Jamie Giellis, a political newcomer who ran for Denver mayor in the city election this year and in the runoff that followed, underwent surgery Tuesday to correct a tracheal condition that has made breathing difficult.
Her former campaign spokesperson Meghan Dougherty said it was understood during the campaign that the surgery would be needed once the race was over.
"What she always said during the campaign was that it was not a dangerous procedure but that it was going to take a month to recover," Dougherty said.
Giellis first revealed she would undergo surgery in a Facebook post on Monday: "I'm scared, but strong - surrounded by love and support!" Giellis posted.
She made reference to the labored breathing that was evident during her campaign against incumbent Michael Hancock, who was elected June 4 to a third term.
"Many of you noticed -- as I made my way along the campaign trail these past 7 months -- that I sometimes struggled to breathe or had loud breathing," she wrote.
"While I opted to keep quiet about this matter publicly, privately it has been a battle that started with landing in the hospital 5 days after my campaign launch with a rare condition called Tracheal Stenosis."
The trachea is the tube down the neck -- commonly called the windpipe -- through which air passes between the head and the lungs.
According to Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, "Tracheal stenosis ... is a narrowing of the trachea that causes breathing problems. It can develop when scar tissue forms in a person’s trachea due to prolonged intubation — when a breathing tube is inserted into the trachea to help maintain breathing during a medical procedure — or from a tracheostomy, which is a surgery to create an opening in the neck to access the trachea."
"For reasons we don't and may never know, my trachea is creating its own scar tissue both in my upper trachea and my voice box," Giellis posted.
"Doctors and specialists have tried everything to treat it, and for the past 5 months I spent every 2-3 weeks making a visit to the hospital, undergoing anesthesia, and having them stretch my trachea out just to keep me breathing. But we knew that would never be a long-term solution, and so the time has come to take the big step to address this permanently.
"I'll go into the University of Colorado hospitals to have a section of my trachea and voice box removed," she said the day before the surgery. "It is [an] intense surgery that will have me in intensive care and in the hospital for 2 weeks. Recovery will be slow, but should be permanent, and my voice should recover well."
Giellis added that she's "looking forward to taking this downtime to finalize plans for what's next. Soon I'll only have to worry about the work I love and the city I love, and not always about catching my breath."
Giellis, an urban-planning expert and former president of the River North Arts District, finished in second place in a crowded general-election field and lost to Hancock by 12.66 percentage points in the runoff.
Theresa Marchetta, a spokeswoman for Hancock, said Tuesday in an email that he was aware of the surgery "and is keeping her in his prayers during this time - of course we are all hoping for the very best outcome for her."
"I’m sure when appropriate the Mayor will be reaching out," she added.