Back on the Floor!

Yes, finally!!

I was cleared to return to all activities yesterday, and I celebrated by having a lesson. 9 weeks until the competition, so a lot of work to do.

The lesson last night was very interesting and telling.

It ended up being later in the evening than I usually have a lesson and I was worried I would be too tired, but I was so anxious to get back on the floor I pushed it aside.

It was good that I did.

The start of the lesson was really really rough. We were working on standard since I have a couple coaching lessons this week and we started by reviewing and walking through our gold routines. I really felt like a wet blanket with no strength, and my mind was racing in about 50 different directions as my body tried to figure out what was going on. By the time we finished walking through the quickstep, I was honestly feeling quite panicked, and really couldn’t figure out what was going on.

We took a bit of a break before looking at specific parts of the routines that we will focus on for the coaching.

It turned out that break was what my mind needed to reconnect with my body and to trust that my body knew and was capable of doing what it needed.

After that, it was like the weight I have been carrying on my shoulders for the last 6 months disappeared. I felt my mind relax and organize itself, and as Boss and I prepared to work through one segment of our waltz, everything just came back together.

Actually, it came together better than it has in a longer time than I can remember.

It was like I needed the rough start for my mind to assess the state of my body and once it decided that all the movements were ok, it gave permission.  I could use my full strength and power, was able to move into full hold and to follow what Boss was doing. By the end of the lesson we were even traveling significantly more down the floor than we have in a very long time.

The best way I can describe the feeling is to say I felt free and free to dance. There wasn’t anything holding me back anymore–no hormone issues, no depression, no muscle weakness, no fuzzy head, and no fatigue.

In fact, I felt more energized after the lesson than I was before it–something that hasn’t happened since before I was diagnosed. I had honestly forgotten what that feels like.

I was able to ask my body to do things, and it responded–usually better than I expected, and much more than I have become used to.

Needless to say, I was pretty shocked and overwhelmed. I found confidence in my movement that had been missing for a very long time.

Aside from completely surprising myself, Boss seemed to be completely over the moon. I don’t think he has said he was pleased so many times in a lesson before. Considering how my previous recoveries and issues with treatments have gone, I can’t blame him–this ‘comeback’ is in a class by itself. He commented that I was dancing better than he was prepared for.

A lot of pieces that were only just swirling around in pieces before my surgery seemed to click into place while I was recovering. It’s a testament to how even when you have to take a break physically, mentally your mind may still be working. I could almost feel them all fall into place.

Of course, that’s not to say that everything was easy. It has been 6 weeks since I have really done any activity except light walking in the last 2 weeks. I was getting winded easy, and my pulse was racing. I could feel how out of shape and out of conditioning I am. It’s going to take a lot of work to get that moving forward again. While I could do full power in short segments, I know that attempting even one full routine at that power would be pretty draining. Overall, the lesson was fantastically terrible–a lot of success mixed with hard work that demonstrates there is a lot more to be done.

But its baby steps. The foundation is there. I achieve beyond my own goal in that lesson, in that after the initial ‘trial’, I was able to push myself fully through the rest of the lesson without giving up. While this lesson was hard, the next will be a little easier and I will be able to push longer and further.

It’s like remembering something from childhood–I know I used to be able to do it, but the details are fuzzy.

They are becoming more clear now.

I feel much more optimistic about the coaching on Wednesday, and my ability to get through 2 45 min lessons. The last time this coach was here, the work with him triggered a few things falling into place in standard that had been eluding me, and I am hopeful at something similar may be possible this time too. We (and by ‘we’, I mean Boss) have a good plan for things to work on, and if it is even remotely similar to last night, it’s going to be fun.

Fun. There’s a word I haven’t used in relation to dance in a long time. It feels good. Fun.

After last night’s lesson, I expected to wake up sore, especially in the surgical area, and completely tired and drained today from so much effort last night.

In another surprise, I woke up with tons of energy after sleeping better than I have in quite some time, and while I am moderately sore in the muscles I haven’t used in a long time, my belly and abdomen feel the same as they did before the lesson yesterday.

