I’m Back…

Sort of…

I am home anyway.

The surgery went well, but I was under for 11 hours total.  I am pretty uncomfortable right now, but I wouldn’t say in a lot of pain.  There is some obviously.

I have 4 drains that are still draining fluid out, but they should be taken out on Thursday. At least two of them.  That should make a huge difference in my comfort level.

I have seen the new ‘girls’ and I have to say I am impressed.  They don’t look much different than my old ones.  They are swollen right now, so very similar in size although eventually they should be smaller.

Haven’t really had a chance to look at my belly since it is still bandaged and I have to wear an abdominal binder.  I can tell I am smaller, and that in itself is quite weird.  I can tell when I walk my centre of gravity is different.  My weight is more over my heels than my toes because I am not carrying as much in front.  I wonder if a non-dancer would notice that.

Recovery will be slow and steady.  The goal right now is to get some of my drains out.  I am walking almost upright, and in short bursts.  Eating well to give my body the best chance to heal.

I will keep you updated.

Ready or not….

I think I am as ready as I am going to get.

Had my last lesson and we recorded the ‘open silver’ variations for 4 of my 5 latin routines so we don’t forget them during the break.

Kept myself busy today to try not to think about tomorrow too much.  Did laundry so all my bedding is clean, touched base with my mom (who arrives Tuesday night), heard from my (work) bosses to wish me well.

I have been making sure that I am hydrated and eating lots of protein.  My bag is packed except some personal items I need to add in the morning.

I really just need to take off my fitbit and jewelry, take the two required anti-bacterial showers (one tonight, one tomorrow morning), try to get some sleep and get to the hospital for 6 am.

I have been feeling anxious the last few days, but right now I almost feel a little energetic.  I have been waiting for this surgery every since my first pathology results came back requiring the second one, so almost 1 year.

I am ready for this journey to be over.

I will post as soon as I can to let you know how I am doing.


And then there was one…

Lesson left, that is.

Everything seems very surreal right now.

First, in case I forgot to say yesterday, my pre-op mammogram I had last week came back with no issues.  So it looks like my pathology from my surgery will be clear, and in about 2 weeks I will be declared ‘cancer-free’.

Cancer-free.  I have been waiting to hear that for more than a year now, so my fingers are well crossed.

My lesson yesterday was not great, but we managed to get done what we hoped to get done.  We recorded all the smooth routines with the timing.

I just couldn’t concentrate or focus.  For the first time I could really feel the stress of everything coming together and getting duped by fraud was only one part of it.

I cleaned my apartment today and starting packing a little.  Tomorrow I will do laundry and finish packing.  I have to be at the hospital for 6 am Thursday morning.

I have my last lesson tomorrow, and the plan is to record the rest of my routines, including some of the changes we did in the latin routines on Sunday.  I hope my mind will be a little more focused.

Is it strange that I don’t want anyone coming with me to the hospital on Thursday?  I don’t know why, but it just seems like this is something I need to face alone.

Don’t get me wrong, I have lots of support, and I know people are there if I need them, but somehow this just seems to be a private thing for me.

Perhaps it is just that this surgery is going to really rearrange my body and make big changes.  For starters, I am saying good-bye to my nipples.  My breasts are going to be smaller.  There is going to be a change in my belly.

I have no idea what this is going to look like when it is done.  I have heard I could have a ‘flat tummy’, but then I have also heard not to expect that.  I am going to have drains for a few days and be swollen.  I could end up with my bottom half smaller than my top.  There are a lot of variables.

I actually feel bad because I know I should focus on the fact that this will make me finally better and cancer-free, but a big part of me is focused on the reconstruction.  I am vainly hoping that the smaller breasts and belly will help me come a long way in my long weight loss journey.  I am looking forward to getting back to regular activity and finally being able to lose the last weight I want to lose.  But there is a big part of me that is hoping that after everything I have come through that I will receive a tiny reward of new smaller perky breasts and a flat tummy.  At least then I just need to work on my bum and thighs.

Is it wrong to hope for that?

I am worried about how all of this will affect dance, or if it will at all.  8 weeks with no dance seems like an eternity right now, although I am sure the first few weeks will be blury and quick.

I guess I just feel ‘on the verge’ of a lot of things.  Hanging right at the edge and not sure what is going to happen when I jump off.

But I am going to survive that jump, and that’s the important part.  Everything after I jump is uphill from there, little by little.  I can start rebuilding, and I can start moving forward again.

