Back in the studio

At least a little.

I had about half a lesson tonight–well a whole lesson but we only danced for part of it, the rest we did some evaluation and talking which was needed.

I have had a lot of demons come up about standard lately which I am trying to sort through, and is very hard to do when faced with the changes I am going to experience from my surgery.  They may just need to wait until after when I see how everything works together.

I am going to be returning to competitive practices this weekend, including standard, so that is good.

I took 3 days off to just rest and let my body recover some.  I am still in pain from the shingles, but it is slowly getting better.  The rash is now just a few sores, but really itchy.  The cold burning sensation is lessening some.  I am hopeful I will keep recovering.

It was good to take the time from dance, but I was glad to get back in the studio tonight even if just to dance a little.  We started working on the open smooth waltz routine and I can tell already I am going to look forward to working on these.

We had a talk about competing after my surgery and into the new year.  The plan is/was to do a big competition in the US in the spring, but more and more looking at the exchange rate it doesn’t look like it would be worth it.  It would cost me almost $2000 more after the exchange rate than a comp in Canada right now.  That is worth a pause for sure.  So we are looking at Canadian options for the new year to try and find a competition that has a good depth of field and interesting offers for scholarship and multi-dances.  I have some new research to do.

On a different note–my video of my solo at the competition has had over 4000 views now and has been shared a lot.  I was even interviewed by a local radio station about my experiences dealing with breast cancer and dancing.  It should air on November 7th.  If I can, I will post a link here to the interview.

That’s all for tonight.  Next week I plan to make both my lessons and perhaps even get into the studio for some practice time.  I need to slowly work myself back into activity to keep myself strong before my surgery, while still allowing myself to recover.

WDC World Professional Latin Championships

What a great competition to watch!!

I caught the semi and final on live stream and it was absolutely amazing.  There is a lot going on in the world of latin right now!  Big congrats to Riccardo and Yulia for their win, and to Maurizio and Andra and Stephano and Dasha for their 2nd and 3rd placings!

I actually found the more interesting part of this competition to see who would make the final and the placements from 4-12.  There is a lot of movement going on and Troels and Inna are certainly making an impression.  It was interesting to see that Justinas and Anna came in 7th, just missing the final–very impressive for a new partnership!

I also found it noteworthy that Nino and Anna decided not to compete in this competition and I wonder if it had any relationship to how they placed at the recent ‘International’ competition in the UK.  I had heard a rumour that they blamed politics partly for their placing as he was previously WDSF, but I watched that competition and while they were good there just seemed to be some fluidity lacking to his movements.  I think it is brave of him to decide to compete under WDC especially after being world champion under WDSF, considering the marked differences in styles that is emerging these days.

But I am just an inexperienced amateur in the end, so I fully admit I may not know what I am talking about I just know what I like.

I was a little surprised to see the Jone’s move down to 9th place after making the final at the International, but watching their dancing in the semi there seemed to be moments when they almost seemed anxious and worried and weren’t quite having as much fun as they usually exude.  In some ways, I think their choreography might also be just a little too much on the ‘showcase’ side of things for competitive rounds.

Just my opinion, but I do hope they regroup and hope to see them in the final again at the UK Open in January!

I was also really proud to see that 2 other Canadian couples made the quarter-finals of the championships–Bravo to them!

On a personal note, the hometown performance went really well last night, and now I am done with performing until after my surgery.  Today I am taking it easy and taking the pain meds I am supposed to in order to help my body heal from the shingles and start getting stronger for surgery.  I think I will cancel my lesson tomorrow to give me some more recuperation time and see how I am feeling by Wednesday.  I need to get rid of this pain in order to get the rest I need to get better.  Oddly, once the pain is under control I am stuck with insane itchiness–so calamine lotion is now my best friend.

Moving forward

I have had 2 lessons this week to make small changes to the rumba solo and prepare for performing it in my home town on Saturday night.

Both of them have been hard on me, but I feel it is really important to perform the routine in my home town during Breast Cancer Awareness month, so I am pushing through.

Thankfully, there hasn’t been a lot of work that was needed, but it was really telling, especially in my lesson tonight that I am running out of steam.

This week outside of dance has been hard on me.  I have had a lot of appointments, like dental to fix my chemo cavities, and one of my closest friends left today to deploy at sea.  I have felt all week like I am playing the ‘catch-up’ game for sleep instead of staying ahead of it.  I am still having symptoms from the shingles, although the rash is starting to clear up, which is leaving me with pain and some sores that need to heal. On top of that, I may be experiencing fatigue and pain from the radiation.  It’s hard to tell these days what is causing what.