I am sooooo pleased to not have adverse after-effects! (I was pretty worried).

I expect my upper back, shoulder and leg muscles will be a little more sore tomorrow, but nothing unusual.

As a bonus to all of this, my doctor and I decided this morning to stop the anti-depressants, and see how it goes. The last 3 days I have been feeling symptoms of being over medicated again, and since I am on the lowest dose now, the next step is to stop and see how I feel in 2 weeks once my system has adjusted.  I can always go back if I need them. It’s the last of the medications I had to take to counter-act side effects of the hormone therapy.

In fact, I am now officially back to taking only the medications I was taking before I was diagnosed (actually one less, since one was a hormone supplement), one for insomnia, one for allergies. It’s another way to feel free.

Something else I haven’t mentioned which may be contributing to the increase in energy I am having–since the surgery I have lost 10 of the 40 lbs I gained during treatment, with only small diet changes on my part. Finally, it seems my body is ready to get fit again. It’s something I will need to stay on top of, but it’s the first real weight progress I have seen in over a year, and I finally feel motivated again to keep focusing on it.

In a lot of ways, my life is finally starting to resemble what it was pre-cancer, and I hope the momentum I now have continues to keep me moving forward. I am back to work next week, and looking forward to it. I have almost finished the 5th course for my masters.

And now I feel like I am ready and capable of getting back to fully dancing again.

Even more, I feel like I can really hope again.

It’s been a long time coming.

A plan coming together

Monday seems such a long way off.

On Monday I see the surgeon and should get my clearance to return to activities, including dance. The following week I return to work half days.

Since I have an idea of when I will be returning to dance, I was able to sit down with Boss and put together some thoughts for competing, and how to get back into training.

Among other things, we decided on a competition goal–that is just over 9 weeks away. 9 weeks of working to prepare for a competition that is nearby, but still requires a plane ride. Before that, I may do a solo at a local comp, but I haven’t quite decided on that yet.

We also took a look into the new year, and right now we are looking to attend a bigger competition in the US in the spring. After that, plans are in the works for a unique opportunity, but more on that later.

Even though it is really in the short-term, I am relieved to have a competition goal to work towards. I suddenly feel like I have focus for dance again and I am eager to get started.

We have a plan for the first few lessons to get an idea of how things feel and where I am at.

For myself, my goal is to start with the regular 3 lessons a week, and when things feel good and stable then work to add practices and eventually group classes from there. When I can handle 3 lessons and work, then I will add some more activity. As eager as I am to get working, I am not eager to move too fast and end up injured.

I am finding I have a renewed motivation towards dance. Even though I will have one more surgery in October (after the comp), finally there is really nothing looming on the horizon for me.  I can get back to moving through things as I want to without medical interference.

Among other things, I finally found the word that has been eluding me for about 6 months. The word is ‘effort’. It may seem strange, but through my illness I have gotten use to reducing the effort I put into lessons and practices in order to conserve energy. It’s made me cautious, and it has also limited my endurance and conditioning because I never really push myself.

I have realized that I don’t want to play in this ‘safe’ zone anymore and want to get back to pushing my way through everything I do with my full effort. I really hope I will be able to translate that back into dance. I feel like I have allowed myself to get lazy, and it doesn’t sit well with me.

I think the challenge of competing in only 9 weeks is exactly what I need to help remotivate me. Outside of dance, there is renewed energy in a few different areas of my life as all is connected.

I have different ideas for things I want to do and how I want to approach practice and preparation over the next few weeks. I only hope that Boss will also be on board.

Slowly the plan is coming together.

Why compete?

Why, indeed.

After sorting through thoughts in my last post, I guess I realized I need to figure out what drives me to compete, or rather what makes a competition interesting or worth competing in.

  • Competitions give me a real and tangible goal within a set time period.

I am a very goal-oriented person and having a competition to prepare for gives me something to focus on and a specific time within which to do it.  I need that to feel grounded in my dancing.  It’s not about specific goals within my dancing, but giving something to aim for.

