Finding the root of a problem

I had an insightful physio appointment today.

I haven’t had physio in a while as I had to cancel my last one and the therapist was on vacation. Most of my appointments had been more focused on providing relief to my neck and shoulders, but since I last saw him I have had some good progress through acupuncture, including release the knot in my trapezius.

This allowed the therapist to focus more on an evaluation to try and figure out what hasn’t been working around my shoulders so we can start to correct the issue.

What he discovered made perfect sense. My right serratus anterior muscle is extremely weak (I am almost not able to resist pressure against it at all), and is very limited in its range of motion.

The serratus anterior muscle runs from the shoulder blade along the outside of the torso and is connected to the 2nd to 8th ribs. It’s a very long muscle that pretty much runs from the armpit down your side. This muscle is what moves the shoulder blade around the ribs, moving it forward. It is a key muscle when you punch straight forward.

Strength in this muscle helps protect the rest of the shoulder and neck muscles from getting hammer backwards when there is resistance from the front. It’s also the muscle that keeps the arm in front of the body when it is held at 90 degrees.

This explains a big part of why the muscles on the right side of my neck and shoulders tend to easily get angry. It also explains why I have a hard time with lead and follow, arm movements and always seem to be allowing my right side to fall back behind me when I try to use my partner to turn.

Its something Boss and I have been trying to figure out for a few weeks now. In order to be able to counter resistance from Boss in many of my turns, I have to start with my arm almost straight out or else it goes too far behind me and it is like I am not there.

Since I have so little strength in the muscle, pretty much I am not there.

It’s hard to say why this muscle on this one side is so weak, but it is likely a combination of many things. First, the lymph nodes that were removed from my right armpit would have been sitting right on top of the muscle (as that is where they lie), and it would have been very difficult to remove them without causing at least minimal damage to the muscle. This area was also fully irradiated by the radiation. Then you add in several other surgeries to the area and a lot of time spent not being able to lift things, and shingles in the nerve that is connected to this muscle…well, it makes sense.

The good news is that now we have found the root of the problem, I can start working to fix it. I have 3 exercises to focus on for the next week – stretching the muscle to try to gain some range of motion back (the best stretch is the classic triceps stretch bending the elbow over the head), the waiter lift (which focuses on lifting the bent elbow straight up from a position like a waiter carrying a tray), and a lying punch (pushing a weight straight up from the shoulder without allowing the shoulder to raise towards my ears).

I expect to be a bit sore tomorrow after the work I have done on the muscle today.

It’s going to be a long process to restrengthen the muscle, but it’s very possible. As the muscle strengthens, some of the neck and shoulder pain should begin to subside (it’s only part of that problem), but I should also be able to move through my arm styling better (its a main muscle for properly moving the arm from the shoulder since it controls the shoulder blade), and it will help with my lead and follow in latin.

It’s something I can focus on while I am away since the exercises are easy to do in a confined space.

I have some other exercises to work on which should also help with the neck and shoulder issues.

I promise to write about dance next time. Lots of things have been happening, especially in latin as we prepare to perform in a couple weeks. It seems that we will be doing not only the cha cha, but we are now adding the rumba.

September is turning into a busy month.

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Finding a solution…

It’s possible I have finally found the source/cause of my on-going shoulder and neck pain.

I have ballet to thank for that.

While I was at ballet and doing my exercises, I was getting a repeated correction to lift my chest and bring my shoulders down as opposed to opening my chest up and pulling my shoulders back.

I have heard this a lot recently in dance, particularly latin, and it seems that keeping my shoulders down is another issue I am constantly battling.

For some reason, it just sort of clicked together for me to lift my chest and when I did I actually felt my shoulders relax – something I had been wanting to feel for months now.

I did some checking in the mirror over the weekend because I was concerned by lifting my chest I was also thrusting it out and throwing my shoulders back. In fact, lifting my chest has only a small impact on my posture overall, but it does immediately cause my shoulders to relax and lower.

It’s not all quick fix though.

When my shoulders relax, I feel pulling from under my shoulder blades from where things are pulled tight. In addition, I have to continuously work to pull my chest up because my belly is so tight from my reconstruction still. I have to keep working it until it stretches out. I have to relearn how to breathe as the pull compresses my diaphragm some. I am hoping it will gradually work itself out.

The good news is that in only 2 days I have finally seen an improvement in my neck and shoulder pain. Today my shoulders didn’t start to burn and get sore until after I finished work when previously I would be in pain by 9 am.

