Nearly Three Weeks After Brain Surgery

Before delving into this blog post, it’s essential to acknowledge that we all have our share of challenges. Over the past few weeks, I’ve had enlightening conversations with many of you dealing with illnesses, personal difficulties, and medical concerns. My heart goes out to each of you, and I do not intend to overshadow anyone’s experiences by sharing mine. This piece aims to raise awareness about the reality of aneurysms, emphasizing their significant impact, which can vary significantly from person to person.


As you know, I had brain surgery. An aneurysm, which was oddly shaped in a bad location between two major arteries in the back of my head, was found through an angiogram. The aneurysm was suspected since my sister, Lori, passed away from a brain aneurysm and stroke nearly six years ago.

Putting things into perspective

Lori was a nurse. She argued with someone at work on a Tuesday in early April. And she ended up passing out and had a terrible migraine headache that wouldn’t go away. Lori went to the ER three times over that one week, and the medical team sent her home with solid painkillers that didn’t work.

Lori hugging my son.

Nearly a week later, she went to a neurologist who said he didn’t think it was anything but would order an MRI. She knew something was wrong. She told me she thought she had a brain tumor. That same day, she collapsed while on the phone with her boss. She was alone in her home. After her boyfriend couldn’t reach her, he called a neighbor who came into her home and found her on the floor foaming at the mouth. She collapsed from a brain aneurysm.

Unfortunately, the story got much worse until the end of her days. She was in a coma for three weeks and turned 60 in a hospital bed in palliative care.  A few days later, she passed away.

Why am I telling you about Lori?

last photo of Lori and Hilary

I had an idea that something was in my brain but the doctors told me not to worry about it. One even suggested that I buy a blood pressure machine and if my blood pressure elevates to go to the ER immediately. (I was just told that blood pressure and aneurysm eruption have nothing to do with each other.) My recent PCP told me that there was no aneurysm and to stop worrying about it.

It wasn’t until that day in September when I had an explosive headache that I thought the aneurysm may have changed. After having a catscan and spinal tap, I was told that I did indeed have an aneurysm. Then, after an angiogram, I was told that I needed to do something about it.

I did a lot of research and found The Bee Foundation. They advocate for aneurysm research and offer support. I also got three different opinions and decided to go with a surgeon from Mt. Sinai in Manhattan.

The Surgery

I went in for surgery on December 29, 2023. The surgery lasted for nearly four hours and I was completely incubated and on life support for those four hours. The surgeon went through an artery in my groin and put a catheter inside me that went up to my brain. A stent was put in to divert the blood flow and eliminate any flow going to the aneurysm and to part of a artery.

I stayed overnight in ICU. It felt like eternity. I was so uncomfortable and the pain meds didn’t really help much. After some convincing, I was let out the following day and sent home with a prescription for Oxycodone along with Magnesium. The pounding was intense.

10 Days Later

I went back to the surgeon in the city and he showed me what he did in my brain. He told me that the headaches were from the aneurysm and a part of my artery dying. He also cleared me for activity.

However, I need to be on blood thinners for the next year and then aspirin for the rest of my life. (I guess it’s a little price to pay to have a life.)

Getting back to Training

Hilary at the pool

In the meantime to make myself feel better, I signed up for two races at the end of the season – the Epic Races Swim to the Moon 10K and EventPowerLI’s Mighty Montauk Half Aquabike. Before the surgery I signed up for the Hudson Valley 10K and the Chicago Spring 10K both in May.

Now, it’s nearly three weeks after major brain surgery and I’m swimming, not fast but swimming. The water feels so good on my bruised body. Lately I touch something and my body bruises.

I also started to ride on my trainer. I’m up to about 40 minutes now. I started by going out for five minutes and building from there.

In terms of running, well, that’s going a little slower than the other two disciplines for me. I’ve been walking and with my running group I tried to run for five seconds when I suddenly felt a sharp pain in my knee going up my leg. Well, that didn’t go well. So I stopped and just walked.

Will I Get Back to Racing?

I hope so because I really enjoy it. Between the camaraderie from the other athletes before the race starts and the actual race, it makes me feel exhilarated.

But, I’m not going to think about whether or not I will be able to do these races, all I’m going to focus on right now, is feeling good and getting the training in. The training will help me recover.

I am truly grateful that I got thru the surgery and I look forward to coming back strong. And, if you are experiencing something right now, you will also come back stronger! #Believe