Meet Adaptive Athlete: Heatherton Cacciapaglia



Heatherton Cacciapaglia

DOB: January 2nd, 1969

DOI: February 2016

Injury: Lumbar Fusion

Heatherton Cacciapaglia

Heatherton was raised on a family farm outside of Fort Collins, Colorado. She was an outdoorsy girl through and through, whether that was riding her horses, camping, whitewater rafting, or skiing. By the age of 16, she had graduated high school early and moved out on her own. 


She loved working from an early age and got a job at a restaurant where she stayed for 15 years, moving up in the ranks until she was responsible for opening new locations all around the country. She then moved on to own a surf shop that flourished, before getting involved in the retail world. 


During this time working as a high tier employee at two department stores, Heatherton gave birth to her son Zachary, 21, and Sofia, 14. She then switched jobs to work for a travel company, flying all around the world to run the retail space at big events. At this point, she began experiencing pain in her left leg but tried to just ignore it.


In February 2016, while at a work event in South Africa, Heatherton felt a pop in her back. She endured the pain and long flight back but ultimately learned that three discs in her lumbar had burst. This led to multiple procedures trying to solve the issue and ultimately a 16-hour operation to replace the three vertebrae with titanium discs and a cage. 


The road to recovery was painful and slow. Heatherton was very limited in her mobility and found the best relief was to walk. She still felt lasting cognitive effects from being put under so many times along with the chronic physical pain in her back. As someone who has been active her entire life, Heatherton got to a point where she knew she had to take her life back.


Her main goal through this ReDefine program is to have better control over her pain management. She found that movement helps her fight depression and would love to be able to live an active lifestyle again pain-free. She’s also really looking forward to being around a community that is focused on healing in a positive way and making strides together.