I will have physio tomorrow, so I am hoping to gain some exercises or tips to help with the stretching. In the meantime, I am working to keep my chest up while sitting, walking and standing to continue to give my shoulders some relief.

The bonus is my posture will improve too.

There are days…

It seems like things are just a little rough for me lately.

I had a fluke thing happen last night, and it means a little more time not dancing and more time healing. I had to cancel my lesson tonight, although I should be able to dance some the rest of the week, although with limitations.

Last night, while I was sleeping, I rolled over and felt a quick pinch over my right hip where one of my scars was from my last incision. I didn’t think anything of it at the time (I was mostly asleep), but woke up this morning to find blood on the sheets and a 2 inch opening in my hip where my scar had healed.

I was thankfully able to meet my surgeon later in the day at the hospital and he had to stitch the wound back together. He told me that he could see where a deep internal stitch had ‘popped’ and it put strain on all the tissue above it, hence the opening. Sometimes something like that just randomly happens and there is nothing I did or didn’t do to cause it or could have avoided it.

At least I only have to cancel one lesson (the surgeon gave his blessing to continue on Wednesday), but it still is just ‘one more thing’. I recognize that 2-3 weeks post surgery usually has a bit of a depressed period before the body rallies but I can’t help but feel there just seems to be an on-going barrage of obstacles between me and dance.

There are days I feel like the universe is trying to tell me that now is just not the right time for me to dance. That I am facing these constant obstacles because I am trying to force something that is just not meant to be at this point in my life.

These are days where I feel as though dance should not have to be this hard. I don’t mean the physical work, but the other obstacles–dancing through cancer, multiple surgeries, financial obstacles, difficulty finding a partner (even a paid one) for competing.  As soon as I overcome one obstacle another seems to immediately pop up, not giving me even the slightest break.

We all have our struggles with dance, and I don’t believe it is easy for anyone. My main hope is that days like these will remain few and far between and that I will continue to find ways to overcome the obstacles in front of me one step at a time.

Perhaps one day things will come together for me in a fortuitous way and I will have a “golden age” of dancing where I can truly explore and experience that I wish without constant blocks.

In the meantime, the obstacles I face do show me how much I want to dance, and for that I can at least be grateful. But there is a limit to what I can tolerate and how much I can keep fighting to do what I love and when I have days like these I realize I am in danger of reaching my limit for that tolerance. I hope I don’t get pushed over the edge anytime in the future.

But, there are days…

An off week

I am back to dancing this week.

That said, while the week started strongly, yesterday and today (although less today) I was just off. I can’t even really describe why.

Yesterday, I did a little bit of practice to try and get my body back into the habit of moving again and almost from the beginning it just didn’t feel right. My entire body felt like it weighed twice what it does and getting any part of it to move too far too much effort.

It was disappointing because Monday I had energy and a good return. Even Boss commented on my strength of movement being unexpected. We covered a lot in that lesson including a lot of detailed work on the silver tango sequence. We even ended with normal HIIT conditioning using change steps.

Wednesday’s lesson just was off. I felt like I had a headache, but didn’t, that I was dizzy, but not quite, and had some vertigo. I also had some very intense hot flashes to the point I had to separate from Boss and wait for them to pass. We went over the new foxtrot open routine and filmed Boss’s part. After that, we reviewed the silver foxtrot sequence.

Because of how I was feeling, we didn’t do the conditioning last night and ended with the foxtrot.

Tonight was also a bit low key, but still productive. We reviewed the open routines for Waltz, Tango and Foxtrot and I wrote them down so I have them and can start preparing to learn them. We had a good conversation about my thoughts while I was healing and finished with the samba HIIT conditioning exercise. Beginning in January, we will start progressing the conditioning as I seem to have stabilized with what we are doing now, so it is time to start reducing the rest time between intervals.

Despite my lessons being less intense this week, there was a lot of productivity. I think what I was feeling yesterday and today are just the usual 2-week post surgery slump that tends to happen. I am confident I will strengthen as I work through next week and continue to recover.

One small disappointment from this week is that on Monday I discovered I cannot dance in contact until my chest finishes healing. The friction (which I cannot feel) causes the delicate incisions on the reconstruction to open and bleed. I have to be careful sleeping not to cause damage. I am hopeful that it will finish healing by January, but it is hard to say as it is a difficult place to heal.

