Unexpected change of plans

The ovarian suppression has stopped working.

For the gents reading, be warned this will be a women’s health post.

As I have mentioned, I was switched to a type of ovarian suppression via injection for hormone therapy 3 months ago.  The first two months went exactly as expected.  This month, it seems the injection only lasted less than a week.

I had been feeling pretty ‘off’ meaning emotional, depressed, achy, headaches and nausea for about a week, but I honestly put it down to a combination of stress and side effects from the injection attributed to my estrogen levels dropping quite low.

It turns out, this was exactly what I should have realized it was–PMDD symptoms, or extreme PMS.  Last night I suddenly had a period start, which is a huge ‘no no’ with this type of treatment.  Basically, my ovaries have overcome the ovarian suppression and have continued to produce estrogen.

Industrious little B*T*H*S.

Knowing that a period was not a good sign, I called my oncologist this morning to see what, if anything can be done and what will be the next step.  Basically, since the Zoladex is not working, he is going to try switching me to a similar ovarian suppressor named Lupron.  This is apparently a stronger suppressor, and instead of an injection once/month, it is for 3 months at a time.  On top of that, I have been told I must start the additional estrogen blocker next week, instead of the first week of march as I planned.

I get the new injection tomorrow.  I am a little angry about this as I will have to miss an hour of school to get it, and once again there is no way to know what side effects this injection will have, or what side effects the estrogen blocker will have as well.  I have one more week left to my masters residency, so I am optimistic that the result from this injection will be similar to how I felt after the injection of the zoladex.

I am determined to continue with school.  It’s intense but I am really enjoying it and in all honesty, I am very tired of having to deal with cancer-related issues and having to put pieces of my life on hold to try and deal with therapies.

I was also told today that if this new course of hormone therapy does not keep me in menopause (for example if the injection wears off early), I will be ‘referred to gynecology’ which basically means oophorectomy (removal of ovaries), and surgery.  To be perfectly honest, I don’t know what to hope for right now.  It would be nice to just eliminate all the issues my ovaries are causing, but on the other hand not having ovaries also has it’s own side effects.  I would be in surgical menopause, for which there is no timeline (it could be years before it stops) and cannot be treated (due to inability to take hormones), bone health is affected and the ovaries are proven to big role in heart health later in life.

However, there is no point in worrying about that until and if I have to.  For now, it is necessary to get my estrogen levels under control as best we can and go from there.

I just hope this form of hormone therapy works and my life will stop being affected by cancer prevention.

I can hope, right??

Bringing the attitude

Or at least trying to.

It’s a new adjustment to one of my exercises for styling in latin (and by extension, smooth).  As I mentioned, I sent some videos of my open smooth from the last competition to the coach who designed the routines and one of the feedback she had was that she loved the drama and acting I was able to do in my routine, but that I needed to work on my arms so they are less ‘floppy’.  Basically, I have two types of styling right now, intentional and accidental.  When I intentionally commit to something, it really shows as it comes out with confidence and moves through my entire body.  Then I have stuff that I do that I just do–often without conscious thought–and that tends to look that way.

So the goal now is to work on making everything more intentional.  A big part of that is adding some attitude to my styling through expression and glance.  So that is the change to my exercise.  I am doing my regular arm exercise, but I am moving them with intention and flair and adding a very strong glance in the direction I am moving my arms.

Seems easy enough, doesn’t it?

Not quite. It feels quite awkward and unnatural.  Because it’s an exercise, I am doing it much more than I normally would in any routine so that also adds to the awkwardness.  Oddly enough, my right arm seems to want to move great, but when I move my left it almost moves backward to what I intend to do.  And now because I am actually glancing I am also looking in the mirror and it is hard not to giggle about how silly it looks sometimes.  It’s going to be a challenge to get into the zone for that, but if it’s not challenging, why bother doing it?