So, I am very seriously considering taking next week off from dance to give myself time to heal, or to do only one lesson.  I discussed it with Boss tonight and he agrees it might be a good idea.  I won’t make a final decision until Sunday, but it is looking like it might be a no lesson or only one lesson week.

Next week I start some of the pre-op appointments in preparation for my surgery and I think that is waking me up a bit.  My goal right now needs to be healing and recuperating as much as possible before my surgery on Nov. 26th so the recovery from that surgery is as smooth and uncomplicated as possible.  I have almost 5 weeks to go, and there is no reason to push myself once I get past Saturday.  I do need to make sure I stay active until my surgery as that will also help, but I don’t need to push it.

The focus in my lessons starting next week (or when I get back to them) is to work through the smooth routines to get them in my head and my feet so I am not starting from nothing when I return to dance after my surgery.  That should give me something to focus on until my surgery so I don’t drive myself crazy thinking about it until then.

I am worried about saying I will take an entire week off from dance because I can tell my motivation is waning a bit.  I am worried if I slow down too much I won’t be able to get back going again.  I don’t want to fall down that dark path (not that I think Boss would let me!).

I did find out this week that I won’t re-start the hormonal therapy until about 4 weeks after my surgery.  I am still nervous about it, since I never really started it like I was supposed to, and it is hard to say how it will affect me.  But that will be an issue for the new year now.

Lots going on, but right now the 2 weeks before my surgery seem to be pretty clear of appointments and other things and I think that is how it should stay.  The more rest I can get now, without being completely inactive, the better my surgery should go.

I finally listed my dresses for sale, but I need to start spreading out to more sites.  Getting them sold will reduce a lot of financial stress in being able to afford the new dresses I will need after my surgery.  Wish me luck on that!

So I am taking it easy.  I think I have earned it.

Post Comp thoughts

I have had a few days to reflect and catch up after the competition, so now I am going to write down some of my thoughts.

The Girl With the Tree Tattoo recently wrote a post about ‘Post Comp Blues‘ which is really relevant as I also go through my own version of this after an event.

This time it’s a little different because of all the issues and challenges I faced leading up to the event, but certainly my thoughts are quite reflective and introspective.

I had a ‘post-comp’ lesson with Boss yesterday where we took the time to have a look at the videos from the competition, discuss how it went and what the next steps should be.  It was a really good talk and helped to bring some focus into things.  He and I were pretty much on the same page with what we noticed–my legs were much more consistently straighter and I am more grounded than previously, there is some upper body movement, but there needs to be more, and you can see where I was running out of steam as each dance progressed.  He also noted that even though we didn’t really place (nor did I expect to competing against open-level competitors with my silver routines), we did really win the audience.  Several people made a point of saying how much they enjoyed watching us dance.

One of my goals for this competition was to focus on working and connecting with Boss throughout the routines and to increase my expressiveness.  That was something that went really really well throughout the entire competition and Boss even remarked before the evening session that we were really working well together on the floor.  I am taking a victory for that.

It’s hard to know what to think about this competition knowing all the challenges I was facing for it.  I also didn’t compete against anyone at my own level, so really right now I have no idea where I would stand if I were to compete against other silver-level dancers, but Boss thinks I would do really well.

There are small things to fix, of course.  My armwork for the most part was really good, but here and there I would do something that was just not quite what I was looking for.  I would still forget my right arm a little.  My arm movements did look natural.  Most of my footwork was precise, but there were some spots where it could have been much sharper.  I need to work on my ‘flick’ when moving forward.  I still have my leg speed when I need it.

Overall, I am very very glad I did this competition even though I came close to having to cancel.  Even at the competition I had a strong war with myself before deciding to do the evening session.  The competition gave me something to focus on and now I can look back and be proud to know that I did it.

I have 5 weeks until my surgery and it still seems unreal to me that it is going to happen.  I am still feeling the effects of shingles.  I am still experiencing the side-effects from radiation.  I am exhausted.

Boss and I are going to perform my solo at a social dance this weekend for the dancers in my home town.  I am looking forward to the performance, but honestly if I didn’t have a performance I wouldn’t be doing any lessons this week.

Next week, we are going to dive into the smooth routines and try to get them to a workable place before my surgery.  That will be the focus for the 4 weeks leading up to it.

Boss talked a lot about my surgery and the effects it could have on my dancing.  He also talked about some exercises and things he wants me to focus on while I am recovering since I won’t be able to be on the floor.  I am, I guess, a little surprised he had put so much thought into it, because honestly I haven’t yet, but I am glad to know he is already thinking ahead and how he can support post-surgery.  I just haven’t gotten there yet, so it is a little over-whelming to think and talk about.