Until then, I will need to work on my own or out of body contact (or in latin). There are certainly no lack of options.

A good week back, even if I feel like I am off.

Catching up and letting go of the dance control freak

I call this ‘catching up’ because I think these are some thought processes that needed to happen back in September after my last surgery.  I think Boss already reached these conclusions (and been telling me these things), but I just haven’t really had time until now to figure them out for myself (which is needed).

The surgery in July triggered a huge change for me generally. I can’t really explain the full extent of the difference, except that now I can fully live through my days instead of just doing the minimum. The same applies to dance. Prior to the surgery I was in a place where I had to pick and choose what I could do and focus on and what I could do was very limited. Even when I was trying to push hard, everything was less than I expected and underwhelming. I wanted to work hard but couldn’t and was trying to adjust to that. I look at the videos from my silver test and I see a dancer who is exhausted and trying not to show it who doesn’t really reach the limits of anything due to lack of energy.

The return after surgery was bigger than I could even process. I suddenly had all this energy and range of things I could do that previously just wouldn’t work. Even speed was eluding me as I found myself moving faster than I intended. I felt like I was handed all these gifts and I couldn’t figure out which ones to open, and when I did I couldn’t figure out exactly what to do with them. I still haven’t figured it out.

At the time, not sorting through things was ok because I had routines to learn to get ready for a competition which gave me something easy I could focus on and really I was just continuing the work I had been doing in standard, and of course conditioning was very much (and still is) needed.

Before and after the competition, I had coaching from 3 amazing coaches to process, all of which opened up the door of possibilities a lot wider than I expected or perhaps was ready for. All of the lessons showed me I am capable of doing much more than I thought I could do.

One of the things that seems to be a recurring theme for me is that I have become far too cautious. There was a time for that, but it is now over. I can push to my limits again, but I haven’t figured out how to do that or how to be comfortable doing that again.

It’s been a theme in my lessons and I recognize that, but until now I haven’t really been able to figure out what that means for me and how to turn it from a weakness to a strength. I haven’t been able to figure out how to frame it so doing it is no longer feels like a mistake. In short, I haven’t quite figured out yet how to give myself permission to fully explore my limits all the time.

That is the main thing I have been using this time to figure out. If I don’t have the right mind-set and approach it’s not going to work.

It’s been a long time since the work I have been doing in dance has ‘scared’ me. I have been doing a lot of safe and controlled things. Even working on my own, I spend so much time doing things slowly and ‘perfectly’ that a lot of them I never try at proper speed (because you can’t control as much as you can slowly). I have become a dance control freak, and at some point I allowed myself to become afraid of taking risks and being scared. It wasn’t that way when I first started dancing.

I recognize that in some ways, it’s not all a bad thing. There are some things that need that control. But the problem is that I am trying to control everything and it is keeping me from stretching myself. I have become too comfortable in my ‘comfort zone’.

So, I have fully come to the realization (and there were seeds before) that I need to start pushing myself outside my comfort zone on a regular basis to move forward. The biggest obstacle holding me back right now is myself.

I don’t know what I am capable of anymore. I don’t even fully have faith in what others are telling me I am capable of now.

All of this is to say that I have arrived. I have at least begun to understand what needs to be done to work towards new goals. It’s a combination of faith, trial and error, not holding back and facing (again) my fear of failure that tends to paralyze me at the last minute. Instead of asking myself how can I do this perfectly, I need to be asking myself how can I do this more, where are the limits of this.

That’s not to say it’s going to be rainbows and puppies from now on. It’s a big change of mind-set and that takes time, a lot of doing by trying, and a lot of asking myself if I could be doing more.

It also means being more willing to let mistakes happen like losing balance and more trust in myself and Boss. It also means letting go of always wanting to do slow and perfect practice and making sure that anything I do slow, I also do at speed (which is not a regular habit now).

The seeds are sewn and starting to branch out and percolate. I have a week before I can return to dance after the most recent surgery, but I am starting to get restless, so it’s a good sign. It’s also been more than a week since I have had to take my insomnia medication and my sleep continues to improve. I am also only needing strong pain medication at night and should be able to stop even that by the end of the week.

I am healing, both physically and I am catching up on the mental healing that began after my last surgery in July. There is nothing except time in front of me to stretch myself and reach those limits I have been shying away from.

Time to let go of the dance control freak.

Recovery insight

I am recovering…again.

