Recognizing Anger

I am angry. And I have been for a while.

I very rarely get angry and when I do, I seldom give into it, but sometimes it is healthy to let out the anger and frustration to give it a chance to ‘clear the air’ so you can move past it instead of ignoring it.

So I apologize in advance for the angry post that is about to follow.

My body and I are still not getting along.  Even when good things happen (like being able to stop taking medication I no longer need), my body rebels.  I feel like my body and I have been at odds since before my diagnosis, and in some ways my diagnosis was my body’s way of fighting back against the changes I had been making.

Changes to get healthier.

The year before my diagnosis was one of the most positive years in my life.  I was doing very well at work, I was progressing steadily in dance (even transitioning from bronze to silver), I was steadily losing weight and that was having a positive impact on my body.  I rarely needed medications, and I can’t even remember the last time I saw my doctor other than for a mandatory check-up since sorting out my hormone issues the year before.

I was full of positive momentum and charging forward with it.  It wasn’t free of bumps in the road, but the bumps were easy to work through and I just kept overcoming it.  I could even see myself reaching my weight loss goal and was only 25 lbs from it (considering I had already lost 75, 25 was really not much).

Then I found the lump in my breast and everything changed.

Suddenly, I had no control over my body anymore.  Everything from diet to medications to hormones was taken out of my control and put into the control of my cancer diagnosis.  I kept trying to maintain control by eating a specific diet, trying to stay active and doing as much as I could.

But it wasn’t enough.  My activity level had to be reduced, medications (mainly steroids) that caused weight gain had to be taken, and chemo caused so many food aversions I couldn’t eat the things I had come to rely on in my diet and had to find substitutes.  My hormones were thrown into complete flux, first because I had to stop taking my supplements, then chemo caused premature menopause (which also tends to trigger weight gain).

My body was abused, worn out, and eventually gained 35lbs I had lost (which I have been told is the average for chemo).  After recovering from my surgeries and returning to work, I started working on me again–trying to take back control of my body–and get it back in ‘fighting form’.

But it hasn’t worked.

Over the past few weeks I have been getting angrier and angrier because I have put in a lot of time, effort, and sacrifices, but the result has been the opposite of what I expected.  It just seems like every time I get just a little more control of myself, something happens to take it away from me.  I get sick. I have to adjust medication. I have side effects from medications. I fall. I get injured.

The list seems to go on and on.

And I am very sick of it.

The withdrawal symptoms I started experiencing last week are continuing.  I missed 3 days of work last week and will miss most of this week to try and give my body the chance to flush out the medication and get used to functioning without it again.  One doctor said expect 3-4 weeks, another 7-10 days. At this point, I don’t care how long it takes, I want this over with.  It is almost like the last hurdle I need to get over to really take my life back and it is like I reach the top of it only to discover there is still another summit to go.

I feel like I have been fighting to regain my life for more than 2 years now. And I am tired. I am angry. I am trying not to give up the fight.

I am trying to remember how good it felt to see positive and expected results from hard work. I am trying to remember what it felt like to be strong and confident.  I am trying to remember what it feels like to be me–driven, motivated and full of perseverance.

Perseverance used to be my word. I might not be first or even second, but I was going to finish and I was going to do it the best I could knowing that the work I was doing meant I would be even better next time.  I knew that because I knew if I kept doing my best every time, then my best would just keep getting better.

I don’t feel I can do my best anymore. I feel like that has been taken away from me.  I know what that was and despite so much effort I feel like I am no closer to reaching the goals I was trying to reach before I got sick.  And I am really angry about that.

I feel like I am doing everything I can to help my body get stronger and healthier and it is refusing to respond.  I feel like despite all the work I have done in the past year, I am still where I was this time last year–recovering from radiation and shingles and preparing for the biggest surgery of my life.

My instinct is to try to keep fighting and force my body to cooperate as much as I can.  But in the past 3 weeks, my trainer, my physiotherapist and my doctor have told me I am probably doing too much.

I am angry that the thought of slowing down and giving myself a break puts me in a panic.  I am barely able to maintain my health and weight doing as much as I am–doing less sounds like the road to disaster.

I am angry because it is like cancer was a cruel joke sent to me as a message to tell me that I can’t reach my goals. That my goals are impossible and I am a fool for trying so hard and having faith for so many years.  I have spent my life taking one step forward and two steps back and doing things people told me I would never be able to do.

I am angry because although my mind refuses to quit, my body refuses to cooperate.  A part of me is almost wondering what obstacle it is going to present me with next as a further roadblock to my goals.