  • Competitions set time frames for measuring progress.

It’s not really about how much progress is made between competitions, but more about having a definitive time to evaluate. It’s an opportunity to record my dancing under pressure and to compare it with previous videos.

  • Competitions help me feel structured in my dancing.

Along with being goal-oriented, I need structure, and really don’t do well if I feel there is no rhyme or reason to what I am doing. Competing gives me that structure–there are levels, others to compare to, things to evaluate.

  • The impact of a competition should reflect the price.

It doesn’t make sense to spend a large amount to attend a small competition, where I may be alone on the floor. It also doesn’t make sense to spend a small amount to attend a large competition that I have to travel to. The two parts need to balance and sometimes this can be the trickiest part. There are never any guarantees.

  • It’s not a competition if I am alone.

In order to compete, there needs to be someone to compete against. There is competitiveness in my nature, although its not always evident and I can say I am not comfortable with it. While I see the value in comparing my dancing against what I did at previous events, there is an element to competing with others on the floor that increases the drive to do well. It’s motivating.

  • Competitions motivate me.

There is something about competing that motivates and drives me more than just performing or social dancing. There is a thrill to it, and in many ways it is the time I feel comfortable acknowledging that I have done something well. It’s when I allow myself to really give myself credit, but it also gives an external justification too. It’s someone who doesn’t see me dancing all the time giving approval (or sometimes signalling problems).

  • Competing is the reward I give myself for hard work.

While I have lots of personal reasons for wanting to work hard, wanting to do well at a competition also plays a part. Competitions are something I earn. I work hard to save the money to attend, so I also owe it to myself to work hard to prepare for them. Competitions are an opportunity to have fun after putting in the hard work to prepare. Because I know I have worked hard, when I go to compete I can just enjoy the full experience, including traveling, the showcases/performances, and knowing I have done well.

Looking at this list, I can see where most of my recent competitions, and even my preparation for them have missed the mark for me. I also see that one of the things I experienced the most in the past 6 months was preparing for my silver test, which is very telling. Once my last competition was over, I felt very lost and aimless until the test prep started.

Part of me is scared about returning to dance without having decided on a competition goal. I am worried that for one reason or another, my next competition will be once again one of the same local competitions I have been doing for the last 2.5 years.

I am very worried deep down that if I can’t settle on some goals, especially for competing, I will lose the motivation I have gained following the surgery, and I will start to question why I dance–a rabbit hole I don’t want to go down again.

I feel like I lost some of the reasons why I dance in recent months, really since my mastectomies and reconstruction and all the issues with the hormone therapy. I got stagnant and I want to break that cycle. More than that, I need to break that cycle. I feel like I call myself a competitive dancer, but I have no right to since I never really compete.

I feel like I am pretending. Perhaps that is the root of the problem.

It’s time to get back on a full competition floor.

Trying to catch the thoughts

Have you ever felt like there were a bunch of related thoughts swirling around your head but you couldn’t just quite get them to all come together?

That’s a bit like what I feel right now and I’m hoping that by writing it out a little bit I might be able to figure out some of the directions that my mind is wanting to go in.

I still continue to do well with recovering, but as my recovery continues I find I’m turning towards the future and getting back to the activities that I enjoy and that includes dance.

I find myself thinking about dance a lot these days probably mostly because I am unable to do it. What is on my mind the most is how my return to dance will look like, what steps I will have to take to get back. But the bigger question seems to be not do I want to go back, but how do I want to go back. What is it that will motivate me? That’s the question that seems to be forefront of my mind right now.

I was in a pretty sorry place before the surgery although I was trying to ignore that, it’s certainly had an effect on how I was dancing at the time. I wanted to wait until after surgery to begin to deal with it.

I am having a hard time because I am not sure how I want to return to competing. There are days when I’m not sure that I want to compete. But those are also the same days that I know I need to compete.

I feel indifferent to competing right now. Somewhere in the last 3 years of treatments and recoveries, my focus, drive, and motivation for competing has changed. It’s left me feeling like I haven’t done a real competition since 2014.