I think it feels surreal for me because for the first time in more than a year I will finish something and there is no ‘next step’ or ‘next phase’ of treatment.  Yes, I do have hormonal therapy to start, but somehow that is different.  Probably because it will become a regular part of my life for the next 5 years if I can tolerate it.

So many people are rooting for me and I am so blessed in that.  I want to come out of this surgery smiling and happy with the results.  I want to know it was the right thing for me.  I want to know this journey is over so a new one can begin.

After I had my first surgery, I told myself that 2015 is going to be the year I beat cancer.

And so it is going to be.

1 more lesson, and one more phase of treatment.

Fraud :(

I became a victim today of fraud.

I feel very stupid for failing to realize what was going on.  I missed so many details that were telling me something was off.  On top of that, I had even received a fraud alert describing the exact scam I fell victim to.

It has to do with selling my ballroom dresses.  I still have them, but I lost more than $1000 thinking they were sold.  I fell victim to the same person twice.

I have posted several ads on several sites trying to sell my dresses and last week I received an email inquiry asking for details and expressing interest in one of my dresses.  The following day I received a second email about my second ad (supposedly from someone else).

Both inquiries asked the right questions–confirm the price, what was the condition, did I have more pictures, etc.  Both inquirers said the dress was to be a gift for someone.  I had a feeling it was the same person, but I just thought they were using 2 different accounts to inquire.  Both wanted to use paypal to pay for the dresses.

I responded that the dresses were in good condition, and that I was ok accepting paypal, but that I wasn’t very familiar with how it worked.  Mistake #1.

I went to paypal and sent an invoice, thinking that is how I would get paid.  In the meantime, I received an email saying that the inquirer could only pay by paypal because they were an oceanographer and out at sea and couldn’t access their bank account online, only their paypal account.

This played right into me.  Because of my job, I have been in a situation where I have been limited in what I could do online, including access to my bank account.  The inquirer must have done some research about me online to know how I could relate to that.

Next, the inquirer explained they wanted to use a ‘pick-up agent’ to pick up the item, verify it’s condition and ship it to them.  I had never heard of this before, but since I have never bought anything online from a private seller I had no reason to think this was strange.

They then explained that this ‘agent’ would only accept ‘Moneygram’ and could they add the amount for the agent to the amount I would receive via paypal and could I send it to the agent?

Trying to be helpful I agreed.  I then received an email from ‘paypal’ later that day saying that my invoice had been paid and the funds deducted from the inquirer’s account, but were being held by paypal until I proved I had sent the money to the ‘agent’ via Moneygram.  The email said paypal was trying to protect both of us by holding the money.

This was the first fake email from paypal, and it never occurred to me to check my paypal account, look really closely at the email, or that it was strange I had to pay money before receiving it.

I sent the money, which was picked up, of course.  Once I provided the moneygram reference number to ‘paypal’, I received an email saying the funds would be released in 24 hours. Then I received emails from the ‘agent’ arranging for pick up of the dress.

Next, I received an email from ‘paypal’ saying the amount I was to receive had been increased, and was again on hold until ‘custom fees’ were paid to the ‘agent’ via moneygram.  Same procedure.

Stupidly, I again sent money, and again received confirmation my account would be credited within 24 hours.

I got suspicious when the dress wasn’t picked up as arranged, and when the second inquirer started following the same track.  At that point, I called paypal and found out it was all fake.

I was able to cancel only one of 3 moneygram transfers before it was picked up.  The other two amounts, I lost, and will likely never see again.  When I cancelled the moneygram I got two emails rather quickly–first from the first inquirer asking why it was cancelled, and second from the second inquirer aggressively demanding the ‘custom fees’ for the second dress.

I reported the incident to paypal, moneygram, the website where the ad was posted, the police and Canadian Fraud Bureau.  I don’t expect to see my money again.

I really do feel stupid because I missed a lot of details and my instincts were telling me something was off and I ignored them.  I was just so relieved that I might have my dresses sold before my surgery it blinded me. Add in that I am exhausted, stressed, and that I read most of the emails late at night while pacing with insomnia and it was a bad combination.

At least I got some of the money back, and I still have both dresses.  I also know that paypal does not ever hold money like that, or request payments be made through another provider.  It was an expensive lesson to learn though.  Basically all my competition savings are gone.

Hard lesson learned.

I will write about my lesson tonight tomorrow.  1 lesson left.

Coming to the finish line

Today was my last practice before my surgery and yesterday was my last social dance.

Practice today was interesting because it was only in latin, and Boss and I were going through my routines, but at the same time he had me experimenting with different ways to open the choreography, like adding spirals and spins in a few places.  It was a different way to work and good fun.

