Runner Overcomes Seizures and Brain Surgery, Returns to New York City Marathon

Danielle Hacet, 30, had brain surgery to remove scar tissue in 2015.

— -- The first clue that something was wrong with Danielle Hacet's brain was when she thought she smelled smoke everywhere.

"At 26, I started smelling fire in random places I would be on airplane, I would be outside," Hacet told ABC News. "Anywhere you could think of I would randomly smell fire."

Hacet initially thought she had a psychological problem, but a neurologist quickly discovered she was having "olefactory hallucinations" and a nerve cell disorder that caused "partial focal seizures." These seizures were virtually undetectable to anyone else, but it meant that Hacet could not drive and could "zone out" at any moment.

"As soon as the doctors heard I had meningitis," Hacet told ABC News, "they said ‘Bingo, we know where this is from.’"

Doctors put her on seizure medication, but nothing seemed to help. Hacet found herself frustrated by the effects of the medications. An avid runner, Hacet, of New York City, found her start times slow.

"I had been interested in surgery from day one," Hacet said. "I didn't like the idea of being on medication for the rest of my life."

In July of last year, after spending years without significant improvement from her medications, Hacet decided to have brain surgery to remove old scar tissue from her brain. Though she was anxious to have the operation, she was unprepared for the aftermath.

"I was incredibly helpless," Hacet recalled, "having to rely on my mom and everyone else."

"It was difficult."

Immediately after the operation, Hacet suffered double vision and an impaired ability to walk, much less run.

"I couldn't walk very well, it was very embarrassing to me to have to be in a wheelchair," said Hacet. While she was recovering, she returned to her parent's home in Louisville, Kentucky.

After weeks of work on regaining her balance, Hacet was delighted to put her running shoes back on for a short two-mile run late last year.

"I only ran like 2 miles or so and I remember being so excited and it was so amazing to be back," said Hacet.

Initially, Hacet's goal was simply to get her health back and said running helped her with her recovery.

"It's a release and it's cathartic," she said.

In January of this year, Hacet had recovered enough from the surgery to run a half-marathon with a friend. After the race, her friend pushed her to do more.

Despite having brain surgery just months earlier, Hacet said she knew she wanted to run New York City’s marathon again. The first time she ran the marathon in 2013, she had been heavily medicated for her seizures. Now, since she had the surgery to stop the seizures and was not as medicated, she felt she was in a better position to train and race.

"I wanted to challenge myself again," Hacet said. "Running is so important to me and has always been a part of my life."

Hacet has been diligently training for the upcoming TCS New York Marathon next month. Since her doctors are weaning her off her seizure medications, her times have already started to improve. Hacet said after the ordeal of the last few years, she is excited to simply complete the race.

Personal fulfillment is the main goal now. "Honestly, [it’s about] just crossing the finish line and proving that I can do it again."

Hacet said she and her friend are working hard to prepare and know it will be worth it.

"We're both just looking forward to cheering when it's over and celebrating right after."