The rest of my exercises seem to be going ok (in fact according to Boss, better than he expected), and I hope that as I do my residency for my masters over the next two weeks I will be able to still get in fairly regular practice time between class time and group work time.  The residency is two weeks and right now just seems like a giant ‘hump’ I need to get over.  I have slowly been preparing though and today I completely cleaned my apartment, did the grocery shopping, laundry and prepared all my meals for the next week. Pretty much what is left is to pack my book bag.

Lots of changes going on in my life right now, but hopefully I can continue to attack them all with the right attitude.

Topsy-Turvy Day

My day got a little upsidedown today.

I am on vacation from work until Wednesday and because it is a provincial holiday the hall where Boss usually teaches was closed.  This meant that I had dance in the morning and did my strength workout in the evening.

In general it’s been a good day.  I am making myself take a break from school as well as work as all my pre-residency papers are done and I only have a couple of readings to do before Monday.  That is helping me relax some.

Thank you to those who read my post yesterday. A few people reached out in various ways and it was great to hear from you! A wiseman added a further perspective to the situation here–the social dancers tend to find me intimidating because I do technique (remember, this is a social dance community where everyone learns step sequences, but not much technique), and the competitor dancers see me as someone who has only been dancing for 2 years–most of it while sick–because that is when they started seeing me in the community.  Very few of them understand that I was dancing 4 years before they met me and I got sick. It’s bit of an ‘island mentality’ here to treat people as though they sprung into the society with no background and started life only when they arrived–especially if they are under 50.  I have encountered this in pockets all over the community–not just with dancers.

That aside, today was a good day–both for dancing and strength training.

For dance, we did a quick review of some of my exercises based on the feedback I gave Boss last week, then focused into standard.  We received a couple amazing reviews of the videos of our smooth routines from the pro who choreographed them and the interesting thing about smooth is that pointers from it also tend to apply to standard and latin.  One of the points she made was about my position and pointed out that I have a habit of ‘breaking’ my neck line.  This has me thinking about that and working to differentiate between when my head is ‘back’ and when it is ‘back and up’.

We also did some work on standard position and started taking some of the static things we have been doing and trying them in basic steps.  It’s going to take a lot of work, but doing so already has my mind thinking and processing and that is a good sign.

For strength training, I started the new program and I am a little relieved that it takes exactly 1 hour (there was concern from my trainer it would be too long).  I started with the cardio sequence Boss designed and that worked out really well.  It certainly got my heartrate up (my fitbit recorded a high of 170) and I like moving through the different exercises–some of which I haven’t done in a while.  It even incorporates 3-step turns (which when done over 2 minutes is a lot of turning!).

The strength training also brings back some exercises I haven’t done in a while (like pushups), but also adds some new ones.  It’s an interesting combination.

One thing that is making me a little nervous is that Friday morning bright and far too early, I have to go do a practice run of the PT test so that physio and the rehab specialist can see what it is I need to prepare for it.  I haven’t done it since before I was sick and I weigh 20lbs more than I did then and I have lost a lot of strength.  Physio told me to go in with no expectations and just see how it goes, so that is what I am going to try to do.  I just hope I don’t flare up my back or knees too much.

Well, that is a good summary of my day.  I am still giving a lot of thought to dance, but I think that for now while I am still recovering and doing school I am just going to keep doing my own thing.

Really, that’s all that I can do.

Pro/am isolation

I have been debating about whether to write a post about this or not for a while now.

One caveat I will say is that this is based on my own experiences in the community where I live, which is certainly unique compared to what I hear about others.

I will also say that in many ways, this is a post where I just need to vent and I apologize in advance for that.  Sometimes you just have to get things out before they consume you.

In all honesty, this could be a combination of post-comp crash combined with a hormone surge from my injection last week, although what I will speak about has been swirling in my brain for quite some time.

I have been feeling more and more isolated from the dance community lately and a big part of it seems to be that I am an unpartnered person trying to fit into a community that celebrates and embraces partnerships.

I don’t fit in with the competitive couples here because since I compete in pro/am I am not really considered a competitor.