I am angry because I want to stay positive. I want to keep pushing. I want to feel like my goals ARE possible.

And I feel like that is out of my control.

I keep telling myself to be patient. I keep telling myself to remember that I have been through a lot. I keep telling myself that if I keep working, it will all come together. I keep telling myself to have faith and trust and just believe that it will work out.

But how long can I keep telling myself these things before I am living in a fantasy world instead of reality? How long is too patient?

I just don’t know if my expectations are unrealistic for the new reality in which I find myself post cancer.  I feel as though I am constantly making compromises to adjust to the changes that have occurred, but I am also questioning at what point do compromises become giving in?  I am angry because I don’t think I have anything left to compromise on, and the only options left to me is to give in completely.

I am angry with myself because I blame myself. Somewhere I didn’t do enough, didn’t try hard enough, haven’t been strong enough.  I am not able to be the person I want to be anymore and I am grieving for that.  I feel as though reality is telling me it’s time to give up my dreams and find new more reasonable ones. I am angry because I am not even really sure what those dreams were any more.  My past hopes seem so naive in comparison with my current reality.

All of this may also be part of the withdrawal symptoms I am undergoing (anger is one of the symptoms listed), but that doesn’t make it any easier to deal with, and it doesn’t change that I feel like I have been failing myself.

That is the hardest thing to deal with right now–feeling like I am failing.  Every day I am not able to do everything I want to do and have to adjust or compromise I feel like I am failing.  Like I am not giving myself the best chance.

Before I got sick, I was very used to doing things on my own.  Too independent according to some people.  While I was sick I had to learn the hard way to allow myself to depend on others, and as long as I was sick I was able to justify that.  Now, I am no longer sick and in my head I feel as though I should be able to take care of myself again without having to rely on others.  I feel like I should be able to work through things now without having to inconvenience others.  But I am angry because I feel like an inconvenience to those around me.

I am also angry because I feel like too many of my posts lately have been about my health and less about dance.  I am angry with myself because I feel like there has been a lot of negative coming out of me lately.  And one thing I have never been is a negative person.

So, I am giving myself some time to just be angry. Time to acknowledge that I am angry about a great many things–some in my control, some not. I am giving myself a moment to feel bad and wallow a bit in self-pity and grieve all I have lost.

My hope is to be able to find within myself the courage to regroup once again. To know that eventually I will move beyond these withdrawal symptoms and when I do the future will be waiting for me to grab it and push my way towards it.

I just have to hang on a little bit longer.

Please forgive me for expressing my anger.



Sometimes I feel like I am thinking through water.

One of the side effects of chemo and radiation that seems to be lingering is how quickly I get mentally fatigued.  By the end of the day, especially on Monday, my brain feels really fuzzy and I just can’t seem to process things.

Monday can be especially frustrating as by the time I get to my lesson I am really near the end of my limits.  I practice before my lesson, and I do strength training earlier in the day, on top of a full day of work.  My lesson is more or less the last thing I do, and I am first to admit I have a hard time staying ‘on my game’.

Today was no exception.  We were working on the open standard routines, going through the choreography and trying to run-through the sequences with the music as best I could.  Usually, I can pick up the footwork and timing of new choreography really quickly, but today I kept making the same mistakes over and over and I just couldn’t seem to get my mind to wrap around what I was doing.  I just couldn’t keep track of where I was and what I was trying to do.

Boss was trying really hard to be patient, but I could tell he was also getting frustrated.  He is not used to me struggling so much with something, and certainly not used to me making the same mistakes repeatedly.

It wasn’t helping that I hadn’t had a chance to review the standard sequences, and get the footwork into my feet.  That is my plan before my lesson on Thursday–to get comfortable moving through the steps and timing in all 7 open sequences so that we can start working on other details (like the shaping), and so that when the competitive practice comes on Sunday, I will be able to run-through the sequences.

Frustration is bound to happen here and there.  I am still adjusting, and it hasn’t even been a full year since I finished radiation yet.  Almost there, but not quite.  I have seen some good progress, but I am still not quite where I was.  I am ready though to put in a bit of extra time to reach my goals.  I just hope my body holds out for it.

I did try running again today, but I am not sure yet if I can say it was a success.  My knees are definitely stiff and sore tonight, more so than they have been.  Tomorrow will be the teller–if they are ok tomorrow I am good to go.  If they are still sore, I am not.

Fingers crossed that today will be the only frustrating thing this week.

Shimmy Shimmy Shake

Oh good lord…

That was my exact response when Boss proposed we do a section of ‘shimmying’ in our open samba routine.