It started off pretty rough this time. I felt fairly good the day of the surgery, but the next day I got hit with what I can only assume was a stomach virus I picked up before the surgery. I have never been so sick and couldn’t keep anything in for more than 24-hours.

Thankfully it passed in 24-hours and I was able to get some food into me and really start healing. The highlight of my week was a brief shower on Friday and getting an idea of some of the results.

I am still very swollen, but already, aside from the obvious reconstructed body parts, I can tell that the revisions the surgeon did were all successful. The curves at my waist match again, instead of one side being curvy and the other flat. The ‘Dog Ears’ that were sitting on my hips have been removed, and he was able to adjust my belly scar in a way that has eliminated most of the dents I had and a lot of excess skin underneath it. I can’t be sure yet, but I think that revision has also released a lot of the tightness and pulling I had been feeling in my belly when moving and working out. Finally, both sides of my chest are now more or less the same size (one was twice the size of the other).

I have a lot of stitches which will come out a week Monday and a lot of bruising, which is expected, but today is the first day I am going without bandages. Tomorrow, I get to have a ‘real’ shower where I can fully wash the incision sites. I can’t wait!

This surgery is surprisingly painful to recover from, likely because of the bruising. It makes it a little difficult to sleep as it hurts to lie on either hip (which is my habit) so I have to sleep on my back. That said, I am slowly exchanging stronger pain meds for ibuprofen.

I have also used this time to score another small victory. I haven’t taken my insomnia medication since the surgery, and as each night goes by, I am sleeping better and longer as my body adjusts away from it. It made sense to do it now as the drowsy properties of the pain meds would help me sleep and I don’t have dance or work. It’s a positive sign that as I reduce pain meds at night I am sleeping better and I hope it continues. It’s been my goal to return to the level of medication I was at prior to my diagnosis for some time and that is the final step.

As is normal, as I heal and recover I have had some time to do a bit of thinking. I could tell my brain was sitting on the edge of wanting to do this prior to the surgery, but I told it to just wait knowing there would be time after.

My mind is still a little cloudy from pain meds, but I can tell that this recovery is going to involve some general thinking about dance and some re-evaluation of short-term goals–something I haven’t done in a while–at least not with any depth. I don’t see any huge changes coming, but I think it will be more of an adjustment of my thinking to better support the things Boss would like to see. Among other things, the biggest thing is a switch from a very cautious and controlled approach to my dance to one that takes a little more risks and explores the limits of what I can do, instead of the limits of what I think I can control.

There is more thinking to come on that and I haven’t quite worked it out in full, but it is coming and I am sure as I can think more clearly it will come clear as well.

I will write again soon, but wanted to give an update. Lots of positive things happening!

Back to looking ‘normal’

Normal is a relative term.

But in this case, I think it is appropriate.

I use it because today was the final surgery in my reconstruction and for the first time in 2 years and 3 days, I have nipples.

I lost them when I had my double mastectomy and reconstruction in 2015, as for someone with Ductal carcinoma, the nipples are the biggest source of ‘ducts’.

Of course, what I have now are not ‘real’, but they look like the real thing, which is a step forward. I don’t have to feel self-conscious when changing or even dating.

One future step will include tattooing them so they are not the same colour as the skin they were made from.

It’s amazing what can be accomplished with today’s advances in medicine. Because of that, I have been able to reduce my risk of breast cancer recurrence without even going without breasts, and without any obvious sign to the outside world.

In addition to the nipple reconstruction, the surgery also included lifting and reducing the left side which was noticeably larger than the right, as well as evening out my abdomen where more tissue was taken on one side than the other to create my new breasts. The final piece was revising my abdominal scar to eliminate some ‘denting’ and removing excess skin from my pubic area that made it stick out.

Everything went really well, although overall it is a fairly painful procedure. I am resting at home, and because everything was surface (no muscle involvement) I have been told I can return to dance in about 10 days (work in 2 weeks).

It truly is the final piece in a long journey.

The other thing that was done while I was under was that the lymph node that was swollen and causing issues was removed, to kill two birds with one stone. It was decided to remove it as it wasn’t obvious why it was perpetually swollen, and this will eliminate the possibility of it become an issue in the future.

There is, of course, a lot of swelling that will take quite a few weeks to see the final results, but I am cautiously optimistic that things will all look ‘normal’ in the near future. Already, my chest is now more or less even, and my pubic area looks like it should.