It concerns me because it affects the mind-set with which I am trying to determine when and where to compete.

The last few comps I have done I felt indifferent about the results. Even hearing Boss talk about how I did at the last comp in January never excited or motivated me.

Somewhere, while I was sick, I lost the fire and drive that kept me focused on my competitive goals. The inner strength that pushed me through the preparation. The sense of satisfaction I used to feel at the end of every lesson knowing that I had put everything I had into every movement to reach my limit every lesson.

Confession time. It’s been a long time since I have felt fulfilled and satisfied with my performance in a lesson.

Very few of my lessons in the past 6 months have sparked interest from me. I do what I need to in order to go through the motions, but nothing is driving me. I can’t seem to figure out or nail down the goal I have been working on. So I gave up trying.

The worse thing is that when I look at the recordings of the gold routines we made, I can see quite obviously that I am just going through the steps. I am not dancing and I am not trying to.

I don’t know if I really remember what it felt like to put 110% into every step all the time any more. But I want to get back to doing that, instead of working through the budgeting of energy I have developed such a strong habit of doing.

I want to feel myself get strong again and I want to return to dance knowing there is a clear reasonable and practicable competition goal to prepare for. Not one “just to get on the floor”, but one I can feel motivated and driven to prepare for.

I just don’t know that such a comp exists right now.

One of my biggest fears in looking at returning to dance is that it will be the same as before–no real focus or goal for motivation. That it will still be stagnant and I will be bored with it no matter how hard I try not to be.

I don’t know where to start, but waiting to start is the hardest thing I am facing right now.

I miss dance, but I fear I miss the ghost of what my dancing was before I got sick.

I don’t know what direction to go, but I know I need to figure out how to get the fire and passion back in my dance, not to mention the drive and motivation that comes from having a goal to work towards.

I am afraid I will end up in a circle of never committing to competitions because I feel I will be disappointed by the experience of them before I go.

I have had perhaps too many ‘meh’  competitions in my recent past due to health. Too many comps attended I didn’t really want to attend. Too many comps I was unable to get excited about. Too many comps I didn’t feel challenged to prepare for.

I want to get out of this rut. I want to set a comp goal and focus on it. Focus the preparation for it. Know I won’t be alone on the floor and that I will have a chance of placing well because I worked hard to do so. Get a real idea of where I am at.

But sometimes wishes are only wishes and dreams depend too much on the will of others.

Sometimes it’s better to keep thoughts swirling to yourself.

Then you don’t risk disappointing others.

Moving Along

Slowly–but I am moving.

I had my first follow-up with the surgeon this week.  She is pleased with how things are going, and gave me permission to start ‘slow walks’.  I haven’t quite gotten out yet due to the heat but it’s on my ‘to do’ list for the weekend.

She also told me that the pathology on everything they removed was completely benign with no traces of cancer or pre-cancerous tissue.  She also told me that they did find a non-cancer related issue in my uterus, with a long name I don’t remember, that would have caused problems later in life. That in itself make me happier with the decision to remove everything.

The only questionable issue is a wound that is healing slowly, but it is still healing and not infected, so its just a matter of time.

I am trying not to go stir crazy.  I have crocheted two afghans, and completed a 3-d puzzle.  I have also finished all the readings for the current course in my masters and only have the assignments left to do. I am now working on a 3rd afghan and a new puzzle.

The biggest thing I am struggling with right now is missing dance a lot.  Dance is my stress relief and physical outlet, so without it,  I have been feeling restless.  That said, because things have been going so well without the hormone therapy, my doctor has me trying a reduced dose of the anti-depressant to see how it goes.  I have been feeling some side effects that indicate I may not need the medication, but we will see how it goes.

I see the surgeon again in a few weeks and then we will discuss the return to activity including dance and work.  I am not sure how I feel about that yet, but given I am still doing a lot of healing and need regular anti-inflammatories (at least not narcotics anymore!), that is not surprising.  I am sure it will come with time.  My pain levels are definitely reduced but it does still come and go quite a bit.

