what we did of Mount Vesuvius. It was hot, I was comfortably last but I did it.

I set off metal detectors but apart from the odd ‘woaaahh’ feeling, I’m perfectly normal. No pain – I’m unflexible as hell but who even cares? I can do everything I want to do. At school I was always known as the person who couldn’t do sport, or was simply just a bit rubbish – the type that would have a tennis ball come at them at 2mph, comfortably a HUGE distance away from her and would still flinch and shut her eyes!


I’m proving all the doubters wrong. I know I’m no athlete but I’m still someone who’s gone from complete couch potato to running 3 half marathons and a 10k for a charity, with at very least 2 more half marathons on the way. I’m just coming to the beginning of my 3rd year at uni – I’m not perfect, I’ve still got tonnes more I want to do and will continue to do but I’m doing sooooo much I would just have straight up laughed at you for beforehand.

I should also mention how much the paralympic movement has done for me too. I’m not disabled, but equally paralympians like Hannah Cockroft, Kare Adenegan, David Weir and Jonnie Peacock and have continued to inspire me in the sense that being a little bit physically disadvantaged isn’t actually a disadvantage. It’s a benefit. It’s a push to make an even greater impact on the wider world and if you put your mind to it, anything is possible!

I really hope this series of articles can act as some kind of support for people who have or are going through a similar thing. You can do this – and soon you’ll be doing things you’d have had no idea you would have done before. If anyone who’s reading this has any questions at all, or if you’re about to go through the same thing then send me an email clairenicholson078 at or fire me a tweet @WildlifeClaire.

I made it. I’m all straightened up – a bit more bionic than before but this is just one little part of what makes me the person I am today. I truly believe that in a weird way this gave me so much extra confidence and gave me a push in the direction to really believe in the person I am – I wouldn’t have changed anything. In September this year, I’ll be 7 years post op and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I am faster, I am stronger.

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