But, I have been trying to get out of my comfort zone and shimmying is definitely out there.  After a few rather hilarious attempts to get me shimmying rather than twisting, it seemed to start to come together.  The worse part is that I will have to spend a lot of random moments shimmying to keep the sensation in my head…so guess what I may be doing in the office tomorrow to get out of my chair.  Thankfully my colleagues are used to me doing random weird dance things.

Today’s lesson was about putting together 3 open latin routine for the competition in October.  Mostly, Boss added some open variations to the routines I already had, so it wasn’t too complicated but each routine certainly has it’s challenges.  Samba seems to be the trickiest, but it was last tonight and my mental capacity was definitely fading.  My mind was just spinning trying to keep track of all the steps.

We were able to record Boss doing my steps for all 3 routines so I have something to reference when I have some time to think through the routines.  I like the variations a lot and look forward to seeing what will happen with the standard routines on Thursday.

It occurred to me this weekend that there are only 6 weeks left until this competition.  We will be sending in the entries soon, and booking the hotel.  I am excited and nervous at the same time.  It’s been a really long time since I have done focused work to prepare for a competition and it still seems a bit surreal.  We are even starting to do some planning for the competition after that in January.

There are only 3 open latin routines so far because I will only be doing 3 latin dances.  We actually have elements for the 4th (jive), but none of the events I will do at this upcoming competition will have either jive or paso, so they are not a priority right now.

In standard, Boss told me he will do more of the same–substitute some open steps into my existing routines, at least for Waltz, Tango and Foxtrot.  Quickstep I imagine is a lot more tricky as open Quickstep is very different from syllabus Quickstep.  I guess I will see on Thursday.  For my Viennese Waltz we will try adding some pivots and see how they go.  We have been working on them, so I hope they will go well.  I actually haven’t really done VW in almost 6 months, so that should be an interesting experiment.

One thing the open latin routines don’t have that I think I would like to see added is a small entrance to the routines.  I will have to float that idea by boss.  I have some ideas, and I think something to ‘set the stage’ might be interesting.

Tomorrow is another step forward–I have a dress fitting!  I haven’t seen my dresses in over a month, so I am really looking forward to see where they are at.  We are getting to the stage where soon the sparkly stuff will be coming out, so that is really exciting.  The competition in October will be my ‘debut’ for these new dresses.

Going back to shimmying, the reason it is so outside my comfort zone is that I am still thinking a lot of the shape I used to be.  In the last few weeks, weight has actually started to come off, instead of just reducing in size, but I still see myself as someone much larger than I actually am.  So the idea of shimmying and shaking immediately brings to mind that it’s too flamboyant and that I shouldn’t be doing it.  Boss thinks the whole effect is a lot of fun and he has me doing a lot of hip movements in all the routines.  I guess it’s good to show off my ‘ass’ets.  Boss did make a point that I can do a lot of these things because it doesn’t take a lot of momentum for me to have a good effect. That is one thing I can’t disagree with.

The routines in general have given me some things to think about and consider.  There are elements where I get to bring some of my personality to the routines, and I need to figure out how to do that.  It’s a challenge, outside my comfort zone, and probably just what I need.



Impressing the Boss

Since my last post was a little depressing, and I like to focus on positives, I want to share a good moment I had this week in my lesson.

On Wednesday, because I am having some difficulty working on standard for a full lesson due to the body aches from treatment and how demanding it is, Boss decided to split the lesson–1/2 on latin, 1/2 on standard.

He decided to work some on rumba, which we haven’t done in a while, and asked me to show him my competition routine.  I started the routine, had a ‘chemobrain’ moment of memory loss and he decided to do it once with me to get it back in my head.  After that, I was able to do the routine on my own and he asked me to repeat a part of it a second time.

Then he asked me when was the last time I practiced the routine.

It was an odd question because he sees me any time I practice and knows I haven’t had the energy to do more than just my exercises for about 5 months now.  I told him I thought maybe February.

His response floored me.  He told me even though I had practiced the routine in that long, it looked like I had been doing it all along.  I had been able to add the elements from my exercises into the routine and it was well improved from the last time we worked on it (which also may have been February).  He was genuinely impressed and pleased.  Our system is working.

Impressing the Boss is hard to do.  I felt like I had been handed a gold star, and to be honest, I had impressed myself.  I could feel there were definite differences. I was more grounded and pressed into the floor and I could feel my body working to move.

From there, he had me do a couple of different elements including spot turns, the transition to the aida and rumba walks to work on specific very small details for each element.  He gave me an exercise for spot turns to use to replace jive while I can’t do it, and I hope we will go over the walks and aida transition again during my next lesson.

