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.

Side effects of recovery

Be forewarned–if you don’t want to hear about bodily functions, skip this post.

I wanted to take a brief moment to talk about some of the side effects I am experiencing as my body continues to recover from both my surgery and my treatments.  This is particularly relevant right now as I am starting to experience some of these side effects that are actually a part of my recovery–meaning they are good signs, but still difficult to endure.

Monday night after my lesson and practice I was doing some compression therapy on my knee and leaning forward compressing my belly when all of a sudden I experienced a sharp pain jolt through my abdomen.  It was so sudden and painful I actually cried out and as I began to sit up and flatten out my body I could feel almost a rolling sensation through my belly.  The pain came and went for about 20 minutes before it calmed down and I felt a bit normal, but it still remained almost in the background until I went to bed.

I have had a pain like this before, although not as sharp or long lasting and I was told by the doctor it was likely ‘nerve regeneration’, meaning that the nerves in my belly that were severed during my surgery are finally starting to regrow and reconnect.  Unfortunately, as they start to reconnect they send pain signals and burning.  The good news is that it is a sign I might recover some sensation in my belly.

Expecting the pain I experienced Monday night to be similar (it happens every few weeks), I didn’t think much of it, until when I was doing core strength training on Tuesday the pain unexpectedly came back as my abdomen was compressed again.  The pain again remained in the background for the rest of the day.

I was beginning to get a little concerned, as I could feel my belly starting to swell some throughout the day, and I decided it would be prudent to go see my doctor and make sure the pain wasn’t a different complication.

I am happy to report that the doctor wasn’t able to find anything for cause to worry, and it turns out this pain appears to be a combination of different factors.

One of the things I realized Tuesday night was that I hadn’t had a bowel movement in about 3 days.  This, unfortunately is one of the side effects of the hormone therapy, as well as the medication I take to control the side effects of the hormone therapy.  It’s doesn’t happen often, but it does require me to take a laxative for a couple days about once every 3 weeks.

When the doctor examined me, he was able to hear a lot of gas sounds in my belly, another side effect of the treatments, and it seemed it was trapped in my intestines.  The combination of the two, plus the nerve regeneration seems to be the source of the pain.  I had already taken a laxative, but was waiting for it to work.  Almost all of today my belly was quite sore, upset and out of sorts.

Things started moving this evening, but the gas pain and bloating was persisting and I was feeling dizzy off and on as it moved through my belly.  One of the best things I have found to help this is to get my body moving itself, so I went to practice, which did help provide some relief, but unfortunately I had a fall when moving backwards in foxtrot I got dizzy and tripped over my own feet.  I landed hard on my rump and banged my elbow, but it seems nothing has been sprained this time.  I stopped practice shortly after that as the dizziness got a little worse, and my belly began to get really uncomfortable.

One of the other things I discussed with my doctor was that I seem to be getting these pains and sensations whenever I drop a size in my belly.  He explained to me that it is very likely I am losing subcutaneous fat (which is more internal and around the internal organs), and that could be causing the feeling of compression and rolling–my intestines losing some of the ‘cushioning’ and having some extra space to move around while the rest of my body catches up.  It’s actually a good thing as losing subcutaneous fat increases the health of the organs and body overall, but with the surgical changes of my body, it’s a little confused.  It thinks it is losing belly fat, when actually it’s my chest that’s getting smaller (my belly fat now being on my chest).

My body should adjust to all of these changes, but the digestion issues are something I will have to keep an eye on to avoid having a “back-log” exasperating the pain of nerve regeneration and my body trying to figure out where to put my organs.  If those issues keep up and I continue to experience less side effects from the hormone therapy, I will ask my oncologist when I see him in January about the possibility of cutting down on the medication to control the HT side effects, to try and reduce the side effects of that medication.

Until then, I will keep an eye on things and remember that even though these side effects are inconvenient, and sometimes quite painful, they are signs that my recovery is on track.

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.




1 year since my last chemo treatment.

Seems almost impossible at this point looking back.  All I remember was feeling bad that I felt so sick and weak at the time I didn’t have the energy to celebrate then.

So much has happened in the last year and I have come so far.  I have had radiation, shingles, 3 surgeries, returned to work, returned to strength training, returned to running and returned to structured dance training.  I have hair now!

There were some goals I reached (such as performing, regular workouts, structured eating), and some that are still works in progress (still have the extra 30lbs hanging around from chemo, even though I am smaller!).

I wonder if July 17th will be a day that will stick in my head for a long time yet.  It is almost a milestone, where I can look back over the last year and see the progress I have done.