Boss and I talked briefly about standard yesterday, as I had told him I was having doubts about it and asked him to wait until after the competition to talk about it.  He had some encouraging things to say, but I need to give it more thought for myself before I think I will be really ready to discuss it with Boss.  I don’t plan on making any decisions until after my surgery as there is no point, but it would be good to have the discussion now because perhaps there isn’t a decision to make.  I know I missed standard watching the couples competing in it at the competition and most especially watching Boss compete with one of his other students and that is a big thing to take into consideration.  I am sure I will have more to write about it in the near future.

I guess the main thing that is bothering me a little right now is that I am very much lacking motivation.  I have a lesson tomorrow and part of me can’t imagine having the energy to do it.  I have lessons next week, but I haven’t really gotten to the point of looking forward to them as I usually do.  And I am looking forward to working on the smooth routines.

Mostly right now, I just want to sleep a lot.  I only yesterday stopped taking the anti-viral medication every 4 hours so last night was the first night I was able to sleep without having to wake up to take them.  I hope with some sleep I will ‘perk-up’.

More to follow.

Post Comp

I made it through!

Honestly, until I finished I wasn’t sure if I would.  But I was able to get through all my dances, starting from my solo to my last 5-dance event.  I got really high marks from all judges for my solo and the main comment was to make sure I always close my feet, but the solo itself went really well.

I will write some more thoughts about the competition later on, but for now I will say it was a really well-run competition for a first year comp and one of the better competitions in the local area.  I wish there were more pro/am competitors at my level, but generally in the area the competitors are either above or below me or older so that makes competing here tricky.

I will leave you with a video of my solo.  I am usually very good about keeping the veil over my blog, but in this case I am going to make an exception.  This solo was done to represent my journey dancing through cancer treatments and I dedicate it to all those fighting the battle with cancer–no matter what type.  Boss did an amazing job on the choreography and I couldn’t ask for more.

Here you go: ‘Fight Song’

I hope you enjoy!

Final preps

The Competition is tomorrow!

It still seems surreal to me, and I keep asking myself–“Am I really doing this?”

Yep, I am.  And I know that even with the shingles and fatigue and all the other craziness I have faced lately that if I didn’t do it, it would always sit bad with me.  I would feel like I let an opportunity pass me by.  Doing this competition has so far accomplished what I had hoped–it has given me something to focus on while I recovered from radiation and kept me from worrying about my surgery.  I don’t think I would have gotten through the last 3 weeks without this competition to focus on and keep me motivated.

Speaking of craziness, though–I have a friend who is soon deploying for almost 3 months who has to ship his pets to his family back east from the mainland.  Originally, I had volunteered to help him out with the transport of his fur babies and it was supposed to happen next week.  Unfortunately, some issues came up with where the animals are going and they have to be shipped today.  So in a few hours I am off to the mainland and back!  It’s unexpected the day before the comp, but doable with some advanced planning.

I won’t be back on the Island until almost 11 pm, so once I finish my morning coffee, I am packing up all my dance stuff which Boss will pick up so it will be in the car for tomorrow.  Myself and one of Boss’s other student are going to stay the night at his third student’s house as it is much closer to the ferry and will save us time in the morning.  Boss will meet us at 6 am for the 7 am ferry. OY!

This planning already brings me back to the last competition I did in January.  We ended up doing a similar thing.  We took the 7 am ferry together the morning the competition started, so it was an early day.  On the ferry, we paid the extra $10 to sit in the ‘lounge’, which is just a quiet area, and stuck to ourselves doing hair and make-up on the ferry.  It’s an hour and a half sail, so by the time we docked, we were all decked out.  That is the plan again this time.

The good thing about tomorrow is that we dance in the late morning to early afternoon, but then we have a big break that allows us to check into our hotel room, eat and (especially for me!) have a nap.  None of us dance again until the later evening session so we should get a good rest in.

The only big downside right now is that yesterday the blisters in the shingles rash started ‘popping’.  That means I have some open, raw skin on my back and more to come.  I was really hoping it would wait until Sunday or Monday to do that.  I have some dressing to put over it to protect it and the pain is manageable without pain meds.  I have cut back to only taking them at night so they don’t affect dance.

I had a lesson and practice yesterday and everything went well.  Boss recorded the solo and it is looking pretty good.  Some parts looked much better than I expected and we went through it from top to bottom about 5 times yesterday.  At the end of last night, I also went through all 5 dances, including a Paso with 3 highlights, so I know it is possible for me to do it.  My energy level was actually pretty good through them.  I am feeling pretty good about the preparations for this competition.  Boss made a point of saying the same last night–that he is really please with how things are looking.