Sometimes ‘normal’ is positive and possible.

Pushing through the Changes

First, nothing ruins a Thursday more than realizing it’s a Wednesday.

It’s been that kind of a week.

That aside, there have been some high points to the week, and it seems that the medication I on (rather medications) are continuing to have a positive effect.

On the health front, it was a bit of a difficult week. As I am still continuing to experience a lack of energy and some other side effects, the docs are doing some testing to make sure that they ARE side effects, and not symptoms of something else (thyroid is the main suspect–which runs in my family).  I met with the oncologist, and as far as cancer prevention, he is happy with where I am at with the hormone therapy, and hopes I am able to get my surgery soon as he believes that will help with the side effects.

I had a bit of an anxious couple of days.  Since the weekend, I had been feeling a lot of tenderness in my right armpit, and as I was trying to figure out where exactly it was, I felt a very tender lump.  Considering my history, any tender lump on my right side is cause for anxiety.  I was able to get it checked out, and it appears that I have a swollen lymph node which is likely a sign I am fighting a bit of an infection.  I was told that the fact that it was tender was a positive thing as a cancerous lump would not be.  Just to be sure, I will have an ultrasound to have a look, but it does already seem to be feeling less sore. It’s a load off.

Now I just wait for blood work and keep doing what I am doing.

So, what am I doing?

The posture change continues.  I can feel it starting to take more solid hold, although I had a couple of days where my back was killing me–a sign that I was indeed making changes enough to irritate it.  It has started to settle down as this becomes the ‘new normal’ and I am pleased with how easy it is getting.  Still have to stay on top of it, but it is coming.

Another change I am making is to my practice, and this is almost proving a little bit harder.  It’s easy to fall into old habits of drilling and following the structure I am used to and comfortable with.  This week though, I set the changes and have been making myself stick to them.

I am only doing the set drill intervals on Monday and Friday, and only 1 set of each standard and latin, the rest of that practice time is reviewing things from my lessons.  Wednesday, there is no drilling. I am trying to use Wednesday to dig into things I want to dig into from my lessons and work through to figure out.  It’s a ‘supervised’ open practice meaning there are other dancers around doing their own thing and Boss is in the hall for anyone who has questions.  I have given myself permission to ask if I get stuck.

I wasn’t really sure what to do tonight, which is what made it a challenge, and I wasn’t sure if I would be able to fill the time.  There were a list of things I wanted to go through, so I just started with that and let it go from there. Top of the list was working through the sequence of my rumba routine on my own and figuring out the steps.  I had to ask about the footwork in one step, but I was able to go through it top to bottom a few times tonight, so it is getting pretty grounded in my head, and I have a pretty good idea where the uncertainties are.

I also worked through some of the waltz sequence we have been doing in lessons.  I wanted to see how it went on my own, but I also needed to test my own limits a bit to see what I can control and where I can push myself a little.  There are a couple places that are driving me a little crazy (particularly the transition from spin turn to turning locks), but it is slowly coming.

Finally, one of the other changes I am trying to get into my body is to keep my right foot straight in standard (which for me feels twisted in).  I needed to get a better idea of how much I have to twist it in to keep it straight, which I seem to have been able to figure out.  It’s a challenge in itself as I have to try to apply it across all the moves I make with my right foot–whether a side step, forward or back–and it’s still pretty ‘foreign’ feeling.  In Waltz in particular I find lock steps almost impossible as it truly feels like one foot is facing the wall and the other is facing line of dance.  I am hoping it will get better the more I work at it and perhaps it will force some physical changes in how that foot and knee turns out. Tango seems to be the best dance for working through that (as I can check my foot alignment when I do a close).

I have made some small changes to my schedule in general, which I hope will make things more manageable on my body.  I have moved strength training to Sat, Mon, Wed, and kept dance MWF (with Latin technique on Thursday).  I am hoping by spreading things out a bit more at the end of the week, it will help distribute my energy a bit better and keep me from getting exhausted.

The only other thing that is on my mind is that I still don’t have a date for my hysterectomy.  I was called today and offered a date for the revisions and reconstruction still needed from the mastectomies and reconstruction, but it was for mid-June and I really don’t know how close together the two surgeries can be.  I also am tied up with work until at least June 22, so all surgeries need to be after then.  They are looking at doing the reconstruction work in July now, but again, it depends on the other surgery.  If I don’t hear about a date tomorrow I plan to call as pretty much my entire life has to be scheduled around the hysterectomy and its recovery.

