Sunday Reflections

Yes, I know it is Monday.

I was too tired to write yesterday after I got home, so I saved these thoughts for today.

Yesterday was a good day.  I wasn’t feeling too bad and I got through most of a competitor’s practice.  The main thing was that I got through almost all of the standard and it didn’t go to bad.  Boss has me working on relaxing my upper body while still holding myself together from my lets through my core to allow for swing and sway and it seems to be working.  I am also more aware of when I am pulling back my right arm–to the point that I am now almost overcorrecting.  But it’s progress, which I really need in standard right now.

After practice yesterday I took some time to sit down by the ocean and look at the mountains and just think.  A year ago I was in Toronto competing and was named ‘Top Female Student’ for that competition.  I had found the lump in my breast and I was waiting for an ultrasound to tell me what it was.  I was working full-time and incredibly busy getting ready for Remembrance Day. I had no idea my life was about to change so much.

Looking back, it is hard to think that really it has only been a year. It seems so much longer right now.  It seems strange that it is November, the leaves are changing, the clocks have changed and I am still dealing with breast cancer and waiting for it to be over.

It occurred to me yesterday that all along I have been waiting for everything to go back the way it was.  And even though I have always known it never will be, part of me is still hoping and waiting that I will wake up and it will be ok.  I will get up and put on my uniform and go to work.  I will go to workout at the gym.  I will practice. I will work some more. I will go to the studio and have a lesson. I will practice some more. I will come home, shower and go to sleep.  Seems so simple, doesn’t it?

I guess yesterday it dawned on me that I have to put that part of myself to bed.  Even when I do return to work and know I am cancer-free, I will not be the same.  I will be a survivor.  I have learned things about myself in the past year I never thought I would know.  I have discovered I am stronger than I ever thought possible and that I can be an inspiration to others.

This last thing is the most surprising for me.  When I started on this journey, I just wanted to get through it and find a way to keep myself focused.  At first I wasn’t even sure who to tell or how much to tell.  Then it occurred to me that if I planned to live an active life through chemo then I would have to tell those I saw regularly, because it would become obvious when my hair fell out.  In a way I felt I had a choice to either try and hide what was going on by hiding myself away, or I could face it and be active throughout it all.  I chose the latter and I am very grateful I did.  Just telling people helped to make this all seem real to me.

Getting shingles has really brought reality crashing to my door.  Even through chemo and radiation I have not felt so sick, tired, and sore.  I think it is hardest right now because this is supposed to be the time when I would feel the most like myself.  I am supposed to be able to dance regularly and be active and almost like ‘normal’.  Instead I feel more worn out than I ever have in my life.  The good news is that I seem to finally be coming to the end of the shingles.

I had a ‘pre-op’ appointment today, the second of three, but this one really drove home that in just over 3 weeks I am going to have major surgery.  I was given bandages for dressing changes, medications for pain control, and other things to prepare for the surgery and after.  Suddenly, the surgery is becoming real.  I have my third ‘pre-op’ appointment on Wednesday and that will also bring home a lot of things as it is with the Plastic surgeon.

I had some bloodwork done today because it seems something is not quite right with my hormones.  Despite not being on hormone therapy and almost 5 months post-chemo, I am still have regular and intense hot flashes and my body is not showing any signs of returning to what is expected of a 36-year-old woman.  So they are checking to see if the chemotherapy may have triggered early menopause.  If it has, there will be more decisions for me to make and it may mean a difference in what hormone therapy I do.

They are also sending me for an MRI of my breasts to have a look and see what is going on to try and reduce any ‘surprises’ during surgery.  In particular, they are just making sure that my left breast is still healthy and normal to confirm that there is no need to take any lymph nodes from my left side during the surgery.  There is no reason to think that there will be any problems in either breast.  But it still makes me nervous.

I don’t have a lesson today because Boss asked to move it so he could prepare better for working on the smooth waltz and tango later in the week.  Since I am having a lot of pain from the shingles I was more than eager to agree to take the night off.  I am looking forward to working more on the smooth routines, but I really want to be feeling better overall to do it.

Before my surgery, I am going to ask Boss to sit down and have a look at post-surgery goals to lay them out and make sure we are on the same page.  I will write them in my Book of Positives so I have them for after.  Already he has mentioned about adding open steps to my silver routines to make them more ‘open silver’ and more competitive for competing in open categories where there aren’t any step restrictions.  Among other things, I think he has enjoyed working on the solos in the past while and wants to keep moving on that momentum and I am eager to agree.  I like getting outside the box.

So as I looked back yesterday, I guess I realized I need to make some small adjustments to looking forward.  I need to find the ‘new normal’ and keep hanging in there.  It surprises me that after everything I have been through–it is shingles, not cancer, that I am struggling with the most, and is proving to be the most difficult to manage and get through.

But slowly I am getting through it.

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