I don’t fit in with the social dancers here because I am seen by them as more of a competitor.  And again, the majority of them from the studio where I dance are couples.

I feel like everywhere I turn I am encountering a situation that highlights the fact that I am a single person trying to do something meant for couples, and because of that, I just don’t fit in.  The more I try to fit in, the more isolated I feel.

One of the things I always like about dance is that it is a community of people who all have similar interests as me and a community with which I have a lot in common.  I enjoy and crave that sense of community. When I first moved to the city where I lived, I started dancing at a franchise studio which provided a great sense of community, even if I had issues with some of the other things about the franchise system.  While I know that leaving the franchise when I did was the best decision for me, I do miss the community I was a part of while I was there.

I did try to get involved with the local dance society, but because I am a pro/am student anything which I did was perceived as having the sole goal of trying to promote my instructor (even when it had nothing to do with him). I was told I couldn’t participate in events with am/am couples (as again any dancing I did with my instructor indirectly promoted him unfairly and not other instructors), and I was repeatedly accused of manipulating other members to make decisions in my instructor’s favour, even when I had no knowledge or involvement in those decisions.  After more than a year of dealing with this and the stress it caused me, I felt I had no choice but to remove myself from that community.  I don’t regret that decision, but I am sorry for the loss of interactions with those in the community who had nothing to do with the stress and drama. Even after leaving, I hear rumblings that similar things are occurring even without me being a convenient scapegoat.

I will admit that with the loss of this community, I have been trying to find a new one to fit into without success.  The isolation I feel has even led me to very seriously consider stopping dance and taking up another sport that does not require a partner (such as martial arts).  I am honestly quite frustrated that I will always be on the outside of the dance community here, competitive or social, simply because I am stuck being the ‘am’ in a pro/am relationship in order to compete and enjoy dance.

Being a pro/am student is hard.  It’s even harder when you are only 1 of 2 in an entire community of competitive dancers.  I didn’t get into dance with the intention of being a pro/am student (I didn’t even know it was possible or what it was when I started!), but that is how my dance journey has unfolded for me, and I don’t see that being able to be changed anytime soon if I want to continue dancing and competing.

Recently, a news article came out with information that the average age in the city where I live is 44–6 years older than what I am.  When it comes to dance, I can see how that demographic is played out.  We do have some university aged students that dance social through the university club.  Unfortunately, I am almost 20 years older than them.  We have a large social dance community, but the average age there is 60–almost 20 years older than me.  There is a huge gap between these two groups and that is where I fit, basically by myself.

Along with thinking about taking up a new sport, when the question of where I would be working came up, I also very seriously considered requesting a posting to another community in the hope that I might have a chance of finding a competitive partner and/or fitting better into the dance community.  That didn’t come to pass (as I have been posted back to the position I was in before I got sick, starting Wednesday), but it does still cross my mind.

Something else I will admit is that I often wonder if while doing pro/am on the one hand allows me to dance,  if on the other it is also holding me back from my goals as well. I think of what I want from dance, and being a pro/am student is not necessarily going to provide it.  I want to be part of the community, especially the competitive one.  It’s very difficult to not feel separate and singled out when you are practicing on a floor with competitive couples and you are the only single lady trying not to get run-over.

I don’t know if other pro/am students experience the same frustrations and feelings of isolation from the rest of the ballroom community, but I can say it’s something which I find myself feeling more and more, especially as I work to rebuild back into competitive shape.

A summary of the basic attitude towards pro/am from an amateur competitor is a conversation that occurred at the last competition I attended:

“Am lady: I wish I could compete at this comp, but my partner and I have been working on new routines at a new level for the last few months and they aren’t ready yet.

pro/am student: I can understand that, I also started working on new routines for my new level a couple months ago, but we are doing them here for experience even though they are still pretty new and shaky.

Am lady: Well, you are doing pro/am so that is like basically cheating.”

