Raquel Miranda Capocaccia, 34, a mother of three, has been an avid runner for nearly ten years. When she faced a terrifying health scare last year, she was confronted with potentially losing her running career — and perhaps even her life. 

Today, Raquel is thriving. She has run 250 miles this year and walked another 235 and is training for a half marathon thanks to her dedicated doctors and an outpouring of support from her loved ones, but mostly, her success is due to her commitment to recovery and her willingness to not give up on herself. 

In the spring of 2022, Raquel was training for the Germantown Half Marathon and noticed slight hip pain during her long runs toward the end of her training. Assuming it was a running injury, she pushed through the discomfort and ended up competing in the race but PRing. 

However, the discomfort became more painful and harder to ignore by mid-April, so she headed to Campbell’s Clinic for physical therapy. After weeks of therapy, the pain had gotten a LOT worse, so, after rounds of MRIs, the source of Raquel’s pain was finally revealed: a tumor at L4-L5 on her spine that was pressing on a nerve and that, due to its location, could not be biopsied easily. 

Raquel was referred to Semmes Murphey Clinic for treatment, where a dedicated team of doctors worked to perform many tests to determine how to remove the tumor and to try and pinpoint the type of tumor and how many she had. 

One thing they knew for sure was that Raquel would need to undergo surgery to remove the tumor and to answer the looming, dark cloud of a question: was the tumor cancerous? 

The uncertainty during this time was nearly unbearable. “My youngest wasn’t even 15 months old at the time, and I had never had surgery before,” Raquel explains. “Worst case scenario is that it’s cancer, and second-worst case is that my spinal disc was permanently compromised, meaning an end to running and a life of discomfort.” 

“If you have the capacity to try and recover well, put in the effort. It’s worth it.” 

After grueling months of testing and waiting, Raquel underwent surgery in August 2022 and awoke to the best possible news: the tumor was out, wasn’t cancerous, and hadn’t comprised her spinal disc. Recovery was possible, but it wouldn’t be easy. 

Although Raquel was nervous about tackling the recovery process, she knew she had to give it her all, not only for herself, but in honor of her coworker Liza Fletcher, a fellow runner who passed away shortly after Raquel’s surgery. 

“I knew I owed it to her to try to run again when I was cleared because she couldn’t,” Raquel says. “I knew there would have been no one more encouraging of me getting back into running.” 

When Raquel headed to physical therapy eight weeks post-op, she declared that she would be completing a 5K during St. Jude Memphis Marathon Weekend — three months later. 

Raquel accomplished this goal thanks to her dedication and unwavering commitment and is ready to continue setting personal records and making the most of her running career. 

Her biggest takeaway from this experience? “If you have the capacity to try and recover well, put in the effort. It’s worth it.” 

By Lucy Modzwelewski 

Photo by Tindall Stephens