It was an extra practice I didn’t expect to have, but I was glad for the opportunity to get out and be focused on something.  It was also my last chance for a while to go to the weekly competitor’s lunch and socialize with the other local competitors.

The social dance last night was also fun.  For the first time in a long time, I actually felt like I had energy.  It was the same for the practice today too.  It was good to feel because truthfully I have been a little concerned that I am too run down before my surgery.  To have some energy was really encouraging!  I found myself even playing a little tossing in extra spins here and there where I could…just cause 🙂

My lesson on Friday was also great.  We got through the American Viennese Waltz routine quicker than expected and were able to tack on a little bit of extra choreography to the end in the extra time.  By the end of the lesson, we had finished the 4th of 4 open smooth routines.  Now we just have to remember them!

My next lesson is tomorrow and the plan is to start recording my routines–first so we have them to refer back to later, and second so I have them while I am recovering to look at and use for visualization.  It’s part of the motivation for me.

Previously, I did something similar when I was away for work.  I couldn’t dance my routines at all with a partner and didn’t have a lot of space to do full routines.  I had a showcase I was doing a week after I got back.  So I had a recording of each of my routines (there were only 3) which I watched everyday and then visualized myself doing them.  When I got back to lessons and the studio, I not only could remember the routines, but I had also improved some of the styling and technique!

Since then, I have never underestimated the power of visualization.  That is why I plan to make it a regular part of my recovery.

On a different note–I have sold both of my competitive dresses!  This gives me a big chunk towards affording my 3 new ones, even if they can’t be started until February.  It is a bit of a load off to have them sold before my surgery and not have to worry so much about affording the new ones.

2 more lessons until surgery.

3 for smooth

I had an extra lesson and a practice with Boss tonight.

During my lesson, we took the time to review the American Waltz, Tango and Foxtrot to make sure we both remember them.  Boss also had me take some notes for him since all he has are my notes which are not very relevant for him.

Tomorrow we are going to dive into the Viennese Waltz routine, which neither of us seem to be able to completely understand from my notes–so that should be interesting.

I am really enjoying working on the smooth routines.  I was thinking today during my lesson that they really are a nice blend between latin and standard.  Like the beauty of standard with the expressiveness of latin all built into one.  I can see why smooth is so popular.  With a little bit of luck, we might be ready to put them on the floor at a local competition in April–depending on how my recovery goes.

The practice went well, but for some reason I have been feeling really ‘tight’ through the upper back and shoulders and that was showing when I was dancing.  In general, I am ‘tense’.

Tenseness aside, I did have some good moments tonight, especially in tango.  I know I must be doing something really right when he has commented on it being good twice in a row.  It seems I have figured out fallaway position really well.  I only have fallaways in tango right now, but slowly I am starting to see where that position is in elements of other steps in other dances (back whisks in waltz immediately come to mind…).  I need to let my mind process that a little to see what comes of it.

Boss told me tonight that there might be an opportunity for me to do some coaching lessons in standard (with the same coach that was here back in June) in January.  It would be near the end of the month and around a local competition I am thinking about going to watch (I won’t be able to even think about dancing until Jan 21–according to my surgeon).  Probably it is going to be far too soon after my surgery, but it is something to sort of look forward to or perhaps like a recovery goal.  Whether I do it or not will completely depend on how my healing goes.

I think the ‘tenseness’ is just stress really.  I have a lot going on as finish the preparations for my surgery and I am still trying not to think too much about the surgery itself.

I got a phone call yesterday and today from the hospital just to gather information and make sure I am ready to be admitted.  Slowly all the pieces are falling into place.  I have to call my family doctor tomorrow to see if my mammogram results are back from Monday.  I just don’t want any surprises.

3 more lessons until surgery–tomorrow, Monday and Wednesday.  I am probably going to go social dancing this weekend as well–to help pass the time and because it will be my last chance until at least January.

Pro Latin Couples

I have mentioned before that I absolutely love watching dance.  I even don’t mind sitting at a social dance to watch other couples to see what they are doing.

So I figured today I would share a bit about 3 Pro Latin couples who are exciting me a little bit. Just keep in mind I am just an amateur dancer who likes to watch 🙂

The first couple is Maurizio and Andra.

I love the showmanship of this couple.  Maurizio is an amazing performer and there is something about this couple that just always manages to draw me in.  Since they are Canadian, I hope one day to see them perform live–that is a huge dream of mine and something for my ‘post-cancer’ bucket list.  I am going to post a video here of their recent performance that the Kremlin Cup and all I can say is ‘wow’. Among other things, that song had only been out for a few weeks–so when did they have time to put together such an amazing routine????