It’s been a little while since I have seen Boss so excited at my lessons.  He showed me a diagram about learning he really believes in, which is 3 circles–the biggest is the general information a student is given in a lesson, the middle is what the student is able to work on during practice. The smallest are the finest details that is a combination of the student and knowledge from the teacher and represents the highest level of learning.  He told me during my lesson that I had reached that highest level for latin and because of that we can work on fine details like precise placement and alignment of my back foot in rumba walks.

We ended with foxtrot which is an evolving process, but as I was preparing to practice my exercises, Boss asked me when we would go over exercises again.  I reminded him that we had agreed to do it the last week of July since he is taking vacation the first two weeks of August.  He said we are going to make some changes to my latin exercises–this is also a big deal and progress.  I haven’t changed exercises in more than 6 months–so I can’t wait.

His final words of the night is that if he didn’t know I was sick and receiving chemotherapy, he would never be able to tell it from my dancing.  I am still improving as if I was healthy and able to work at my regular level.

Imagine if I was well…

And so starts….

What I expect to be the longest week of chemo–my last week.

Treatment went ok today, but it was rough starting.  I don’t know if it is true for everyone, but for me I reached a point about 10 weeks ago where my mind has figured out that I am basically volunteering to be poisoned every week, and that I am going to feel lousy after.  It’s been hard to get myself to treatments ever since.

But I adapted.  I started making sure someone goes with me to treatments (it is easier to be brave with others around), and therefore I am not driving there alone.  Boss usually picks me up from treatments (I am legally impaired), and in return for this I allow him to use my car over the weekend while I am unable to use it.

I should mention Boss and I have a bit of a dual relationship.  Instructor-student and always business in the studio, but we also have a small friendship outside the studio and his wife is one of my best friends.  We are both very good at keeping both separate, which I know is a rare thing.

Back to today’s treatment–my ‘failsafe’ unfortunately wasn’t available today.  Both of my friends who usually alternate going with me were sick.  And sick means no going to the clinic because so many chemotherapy patients are immuno-compromised.

So I was on my own.  I ended up getting my roommate to drive me to the clinic because I was too emotional to drive and when the nurse started hooking me up for the benedryl, I just lost it emotionally for a bit.  They just closed the curtains around my chair and let me have my moment.  They know it’s been a long long haul for me, and I am not the first patient to have a ‘moment’.  Some people have to be medicated to receive their treatment.

But my friends hadn’t abandoned me and soon I was texting with 2 at the same time, which helped keep me distracted and I got through the rest of my treatment without further issues.

It was my first treatment with no steroids and there was a small chance I would have a severe allergic reaction, but in the end I didn’t.  I could feel my body trying to fight the drug though and I was tingling all over.  I got really cold and needed two warm blankets.

But it’s done, and I can tell no steroids is making a difference.  For starters, for the first time since my first week on this drug 12 weeks ago, I came home and slept.  I even slept well–a good 2 hours plus nap.  Usually the steroids would have me so wired by this point I would be lucky if I slept by 2 am.

Things are looking up that way at least.  If I can get sleep, I can get through this.  The steroids also make me really emotional, so I am looking forward to getting that under control some too.

Small victory.  Treatment 15 of 16 is done.

1 more to go.  Just.Keep.Breathing.

Things I need to remember are temporary…

…at least for the next 3 1/2 weeks until chemo is over, and they should slowly start to disappear and stop being ‘normal’:

  • Sore teeth
  • Rusty nail taste in my mouth
  • Sore nails and swollen toes
  • Sore sinuses and bloody noses
  • Aching all over
  • Needing 3 naps in a day
  • ‘Chemopause’
  • ‘Chemo Brain’ and a 15 minute attention span
  • Hot flashes
  • Not being able to get warm and having chills
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Really slow hair growth (ok, some places I can live with this!)
  • numb and tingling fingers and toes
  • Insomnia
  • Alligator dry skin
  • Needing to take my temperature every day
  • My port (it’s a silicone disc inserted in the chest under the skin to make it easier to deliver IV meds)

It’s amazing how one’s mind and body can adapt. I have 3 treatments left and after 5 months of dealing with these side effects I have just become accustomed to them.  There are probably others I don’t even realize.  I have come to realize that the last two weeks leading to my last two treatments (July 3, and 10th) are going to probably be the longest and hardest 2 weeks of my life.  I will be so close….and yet so far.  At least this week I have the showcase on Saturday to look forward to and lessons to keep me busy preparing for it.

I had an extra one tonight–I will let you know about it tomorrow 🙂