Even a year later, I still suffer from side effects from the treatments.  I am still showing signs of premature menopause and it is getting less likely that will ever reverse.  I am still struggling with dry skin, something I never had before chemo.  My brain still gets very foggy and I have a hard time processing things verbally.  I often forget words in the middle of a sentence.

But I am here and in general doing well.  Last week was a challenge as I got a stomach virus which messed up the levels of HT in my system and caused side effects from that to act up.  I think I slept more than 12 hours 5 out of the last 7 days, but have had to take full doses of my insomnia meds to do so.

That’s the trickiest thing I am encountering right now–how to tell what is side effects, what is an actual illness and what is just general fatigue?  I am looking forward at the next two weeks and taking them to be the real adjustment period to working 6 hour days.

I also see a physio therapist next week for my knees–hopefully that will help and ‘reduce activity’ won’t be the first thing on the menu.

I missed practice and my lesson at the end of last week, but made it up on Friday (the lesson anyway).  It was a great lesson–Boss and I were working through the first smooth routine designed for us by the judge I mentioned.  Such a fun routine!

I will post more about that next week.  Boss also told me he is ready to discuss goals now that he knows where I am physically so I am looking forward to that.

I am going to leave you with something I haven’t done, and likely won’t again–before, during and after photos.  So here you–this is me 1 week before chemo, about halfway through, and me today.

Keep smiling and dancing!


Falling apart?

Sometimes, small things make a difference.

My demons are still running pretty wild. But that is all I want to say about them right now.

I am in a bit of an adjustment period it seems.  With the increase of work hours last week I am having to give myself some time to adapt.

Or at least I am trying.

My weight training was taking too much time and leaving me pretty worn out, so my trainer has cut my exercises from 3 sets to 2.  I did that adjustment today and I felt much better after.

Unfortunately, I seem to have some issues with the hormone therapy again.  When I saw the oncologist last week, we discussed that as I get further from chemo (I am almost at the 1 year mark for my last treatment!), my body may try more and more to return back to it’s normal hormonal womanly cycles.

One thing I have noticed is that there does seem to be a cycle of side effects–I have a week where the hot flashes are very frequent and intense with nausea and I am much more tired, and then I have weeks where I barely notice hot flashes or side effects at all.

This seems to be a week of more intense side effects.  They started just before the weekend and were really bad today.  I almost stopped my workout and considered canceling dance because I felt so sick.  On top of the hot flashes and nausea, I can’t seem to feel rested, I am having a more difficult time sleeping and I am overly emotional.

The exercise, despite how difficult it was, seemed to help.  About at the point where I was going to stop I started feeling better.  I did make it to dance and did my full practice today.  The hot flashes seem to be better tonight than earlier today.  I hope it’s a sign that this ‘cycle’ will start spinning down and I will have some normal days.

On top of dealing with HT side effects, I can’t seem to catch a break in other areas.  My knees are really starting to bother me and anti-inflammatories, and other pain control methods are starting to stop working.  I am pretty sure it is the running (more than anything else) that is causing the pain, but at this point going up and down stairs is really painful.  They feel ok when I run, dance or do weight training, but they stiffen up afterwards and get really angry after not being used for a while. I have been avoiding it, but I think I might have to ask to return to physio for them (they were an issue before my cancer diagnosis).  I just hate to have another issue to deal with.

I also started getting shooting pain the area of my belly scar on the left side now and then.  I can’t seem to nail down specifically any movement that causes it specifically, but the pains are getting more intense each time.  Again, doing exercises for my core doesn’t seem to make the pain happen, they are very random, but getting concerning.

All of this has led to a day where I feel like having just got my body back together, it is determined to fall back apart on me.  I am just starting to get into a good and consistent rhythm with everything, and it is looking more and more that these issues could derail all my progress–both in work, strength training and dance.

Ever feel like you just can’t catch a break?


Memories of chemo….

Unfortunately, that is what keeps flashing back today.

As I try to navigate the side effects of the hormone therapy, I am struck by the parallels between how I feel now and how I felt on chemo.  Today I feel almost the same as I did 3 days after chemo treatment–weak, tired, achy, nauseous and headachy.

But I got through chemo, and I will weather this.  Gravol and Ibuprofen help and I am determined to go out tonight to see a friend perform in a dance showcase.  I missed the last 3 performances due to treatments.

The reminders of chemo started this morning when I took my Tamoxifen pill. I am not sure if it is possible for those who have never experienced it to understand, but I am going to try to describe what I am feeling.

The similarity to chemo is that I am forcing myself to put into my body something that I know will make me feel terrible–even if it is short-term and meant to help keep me alive.  HT is not as toxic as chemo by any means, but for me the feeling is the same–likely because of the side effects I experienced the first time I took it.