Until then, I will just keep working through the changes.

Comp Preparation

3 more weeks until the competition–Yikes!!

I have some good news from this week.  After an exhausting Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday (where I didn’t even think it would be safe to drive to practice 😦 ), at about 5 pm on Thursday I suddenly had a complete turn-around and burst of energy which has continued into today.

This turn-around and other symptoms make me strongly suspect that the extreme fatigue, mind fuzziness, difficulty thinking, etc. is actually hormone related.  Looking back, the last time I felt that bad was about 4 weeks ago.  It could be a sign that despite the chemopause and hormone therapy, my body is still trying to be cyclical.  I have noted on my calendar what happened and when, and I am going to see if it happens again in about 4 weeks.  Interestingly, it was the appearance of the full moon that triggered to me that perhaps this is cyclical, and not just a random occurrence, as I remember feeling ‘off’ the last time the moon was almost full.  If I didn’t know better, I would almost think I had a bout of extreme PMS.

That aside, preparations for the competition are continuing.  All the routines are choreographed now, and this week Boss and I spent time running through them and getting them to a point where I can do them mostly from start to finish in preparation for the competitive run-through practice on Sunday.

The latin routines, with the exception of a small piece near the end of the samba I need to remind myself about are in really good shape.  I need to focus in a bit on my styling for them now and focus on working through them ‘all out’.

The standard routines are coming, but taking more work than the latin routines.  Waltz is in the best place right now, with (shockingly) Quickstep just behind followed by tango and Foxtrot.  I have the routines written out now, which seems to be key for me to memorize and understand them, and they are at a place where I should be able to get through them from top to bottom without too much incident.

The biggest thing the standard routines need right now is confidence.  When I get to a part I am not too sure of, I tend to tense up, and then my shoulders hunch, especially my right side.  I also tend to start moving small and cautiously.  Today, we had some spots where I felt confident enough to really ‘let out the gas’, and it is pretty interesting when I do.  My goal is to get to that point through all the routines and hold nothing back.  Boss is working on encouraging me to use my power in standard (while still being controlled), and helping me to really realize what I am capable of.  The more we run through the routines the more I realize how cautious I am normally and how much I hold back, but at the same time, each time I allow myself to really go for it, it is a victory.

I think one of the most challenging things I will encounter at this competition is to keep myself in check and to not ‘overdo’ it by pushing beyond what I can control.  It’s a fine line.  I need to be confident in my movement, but I also need to be able to keep the confidence within the realm of what I can control.

Boss told me 2 weeks ago that he had been reviewing our previous competition videos and that he found it really interesting.  When I asked him why it was interesting, he said he was really looking forward to seeing what will happen once I am in full power and control and at my ‘top form’.  Of the videos from my last 3 competitions, I wasn’t completely 100% for any of them, due to illness or injury.

The entry list for the competition I am doing is out and I was pleasantly surprised to see that in latin I will be against 3 other competitors in most of my single dances, and will have competition in both of my multi-dances.  That is really encouraging and awesome for this competition, considering last year I was alone.  Great growth and kudos to the organizers for that.  In standard I am alone, except possibly in my multi-dance, which takes a little bit of pressure off it.  It’s been quite some time since I have had competition, and it does make me a little nervous as all the students I am against are people who I have neither danced with nor seen previously, but it is exciting nonetheless.

Despite the nervousness, I am just trying to remind myself that the goal of this competition is simply to get the routines on the floor.  If I can do that, mission accomplished!  It’s great though to be excited about a competition, as it’s been a while since I have been.

We didn’t work on the solo this week, but we are supposed to do that on Monday.  I know that the practice on Sunday will certainly highlight the areas that still need some work, and that will likely set the stage for the preparations over the next 3 weeks.

On a different front, my dresses are coming along really well!  I have a fitting tomorrow, and following that they should be at the stage where the stoning will start, to really get them towards the final product.  The third dress should be started as well (the smooth dress), and I am excited to see all three!  I am also having a skirt made for my solo, so I am hoping there is a little bit of progress on that too as I think it will be useful to practice with it as soon as I can (no pressure to my awesome dressmaker!!).

So along with a debut of new open silver routines, I am also going to be debuting two new dresses, a new solo routine with a new skirt.  Lots of exciting things happening!