The second couple is Troels and Inna.

This couple were champions as amateurs and switched to professionals in time for Blackpool last year.  They have added a new element to the world of pro latin, especially with all the recent retirements, and they are a couple I am watching closely.  Every time I see them perform I like them more and more and I am eager to watch them continue to grow in the pro ranks.  I love how in-sync they are with each other and what amazing speed!  Here is a samba from the world championships:


The third couple is Nino and Anna.

This might surprise some people, but these two have captured my attention and I am liking what I see.  When they first started competing at the International last fall, they didn’t do too well and I will admit they didn’t appeal to me at all.  I saw a lot of amazing spinning and tricks, but not a lot of flow and continuity between them.  He is so fast with his feet, but I found his movement tended to stop completely when his feet weren’t moving. I do give huge kudos to Nino for switching from being a World Amateur Champ under WDSF to competing Pro for WDC as that involves a complete change of style.  They most recently competed in Assen and the difference, especially in his movement between Assen and the International is huge.  They also jumped several placings skipping over couples who had previously placed higher and even stole some marks from Neil and Katya.  It’s this change that captured my attention and makes me very eager to see how they progress in future comps.  I am going to provide 2 videos for this couple–one from the International and one from Assen so you can hopefully see the same difference I see.  I notice it mostly in the breaks and New Yorks.



So those are 3 couples I am keeping an eye on and can’t wait to see perform again.  I hope you like the videos 🙂




Dancing through Cancer

Just wanted to write quickly that tonight we started working on our Amercian Foxtrot routine.  I still seem to be worn out and honestly, it seemed like I went through my lesson on a bit of auto-pilot tonight.  Boss was talking and showing me things, but nothing seemed to be sinking in (although I could find out at my next lesson that it did).

What I wanted to share tonight was a podcast of an interview I did for a local radio station about my experiences with breast cancer and dancing through treatment.  Following my interview is a great interview with a radiation oncologist.

You can listen to the interview here.

Sometimes I guess it’s good to drop the curtain and tell things in my own words, beyond the writing.

As a small bonus, Boss has had to shorten enough of my lessons by 15 minutes that I have an extra 45 min lesson before my surgery.

So I am back to 4 lessons until surgery.

Tomorrow I am going to post some about a few of my favourite latin couples, so stay tuned….

Endurance, issues?

I had a social dance last night and competitive practice today.

Both actually went pretty good.  I did a lot of dancing last night at the social dance, but the biggest surprise was that I was able to do a full-on jive with one of more advanced leaders in the community and I made it through the whole song.  It was early in the night, but I did the jive, cha cha and a rumba back to back and that felt great.

Unfortunately, I started tiring out pretty quickly after that and by the end of the night my back and shoulders were so tired and aching I could barely hold a standard frame.  But overall, it was definitely an improvement from previous weeks.

competitive practice today actually went pretty well.  Boss is working on getting me to relax my frame some in standard to allow myself to do and follow the swing and sway he is leading and somewhere after the first foxtrot it ‘clicked’ together.  Because I wasn’t so focused on holding my frame tight I was able to notice when he was leading sway and once I noticed I was able to react to it.  I started taking the opportunity to move through the sway and stretch myself into the movement.  Basically I told myself if I am going to do it, then I should try to do as much as I can.

I didn’t tell Boss what I was doing, but he commented about seeing a difference, especially in foxtrot, so that’s a small win for me :).

He also told me my fallaway position in tango was much improved and that I should try to do the same thing in some of my other promenade moves where I am not doing the same thing.  I have no idea when I sorted out my fallaway position since I hadn’t actively worked on it, but it seems to be one of those things that stuck from one of my coaching lessons back in July I have been trying to do since.  That happens sometimes.  Once I tried adding it to the other steps, they all made more sense.

He also got me to add ‘swing’ to my natural turns in Viennese Waltz, and to think of opening up my steps leading into lock steps in quick step, whether forward or backwards.  Both of these are going to need to take some processing, but I will let my subconscious work on them.

The one thing that did upset me was my endurance.  While better than previous weeks in some dances, other dances it was not so much.  The most difficult thing was that I literally went from 100% to 0 in the space of two steps and had to stop or risk falling down.  I got dizzy really easy today.  That said, I could also tell I was working harder today than I have been able to do at previous practices.  Endurance issues aside, today was the first time in a long time I could see a glimmer of the physically strong dancer I used to be, and that is encouraging.

