Jamie Giellis Reveals Denver Mayor's Race Secret About Breathing Issue

Jamie Giellis at her announcement for Denver mayor.
Jamie Giellis at her announcement for Denver mayor.

It was a question frequently whispered behind the scenes of the often-nasty Denver mayor's race ultimately won by incumbent Michael Hancock earlier this month: What's the deal with challenger Jamie Giellis's voice?

In comparison with Hancock, a strong speaker with the ability to rouse a crowd at a moment's notice, the former RiNo Art District president could sound wobbly, and after making a point, her inhaling tended to be rough and rattling in ways that could be picked up by microphones.

Giellis finally revealed the secret on her campaign Facebook page on June 17: Throughout the campaign, she'd been battling tracheal stenosis, described by the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center website as "a narrowing of the trachea that causes breathing problems." She's having surgery today to address the problem.

"Many of you asked about my breathing along the campaign trail... now you know the rest of the story," Giellis notes in the introduction to the post, shared below in its entirety. "I'm staying strong and ready to come back even stronger. Thank you, again, for all your wonderful support!"

There's no question that Hancock's campaign team noticed Giellis's breathing issues. Indeed, the suggestion that he and Giellis take part in twelve debates over a three-week period prior to the June 4 runoff vote was seen in some quarters as an attempt to exploit this perceived weakness and perhaps cause the challenger to lose her voice entirely before election day.

Because of scheduling issues, the two faced off in far fewer than twelve debates — a good thing for Hancock following the decision by Denver police officer Leslie Branch-Wise, to whom the mayor admitted sending inappropriate texts during the 2011-2012 period when she was on his security detail, to speak out against him, giving Giellis fresh material. And Giellis's voice held up through the election.

Now the tone of her announcement makes it clear that she doesn't plan to stay silent and simply fade away following her defeat:

Jamie Giellis's Facebook post:

Big day tomorrow....

Many of you noticed — as I made my way along the campaign trail these past seven months — that I sometimes struggled to breathe or had loud breathing. While I opted to keep quiet about this matter publicly, privately it has been a battle that started with landing in the hospital five days after my campaign launch with a rare condition called Tracheal Stenosis.

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. Doctors and specialists have tried everything to treat it, and for the past five months I spent every two-three 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. Tomorrow I'll go into the University of Colorado hospitals to have a section of my trachea and voice box removed. It is an intense surgery that will have me in intensive care and in the hospital for two weeks. Recovery will be slow but should be permanent, and my voice should recover well.

I'm scared, but strong — surrounded by love and support! And I'm 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. #herewego

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