I don’t feel quite as bad as I did the first time I took the full dose of HT, but it still takes a bit of convincing to swallow that pill.

When you undergo chemo, for the most part, you come into a big room with green and blue recliner chairs to sit in while a nurse hooks you up to an IV.  Depending on the specific chemo treatment, it can take any amount of time.  My treatments ranged from 2-4 hours.  The first combination of chemo drugs I was on are considered so toxic a nurse has to manually inject them from a giant syringe to maintain control and reduce the change of a spill or risk of the drug causing damage to the tissue.  I was told if the drug spilled, they had to call a ‘HAZMAT’ team to come clean it up.  And this is what was being put in my body.

In comparison to others, I actually got fairly lucky with my chemo side effects.  Although I felt sick almost all the time, I never actually was sick.  Most of the really extreme side effects I experienced were more due to the drugs I had to take to prevent side effects.

Despite that, I still get a strong feeling of dread when I have to go into the cancer clinic for my follow-up appointments.  It doesn’t help that the reception for all the clinics are now located just adjacent to the chemo ward, so there is almost no avoiding it.

On top of that, recently quite a few ERs are now using the same chairs in their wait rooms for patients who need IV treatments to free up beds.  So when I go to the emergency room I am greeted by the sight of patients in ‘chemo’ chairs receiving IVs.  Thankfully, I haven’t had to go to the ER in quite some time.

I did have one bad experience at an ER on the mainland to get treatment for one of my post-op infections.  Once it was determined I had an infection and needed IV antibiotics, the nurse offered to have me sit in a chair to be more comfortable.  The idea of sitting in that chair to get an IV upset me so much I started shaking and had a small panic attack.  Once I got set up in a bed to get the IV, I explained that the chairs were used for chemo and the nurse had an ‘aha’ moment.  I personally hope to never have to sit in one of those chairs again.

I was told that sometimes chemo patients will have some lingering ‘post-traumatic’ symptoms after treatments finished, but until I experienced them myself I didn’t fully appreciate how difficult chemo is.  To put it in a bit of a nutshell–during chemo you literally have to sit still and knowingly allow someone to mildly poison you.  And on top of that, you generally feel grateful for it.  That is almost the hardest part.  I don’t regret doing chemo, even with the lingering side effects of premature menopause and other things, but I don’t want to do it again.

It hit me most how much chemo had affected me watching the series ‘Breaking Bad’ just before my last surgery.  In the first season, there are a couple episodes where Walt undergoes chemo and it shows him experiencing the side effects.  I was so upset by those scenes I had to stop watching the series for a couple weeks before I could go back.  I was relieved when Walt got past that point in his treatments.  It was just a little too close to reality for me.

So, as I continue with the HT and experience the side effects I am trying to stay busy and positive (perhaps partly why I am writing this).  On the one hand, I wish Boss wasn’t away so I would have some lessons to help keep me buys, but on the other I am glad he is away so I can deal with this while on a break from lessons, and he doesn’t have to see how much I am struggling…again.

I am trying not to draw parallels between the two treatments, but it is hard as many of the feelings are similar.  At least the HT isn’t administered by IV.  I still remain optimistic if I can just get through the next week things will start feeling better.  I am going to try to stay as active as I can, give myself a break when I need it and try to be patient and hope my body adjusts.

I need to remember I am doing this for a good reason–to give myself the best chance of staying cancer-free.


Yes, I finally found the point where a lot is just too much.

But now I know what is reasonable, so I can modify and try to find the ‘sweet spot’.

I only had practice today because Boss wasn’t able to find studio time to fit me in.  I sort of saw that coming so I wasn’t surprised.  He leaves for vacation tomorrow so everyone is trying to get some time in before he goes.  I am a little upset that I ended up being the ‘odd man out’ as there was a lot I wanted to get done before he left so I can carry one with my own practice.  The only other thing I will say about that is sometimes I feel like I get the bad end of the stick often being the first lesson of the evening as if there are hall issues, it’s me who loses out.  I hope it gets sorted when he gets back and we can find regular consistent lesson times.  It’s of one of many things we need to sort now that I am back at work.

Today was my first day going through the strength training program from the rehabilitative specialist.  It went really well, except that it highlighted that after almost 2 years of no strength training I have lost more than half of my strength.  I am struggling to do a minimum in exercises I had no problem maximizing with high weights before.  I hope once I get into a regular consistent rhythm I will be able to build back up steadily.  I did get a little bit of running in today too–and that probably felt the best out of all that I did today.