I won’t be restarting the hormone therapy until at least mid-October.

All this to say there is definite progress and I hope once I start going on concentrated walks it will continue.

The sooner I get back to dance the better 🙂

I Have to Give Up

Beautiful post by the amazing Girl With The Tree Tattoo! If you haven’t already, you should check out her blog!

The Girl With The Tree Tattoo

I know I preach a “don’t give up” philosophy. The #dontgiveup hashtag appears on the majority of my Instagram posts. Perseverance, along with hard work and a bit (or a lot) of luck, has gotten me where I am today.

Fall down seven times, get up eight.

It doesn’t matter how slow you go, as long as you don’t stop.

#keepgoing

I’ve shared all of these meme-worthy quotables and turned them into motivational mantras for myself. They and similar phrases help get me through the tough days, weeks and months. I’ve come this far, I can’t give up now.

Well, over this past week, I realized I have to change my tune a bit. I’ve reached a point where I don’t really have a choice. I have to give up.

It makes me anxious, but it’s for the best.

View original post 380 more words

Recovery Update

Just wanted to give a quick update on my recovery.

Things continue to go better than expected, with the exception of one incision that is having some healing issues.  I am managing it, and it isn’t infected or an issue I haven’t encountered before.

To be truthful, I have reached the point where I am almost bored, and feeling restless and struggling a little to keep myself from doing much.  I have lots to keep me busy, but it is all sedentary work.  I am still having pain, but it is much less than it was.  I am able to walk upright again, although I also notice I have to remind myself to engage my core when standing.  I try to spend a little time each day just standing and adjusting my posture.

Mostly I am focusing on school, and I have been crocheting up a storm, made one afghan already, and more than halfway through another.  I have enough wool for one more after that.

I know there have been small adjustments in my reaction to the surgery as far as hormone reaction and I look forward to when they stabilize, although compared to where I was, there is a definite improvement.

I see the surgeon for follow-up next week, but it is really just a preliminary check of my incisions. I don’t expect any real follow-up until my 6-week check in August.  I will be off work at least 6 weeks.

I miss dance terribly.  I feel very restless and like I have no output for my energy. I am glad it is summer and not a busier time of year, but this surgery is likely to put all fall competitions off the table as most of them have entry deadlines before I will really know how my dance recovery will be.

I am trying not to think about it for now and focus on my recovery.

Bottom line, I am doing well 🙂

Post Surgery

My surgery went well yesterday and I am already home.

The surgeon is really pleased with how things went.  She didn’t have any interference from the scar tissue from my reconstruction, and told me there was even minimal bleeding.

Because my incisions are all in the area where I don’t have sensation from my reconstruction, that cuts down on the pain.  Most of it is the deep internal pain from the organs being removed.  I can’t stand up straight, but the pain is managed while I am still.  I am limiting my movement and my range pretty much is my living room chair to the bathroom to my bed.  My roommate is helping out and some friends will come to help me out while he is at work.

One of the best things I am experiencing seems to be a dramatic reduction in hormone symptoms.  My hot flashes are much less frequent and less intense, the bone pain is gone, and even with pain killers my head is much more clear than it has been for months. I even have more energy than I had pre-surgery which is probably the most telling part of how much the hormones therapy was affecting me. It is better than what I hoped for and I only hope it remains or improves as my body adjusts to not having ovaries anymore.

I am off of my daily hormone therapy for a while to allow things to settle.  I have to wait for the ovarian suppression to wear off in about a month, and then see what is left over.  I am truthfully not looking forward to restarting it, but I will deal with it when I have to.  At least at that point, I will know that the side effects are specifically caused by the therapy and if they are too much I can choose to stop it.

The next two weeks are pretty much just healing. Keeping an eye on my incisions as they heal, resting, and taking it easy. After that, the external incisions should be healed and the internal healing will continue.  At least 6 weeks before I can get back to activity or work.

But the good news is that things are already looking up.

Hope it continues 🙂

Coming Together

Slowly things are beginning to end before surgery.