Well, I should get onto packing my stuff together.  Wish me luck, and I will probably post on Sunday to let you know how it went as I won’t be taking my computer with me.

Less than a week

The competition is Saturday.

That started to sink in today.  Especially since I spent the last couple days pretty much in a drug-induced coma trying to withstand the shingles.

Thankfully,  I started to feel better today, and I can see that the rash is much less red.  I have been able to cut way back on the pain killers, and therefore the sleep.  Slowly I am starting to feel a little human, although I have to keep taking anti-viral meds every 4 hours for the rest of the week.  That is playing havoc on my sleep as I can only get about 3-3 1/2 hours at a time.  The important thing is that the medication is starting to work, and that is enough to keep me taking it as I need to.  I have a pattern of basically hear alarm, take meds, re-set alarm for 4 hours, sleep, repeat.

Tomorrow I go back to the dance studio.  I won’t say I am ready, but I am at least much more functional and my head is starting to clear out the pain meds, so I can at least think.

Boss received our heat list, and one of our 3-dance events got upgraded to  5-dance event free of charge.  It is an unexpected surprise.  Thankfully, there are 40 minutes to recover between the two events and it looks like 3 different couples in each event.  As they are open latin and I am doing silver routines I am fully prepared to come in 3rd 🙂

Usually this close to a competition my head is swimming with considerations like how to do my hair, make-up, what to pack, etc.  For some reason I am not there yet with this event, although I am sure once my head really clears I will be.  There just seems like a lot of week to get through first!

Shingles

Say what? Aren’t they on roofs?

Apparently not always.

I think I mentioned I broke out in a rash and thought it might have been the side effects for the pain meds I was taking.  After googling the possible side effects, I realized it was not and since it was worse today I dragged myself back to the ER.

It took them about 30 seconds to diagnose me with shingles.

Apparently being a cancer patient and undergoing radiation puts you at risk for shingles and it is an uncommon side effect.  Certainly not one that was on my radar, for sure.

Aside from the rash, it causes debilitating nerve pain and that is what I have been experiencing for the past week.

There is a silver lining.

Because I went to the ER within 72 hours of the rash appearing, I am able to take anti-viral medication to shorten the time period the condition will last.  With the anti-virals plus multiple pain medications I should be feeling much better by early next week.

The only limit on my activity is what I can tolerate through the pain and because it is nerve pain moving helps control it.

So after a bit of a break, I should be back to dance early next week and somehow still able to do the competition next weekend.

There is nothing like making things as challenging as possible for me to reach my goal of dancing through this.

My first concern was that I was contagious–afterall, shingles is a reactivation of the chicken pox–and more so because Boss told me he has never had chicken pox–but the doctors told me I am not contagious unless someone comes in direct contact with the rash, which is very unlikely as it is on my back and breast and not in any exposed areas.

Whew! I don’t know what I would do if I had unwillingly and unknowingly made Boss sick right before a competition.

We did have one competition way back in the beginning of 2014 when we both came down with the flu during the comp, but it was the tail end of the comp and we managed.  The entire group almost ended up sick in the end.

I am just glad this is not so much a ‘show-stopper’ as I was fearing, and that I am not contagious.  I had to cancel my lesson today as I was obviously feeling quite miserable, but Boss said we should be able to make it up on Tuesday.  I hope by then I am feeling better.

Truthfully, I am pretty disheartened by this news.  I am glad it is not anything worse (although it’s bad enough!), but on top of everything else I am dealing with it really just seems unfair.  Not that life is ever fair, but I guess I was just really hoping for a break :). That said, I did have a fairly easy time through chemo (as far as chemo can be easy!), so in a way I guess I was due for something bad from radiation.  Just to keep things balanced.  I am hopeful that this all means that my surgery will be complication-free so I can finally move forward with my life without too many lasting issues from cancer.

So today I start taking anti-virals every 4 hours, which includes waking up to take them.  I was pretty much waking up that often to take my pain meds, so it is not too much different.

In 2 weeks, all of this will be behind me and I can look back and be relieved to have gotten through it.

Just have to get there 🙂

Giving my all

Sorry I haven’t written much lately.

The bottom line is that I am still in a lot of pain.  I ended up going to the emergency room Tuesday night to get even stronger pain meds and I have been living in a bit of a pain med fog for 2 days now.  I am trying to cut back on how many I am taking, but it is looking like that is a bad idea.