Latin also went really well today.  For some reason it surprises me that Boss is so enthusiastic and excited about my latin right now.  He has some definite ideas about how he wants to make small changes to my routines to make them ‘open silver’ and he mentioned some of them today.  I could tell he has been giving it some serious thought.  As long as the ideas stay mostly in his head, it is hard for me to get as excited, but I am looking forward to seeing what he has in mind.

Today may have been my last practice before my surgery because there won’t be competitive practice next week due to hall conflicts.  There are some other options for practice we might use, so I will have to see what Boss comes up with for suggestions.

I am a little sad that in the last 2 practices some things have really ‘clicked’ together in standard that is giving it some momentum it was lacking previously and I don’t want to lose that.  It’s been a while since I have felt good about standard and like I am doing something other than maintaining the status quo.

I have adjusted to the idea of being in menopause and that the symptoms aren’t likely to go away any time soon.  I think that is what I was mostly upset about–I was hoping the bloodwork might show an ‘end’ to the hot flashes, night sweats, fatigue, weakness, achiness, and insomnia.  It’s been a while since I have slept through a full night without waking up with severe night sweats.  I am hoping when I restart the hormone therapy in January that might help regulate things and let my body adjust.  The activity helps a lot, so in case I needed another reason to dance, I have one 🙂

I have a busy week ahead.  Tomorrow is my pre-surgery mammogram to just make sure there are no ‘surprises’ when I have my surgery requiring them to do more than they expect.  Hard to imagine the surgery is less than two weeks now.  I am starting to get to a point where I am asking myself ‘Am I really going to do this?’

Yep, I am and it is getting more real every day.  Thankfully I have some good friends who are helping to keep me distracted and 4 dance lessons 🙂

Uneasy news

I had some bloodwork run last week to look into some of the things that are ongoing since chemo.

Just a warning, this post is going to be a ‘cancer’ post and not about dance.

I got the results today, and while I am fine in general, I am not really sure how to process this news.  I should have known, but I guess part of me was hoping for something different.

My bloodwork confirmed that I am in menopause.  I am 36, single and have no kids.

It is unclear right now if it is permanent or temporary and all we can do is wait to see what happens in the next 18 months.

I have been having extremely intense full body hot flashes since about a month after I finished chemo.  I think part of me was thinking it was a sign that my ovaries were waking back up after chemo and trying to get back to normal.  According to my bloodwork, they aren’t even stirring.  From a cancer point of view, it is actually a good thing because my body is not producing any hormones for cancer to feed off of.  I will still re-start the hormone therapy in January as planned because nothing is confirmed.

My doctor explained that sometimes, it just takes the body a little longer to get back to normal after chemo.  But at the same time, I knew before I started chemo that this was a possibility.  We even discussed whether or not I wanted to freeze some eggs, just in case, although my doctor recommended against it because I would have had to take a high dose of cancer-feeding hormones before harvesting.

I guess my head is just spinning a bit with this news.  There is still a chance it is temporary and it’s only been 6 months since chemo.  I guess sometimes you don’t realize how much something matters to you until it is not there.  There was a time in my life that having children was a real possibility, but that didn’t work out.  And while it is not something that was sitting imminently on my radar, I guess I hadn’t completely ruled out that possibility for the future.  I suppose it still is possible that my ovaries might get the message my brain keeps trying to tell them–hey wake up we are only 36!

I think one of the most difficult things about this is that all I can do is wait.  There is nothing that can really be done to even help with the symptoms I am experiencing.  I can’t take the usual hormone replacement therapy because my cancer likes to eat hormones.  I just have to stick it out and hope it gets better with time.  It’ll help when I can get a little more active again I hope.

So, not the end of the world, but certainly not what I expected or was hoping for.  I guess in some ways I feel like cancer may have made some more life choices for me and I resent that.  In some ways, this is another reminder that no matter how hard I try to get back to how things were ‘before’, it is impossible.  I can only move forward.

On a different note, I went to buy some post-surgery clothes today, including giant button-up shirts and drawstring pants to wear while I recover.  All of it, by coincidence is in a plaid pattern.  And all of it is going to clash together.  I am really going to be hard on the eyes for a couple weeks :).

Only time can tell how I will come through this, but I will come through this.  I will adjust.  Life is never a straight path but full of twists and turns, all of which are navigable, some of which are unexpected.  It will be interesting to see what I write a year from now and how different I will be from the person I am now.

That’s how growth happens.  We take the good with the bad and move forward.