Today we were able to record all of the gold routines with music, except Paso which we did just with the counts.  There were a couple of mix ups here and there that we had to do again, or which Boss had to make a note of clarification but I was pretty impressed to get through them all.

Quickstep seem the one most likely to spell disaster, but even it when ok with a need for a restart only because we ran out of room (which was number one reason to restart in standard).

We also discussed some of my ideas for the waltz showcase, which Boss seemed to like so it should be interesting to see how that comes together in the fall.

We are also working on getting open routines choreographed during my break, although we won’t be able to try them until well after I get back. Getting them done while there is a general summer ‘break’ in competing seems like the best plan to get them all together. I am looking forward to see what they come up with.

On other fronts, I have started working on an afghan to help pass the time healing and have also some school stuff to work on.

I am hoping that once I get home and begin healing I will be able to fall into a pattern.

I will admit that one of my biggest concerns is that I will gain weight while doing nothing to recover. I am working to mitigate that, and hope that between the stabilizing of my hormones and some care with diet it won’t be too significant.

My biggest hope from this surgery is that when it is all said and done overall I will feel better–that my energy will be up, the fatigue will be less, I will sleep better and that my mental health will settle back into normal. It may be too much to hope for, but I do hope to be able to return back to full time at work and full time at dance.

I am also hoping that with that, my motivation will also come up. I realize it’s like a accumulation of all the side effects and everything that is going on, but I am having a hard time feeling focused and even looking forward to competing.  It just all seems like a lot more work than I want to do right now, and that the benefits I am getting are not anywhere near the effort I am putting out.  It’s not so much dance, but fitness in general.  I feel like I work very hard, am careful about what I eat and it doesn’t seem to matter–my fitness never improves and my weight doesn’t go down.

We shall see how it all comes together.  Surgery i s Tuesday.

A Discovery

I had an interesting lesson yesterday.

When I got to the studio, I really wasn’t sure how the lesson would go. Even Boss remarked when I arrived he could see I was already tired.  It had been a long week at work. I had things (and so did Boss) that I wanted to accomplish so I took things carefully and just saw where they went.

We started by going over a new step in my Gold Quickstep routine, which I found pretty interesting. Unlike other Quickstep steps, this one is the hover corte and it is more about slow control.  It took some experimenting, but in the end it seemed to come together pretty well.

Following that, we started breaking down the Gold Paso Doble. In particular, we worked on sorting out the footwork–which steps are on heels vs those on the toes.  Sorting that out actually helped a lot as for most steps it helped them make more sense, or a little easier to execute.

Once we had gone through the steps, we were able to go through the entire routine 3 or 4 times in a row with slower music.  Somewhere in the middle of those run-throughs, I noticed a chance, something I had felt or done in a very long time.

There just started to be some energy to my dancing and with that came some confidence.  In particular, I do promenade and counter promenade spins (which are a series of underarm spirals) and I was finding my spirals were a little sharper, quicker, and had some more drive.  In our last run through, I even found myself using some drive through some of the steps I wasn’t so sure about before.  Even Boss remarked he noticed a difference. It was a remarkable and unexpected discovery to find in my dancing–again it was like remembering something I used to know and having it bubble to the surface.

I hope these sorts of discoveries will be plentiful as I begin to return back to dance following my recovery.

I am not sure where the sudden spurt of energy and confidence came from, but I will take it when I can.  We ended the lesson running through the Gold Cha Cha routine, and that also went quite well with a little more ‘vibrancy’ than I have felt in a long time.  I know there have been some small changes in diet and supplements so a part of me is wondering if that has an effect.

I have 3 more lessons until my surgery, and I hope that my energy will stay up since it seems to want to return a little.  I know part of the plan is to record all of the gold routines, and Boss told me he would like to use one lesson to discuss ideas for two different showcase routines we have in the works.

I woke up this morning to a surprise 🙂 A while ago I did an interview with The Dancing Housewife Show, and this morning the podcast interview was posted! I hope you enjoy the interview!

It’s a beautiful long weekend in Canada and Happy Canada 150 to all!