I am nervous for the rehearsal on Sunday.  It’s been more than a year since I have done any of these practices and I am not entirely sure I have the endurance to be up to the challenge.  I am going to try my best though!  I was joking with Boss tonight that my goal for Sunday is to get through everything without falling down–although I think I was more than half serious!  His goal is for me to do things ‘compact’ the first round and then to ‘open up the gas’ for the second one.  Interesting how we have different perspectives :). We will see who has the best predictions.

It’s been a while since I have been in full ‘competition prep mode’ and I am finding the change refreshing.  I think even seeing that I have actual competition in some of my heats has helped to motivate me some.  Lots to do, but I think for the goals I hope to achieve with this competition, I am in a good place.

By the way–tomorrow is my one year anniversary for my last radiation treatment!

Follow-up with the surgeon

Today was follow-up with the surgeon to plan my next (and hopefully last!) surgery.

The follow-up went well, and it looks like the surgery will be in February/March, depending on his and my schedule.  I should hear in a couple months when it will be.

The final surgery will reconstruct my nipples (if only sensation came with them!) and will lift my left breast to match my right.  The surgeon will also do some liposuction on my left side where it is still consistently larger than the right.

One comment I didn’t expect to hear was when the surgeon was looking at my stomach and he commented that my ab muscles were ‘really solid’, and even tapped them a little as though to prove it.  They have been developing and they actually stick out a little.  You can see 3 of them and there is a line between them, all in the upper area.  The bottom is still a work in progress.

On that front, in preparation for my appointment I calculated how much I have lost since I started tracking and so far I am 20 inches smaller, even though I have only lost about 5 lbs.  The most lost is from my chest and hips, and when I saw the surgeon today one comment he made is that he didn’t think it would be a good idea to reduce my breasts any.  They are almost down to a ‘d’ cup (considering my natural breasts were ‘G’ cups), so that is a big leap forward.

On the dance front, I haven’t posted this week because I haven’t really done any dancing.  I am on vacation from work and I have been giving myself a break.  Boss had to cancel two lessons in a row, so today was the first lesson I have had this week.

We worked on putting together open routines for both foxtrot and quickstep today.  In the past week, we decided to do only open routines and the solo at the competition next month, to keep the preparation more focused and to give the best opportunity to put them on the floor.  Also, the competition only has open syllabus multi-dance events, so doing closed routines is not really required.

I have noticed something different working with Boss on standard open routines in the last couple lessons.  It’s hard to explain, but it’s almost like I am being treated a little more equal than I have been before.  We work through things and try things, but Boss mostly asks me to just follow what he is doing and adjust as I can.  The routines are new for both of us, so we both make mistakes now and then, but there just seems to be a different way of interacting.  It is still student/teacher, of course, but somehow a little more ‘gelled’ together in how we are working.

I think it started with working on the smooth routines, and has expanded.  It is almost like Boss has discovered more things I am capable of and he is testing those limits.  With the smooth routines, there are elements I have never done before, but I was able to pick up quickly.  I have noticed some of those elements are in my standard routines too.  There is definitely a lot more shaping than I have ever done before.

I talked to Boss briefly today about taking a bit of a break from my exercise drilling for a little bit and he agreed.  I am going to focus my practice on the mini-sequences and learning the new routines.  I think mentally I just need a break from the drilling.  A lot of those exercises I have been working on for more than 6 months, some even longer, and a lot of those elements I can work on in context with the sequences.  At least until after the competition I will keep working that way.

Tomorrow I will try to have 2 lessons in a row to make up for the lesson missed earlier this week and extra lessons for competition preparation.  We are going to work on the solo routine, taking the pieces Boss showed me last week and starting to put them together in an order for a full routine.  I imagine during the second lesson we will work on the latin rotuines.  One good thing–I worked on my own on the latin footwork so most of it is at least a little bit in my feet so I can work on other things instead of worrying about where and how I am supposed to be stepping.  My next goal will be to get the footwork of the standard routines more solid so I can work on the shaping, and add more power and confidence to my movements.  Until I get the timing and footwork down I tend to be tentative with what I do.

Boss also told me today that we will be starting competition practices again, either this week or next (he is going to let me know which). I am a little nervous about them, as my routines all seem a bit of a jumble right now, and I am not really sure I can get through all of them without major mishap.  That said, doing them in a practice environment that is like a competition simulation is only going to help me be more confident in them, and make them stronger.  I just hope I have the endurance for it.