I don’t know where these feelings will take me in the future.  In many ways I feel ‘damned if I do, damned if I don’t’.  I won’t ever be accepted as a competitor here as long as I have to compete in pro/am.  But if I don’t compete in pro/am, I won’t be able to compete or even dance at all.

The logical part of my brain says to forget about community and just focus on my dancing and doing what I want to do. And believe me, I really wish I could and for many years I tried.  I am not sure if it is part of my recovery or the amount of time I have been dancing or that I am just seeking some support and recognition for the amount of work I put into my dancing and competing, but finding that sense of community just keeps becoming more and more important to me.

And that worries me for the future of my dancing.

If you are still here, thank you for reading the entire post and tolerating my need to vent.  I appreciate it very much.

Dance for cardio

I have mentioned before that I have been having some knee issues.

As part of trying to get them feeling happy again, we (meaning, the physio, rehab specialist and me) have been systematically working to discover what irritates them so we can start from there.  It’s been an on-going process for a while now.

The good news is that dance does not seem to irritate them (yay!), the bad news is that just about every other form of cardio exercise (bike, running, walking, stair climbing, elliptical) either irritates my knees or flares up my back.  The best option is 20 mins max of elliptical with no inclines.

So, based on that, my physio suggested that perhaps I do dance exercises for cardio and see how that works.  Since I am always looking for another reason to dance (like I need one!), I talked with Boss and so my dance cardio exercises have been born.  Basically it is 20 mins of alternating basic movements in cha cha, samba and jive with marching in basic jive position.  It’s pretty interesting what Boss has put together, and I am eager to try it out.

These are a sequence I will do before strength training to maintain (and hopefully improve!) my cardio fitness.  I can also do it in dance sneakers which saves me from having to change shoes during my gym session and keeps the facility managers from getting excited (my shoes have been ‘approved’ as they have suede bottoms, but sometimes the ladies at the front desk get worried when they see heels).

After the cardio session, I have a series of strengthening exercises ranging from squats to push-ups to rotator exercises.  I am hoping everything together will keep the good momentum going I have right now as my knees seem to be settling down.  The other question mark is my fitness test for work, so next week I will do a practice run to get a baseline of where I am and see where I need to go and what I need to do from there.


Eyes up

This is my new challenge.

As I mentioned previously, when I do my exercises and personal practice, I find it meditative and tend to go a little inside myself and just focus on the sensations of my body moving.

Unfortunately, when I do this I tend to focus my eyes on nothing and typically cast my eyes (and my head) down towards the floor.  It’s a habit which comes back to haunt me a little as when I concentrate, that is my ‘default’ mode.

Yesterday in my lesson, we went through all of my exercises as Boss had already noticed a few things that needed to be addressed.  Number one on his list was that I need to do all my exercises keeping my eyes and head up, with my chest lifted–just as it has to be when in standard position.  Latin exercises are more focused forward.  The biggest thing is to keep my gaze up from the floor.

This shouldn’t be hard to do, but for some reason it just doesn’t quite gel with what I do naturally, so it takes a lot of conscious thought.  But habits are build through perseverance so time to keep on myself and develop a new one.  This will also help with my endurance for maintaining my standard position in the long run.  It certainly is learning a new way to concentrate and focus internally.  It should be a good challenge (like I don’t have enough already!).

For the most part, it seems the exercises are going well, even though it’s only been a week I have been working on them.  Some of the biggest changes came in latin exercises focused on rumba walks (hardly a surprise!) and bota fogos.  It’s good to know that things already seem to be rebuilding.  Boss mentioned we might start working on some sequences this week, but honestly I am in no rush.  I like what we are doing now.

Boss asked me to provide him with some feedback for things I am not sure of on the exercises, but I told him I wanted to wait until after Wednesday’s practice to give myself time to evaluate, and settle into more consistent practice.  I find if I don’t give myself time then things get confusing as my body hasn’t figured out what it is doing in the first place before I start making changes.  I am quite happy with how things are feeling already (as far as consistency) and there are really only a couple exercises our of 18 that continue to vex me.