We still don’t know if it’s the radiation or hormone therapy that caused this.  It could even be a combination of both.  For now, the hormone therapy is on hold until I get past this, then I imagine I will have to try it again.  When they told me I might experience some ‘pain’ post-radiation, they never said to the point that I would need pain meds more than ibuprofen.  I feel like they completely side-swiped me with this.  At least, in some ways, it is getting a little bit better.  The pain has moved from my back more to my front now which is making it a little easier to relax.  The best way to describe it is a constant sharp burning with radiating ‘buzzing’ that travels through the tissues.

Ironically, the best thing for managing the pain is to move as much as possible. So, despite taking heavy pain killers I have continued to have lessons and even got through a competitive run-through last night.  We have been working to polish the solo now that we have the ending and sharpen up some of the spots in between.  Last night, I was able to dance all 5 latin dances for 1:30 in a row, which completely surprised myself.  I figure if I can get through 5 dances in a row now, while taking heavy pain meds, I should be ok for the competition next weekend.

Hard to believe I will be competing in a week.  Especially right now trying to deal with ongoing pain.  But I am committed to it and I have been through worse.  My schedule for the day is pretty good–we dance late morning to early afternoon and then we don’t dance again until mid-evening.  That gives me a good break to recover and perhaps have a nap.

Going to the title of my post, I had an interesting impromptu conversation with Boss last night after the run-throughs.  He made a comment about how it is so amazing that despite how much my body is going through, I am still able to dance and not just run through steps.  I almost dance better now than I did a year ago before I found the first lump.  His point was that despite everything that is going on with my body (and it is going through a lot!) he has never felt the need to simplify any of my dancing or my steps.  Even in the rumba he choreographed it as though there was nothing wrong with me.

That’s one of the things I really appreciate about Boss.  From the very beginning when we found out that I would have to do chemo and radiation he decided to just keep going as he planned and adjust only if really needed.  There has been very little he has needed to adjust.  I have had a few lessons where we just ended up reviewing routines instead of working on technique or something else, but for the most part it’s been full steam ahead, and his thinking has mirrored my own.

My theory is that if I keep working hard while my body is having to cope with things like equilibrium issues, dizziness, light-headedness and muscle weaknesses it is forcing my balance to become better and more attuned, my endurance to become stronger and in general preparing me to be a better, stronger dancer when I am completely healthy again.

I just hope that theory becomes reality, but that was the basis of my conversation with Boss last night–that I am able to dance so well while sick, hurting and highly medicated–what would I be able to dance like if I was healthy?

Time will tell.  For now I am continuing to ‘put my all’ into every step I do to see where it takes me.

Big Hiccup

I spent the night in excruciating pain.

Needless to say, my morning began with a visit to the health clinic.  The first thing they were able to eliminate is that the pain is not musculature and I haven’t injured myself.  The pain is very deep in the tissue and bones. But that was about as much as they could figure out there.  I was in so much pain they gave me a shot of pain killers to try and control it.

Thankfully, the doctor at the clinic was able to get in touch with my radiation oncologist to get some answers–neither of which are very promising.

The pain could be one of two things (or potentially both).  First, it could be a side effect from the hormone therapy.  So the answer there is to stop taking it and see if it subsides in a couple days.

The second, more likely, culprit is radiation side effects as damaged nerves and tissue are starting to heal.  If that is the case then the pain could last another 2 weeks. I knew I might get some pain post-radiation, but I never expected pain on a level like this.  I was in less pain after my first surgery and parts of me were removed.

Yikes.

The only thing they can do for me right now is prescribe pain killers, and have me move my arm and be as active as possible.

I am still waiting for the pain meds they gave me this morning to kick in so I can relax.  If they don’t help by this afternoon, I have to go back to the clinic for even stronger medications. I am all for moving, but you can only move your arm around so much before you have to stop.  Since it is my right side, I am hoping doing something like knitting or cross-stitch might help.

It’s having to take the prescription pain meds to help my body heal that worries me.  I can’t drive while taking them.  On top of that, they make me dizzy and light-headed, which is not helpful in dancing.  The pain is also keeping me from sleeping well, so on top of the radiation fatigue I am doubly exhausted.

I have a competition in 11 days.

At least dance helps, not hinders the pain, but certainly I won’t be doing any quality dancing for the next little while.

I am hopeful this is just the HT and the pain will go away or at least really diminish in the next couple days.

If it’s the radiation….well I have been dealing with the pain since Thursday so far, this Thursday will be a week and hopefully it will diminish by mid next week in time for the competition.

Otherwise, I will just go without pain meds, grin and bear it.  It wouldn’t be the first time.

So, fingers and toes are crossed, arms are moving, and I am just plain hoping.

We’ll see how it goes, shall we?