So now I will add in keeping my eyes up and see how that changes things.  Part of the issue is just being comfortable with myself and not trying to ‘hide’ inside myself too much as I work.  On the one hand, it is great how focused I get, but on the other….

I need to be able to dance ‘out’.

Bringing it together

I am a little proud of myself this week.

I was successful in balancing work, school, dance, practice and strength training.  And while I was tired by the end of the week, I was not exhausted, which is a huge step forward for me.

I was purposely pushing myself as I want to see where my limits are now.  An interesting development is that my knees, which have been giving me a lot of grief for about 6 months now, are starting to settle down.  The work I am doing to strengthen them and figure out what movements they like and don’t like seems to be paying off.  Thankfully, they really seem to like my dance exercises.  I was even able to go up and down stairs yesterday without a lot of pain.

At my lesson yesterday, we were able to sort through the rest of the exercises I will do in practice, and a program for doing them.  I really like the way the exercises are organized and it is getting back to the basics again, which I have been wanting to do for a while to rebuild some of the skills I have lost.

At the end of the lesson, we started working on one of the new steps for gold in samba: promenade runs.  I have done them before, but not in this level of detail and I love how broken down it is.  We are putting the steps together with the bounce action and core movements.  I am looking forward to working on it more next week.

The other highlight of my week was finally getting my posting message that returns me from the support unit to a substantial position within my trade.  It is the final step in returning me back to ‘full work’, and signifies that my period of medical issues has officially ended.

I am taking it easy this weekend and working to get a head a little on school, before taking time to enjoy the superbowl with friends.

I hope your weekend is just as well!

Continuing on…

My lesson on Wednesday went much better than the one on Monday.

It was focused on latin, so that was probably a good part of the battle–moving my body in latin just comes  a little more natural to me than moving as a block in standard.

The lesson was really a lot of trial and error to figure out what exercises I should be doing for latin, similar to the exercises I now have in standard.  We went through a bunch of different exercises in rumba, cha cha and samba, slowly building a program. One small victory for me was when Boss asked me to do some samba whisks and whatever I was doing, I guess I was doing it right because there was a sudden ‘well look at you’ from the corner of the studio.  Of course they weren’t on time (I wasn’t warmed up enough for my knees to cooperate quickly without pain), but they weren’t far off.  I am not sure I could have done a full minute of them, truthfully, but good to know I am doing something right in samba (which based on my comp marks seems to be one of my weakest dances).

Many of the exercises involve focusing on core and hip movements and controlling the movements, which honestly I really enjoy.  I also get to work while pushing my feet into the floor, something else I like.  Back to me being a tactile person.

We weren’t able to finalize the program for latin, but that doesn’t really bother me.  I would rather take time and be sure of what we are doing than to rush and have things be haphazard.  I am sure we will get it narrowed down at my lesson tomorrow.

For practice last night, I ran through the standard exercises 3 times.  I like how they are set up–1:30 of movement, 30 seconds rest through 8 different exercises.  Then a 2 min break and I start over.  I can set my fitbit to vibrate for each interval.  It’s a small start, but it’s a good one and I hope to increase the activity time once I gain more strength (don’t want to overdo things!).  Despite the struggles I had in my lesson on Monday, the exercises are already coming better and I am feeling a little more confident in them.  I still have to be very vigilant about twisting from my hips and not my upper body, and one of the exercises is still very challenging–but the point is to keep getting stronger, isn’t it??

I am actually pretty impressed with how this week is going for me.  My energy levels are staying consistent, I don’t feel exhausted and I have been doing work, strength training, dance lessons, practices and studying.  I am slowly settling into a balance and I hope I am able to maintain it.  I am also less than 1 week from my next shot and I still feel ‘hormonally even’, unlike last month.  I still plan to wait one more month before starting the additional hormone therapy just to give my body more time to adjust to the ovarian suppression before adding something new.  My fingers are crossed that the worse is behind me.