I had a hectic day at work, and that was followed by going to the studio to try and work through a new program of exercises.  The verdict? I under-estimated a lot the effect of the strength training on my endurance and strength for dance practice and over-estimated how much I could do at dance.  Not one to give up, I pushed myself to my full limits, and unfortunately a bit beyond.  I probably should have stopped sooner than I did, but I needed to figure out what was reasonable–and definitely I have a better idea.

When I finished, I was proud of what I did, but I was so tired I found myself crying as I wrote in my ‘Book of Positives’.  That just confirmed that definitely–I have done too much today.  So it will be an early night and a full day of recovering from the work I did today before starting over (with much less expectations) on Wednesday to try to find the ‘sweet spot’ that is a balance between building strength and endurance without over-doing things.  It’s one thing to feel tired after a workout, but tonight was definitely exhaustion.

I have come to accept that it’s going to take some trial and error, and I need to remember that I didn’t just start full tilt before I got sick–it took more than a year of gradual increases to get where I was, and it’s going to take that again.  Baby steps and a lot of breathing.

I have more than 2 weeks to work things out on my own before Boss will be back and I know the ‘alone time’ will probably do me good. Sometimes just working through things in pieces on my own helps bring them together.  I had 3 great examples this weekend–I was just taking a moment hear and there to try some things and I figured out what I need to do in jive to make the lifts work (Yay!).  In the end, it was actually a little funny.  It was a matter of just making sure I start with my pelvis forward so I can move it back to lift my legs….I felt a little silly when I realized that was what was in my way!

I also had an interesting success this weekend with CBMP (counter-body movement position).  I have been struggling with it mostly because I just couldn’t figure out what I was doing wrong. Boss said something random when we were working on tango last week and ‘click’ it fell into place this weekend–I need to make sure I keep my left hand back and my upper body facing towards my partner while my lower body moves in the direction we are going.

Which leads to the third and perhaps more significant discovery–I figured out how to move my shoulder blades separately from my core.  This is huge for me because one of the main issues I had in standard was that I always moved everything as one block.  This is great when you are starting out, but makes things like CBMP not work right if your shoulders always stay parallel with your hips.  Sometimes you need to twist them in opposite directions–now I know how to do that–and knowing is half the battle!

It’s amazing the number of things that ‘clicked’ into place just by figuring this out.  My standard position is one, and some movements in paso is another.  Now I just want to try all my standard steps and mark the ones with CBMP so I can make sure I am doing it right.  I also figured out how to stretch from my shoulder blades up without inclining from my lower back.  It’s like discovering a new toy!

So despite the disappointment of not having a lesson, and working myself too hard today, I did have some good positives.  I am eager for Boss to get back from vacation because I feel as though from there the ‘real work’ can really begin.

Jive Frustrations

It there is a latin dance I understand the least, it is jive.

I think everyone must have at least one dance that just doesn’t quite come together for them.  But maybe I am just hoping for some company in my frustration.

From when I started dancing at my first studio I struggled with jive.  I have a back injury that when I started dancing made the ‘top forward’ position of jive very difficult for me because I lacked the strength in my back to support my upper body being forward.  When I moved to the franchise studio and american style I did east coast swing, which is slower and different, and has different technique.  I struggled with just the basic technique in swing for quite some time before it came together for me.  Since returning to International style, I was able to adapt my swing technique to bronze jive, but I was lacking the lifting of the knees.  I started working on it….then got sick.

So it’s been about two years since I worked on jive technique.  I did a little bit of work just on the triple step basic without the lifts, but that was more adapting my swing technique.

Today, as part of putting together a new program of exercises for my individual practices going forward, I started working on the leg lift technique in the correct forward jive position.  It was a complete disaster.  We took what I had done previously lifting the same leg repeatedly and tried to get me to alternate lifting legs.  No matter what I did today, I just could not seem to get my body to do what Boss wanted me to do.

It doesn’t happen often but sometimes I just can’t translate what I see Boss doing into my own body, and no matter what he says or shows I just can’t get the right body parts to move.  We tried slow, we tried fast, we tried against a wall, we tried with a stick, we tried with him holding me in position, we tried with him moving my hips.  Nothing stuck and nothing worked.  It was completely frustrating.

I think what is really frustrating for me is that knowing that jive technique is something I really struggle to understand, I have been wanting to work more consistently on it for quite some time–but Boss always told me that my jive was ‘ok for my level’.  It always frustrates me when I hear him say that because I don’t want to be ‘ok’ for my current level, I want to be preparing for the next one, and silver and especially gold jive isn’t going to go well without basic leg lifts.  So as I struggle to try to understand and get my body moving right, I can’t help but be a little angry that I am just learning this now and not back when I was in bronze.

But I digress.  All is not lost.  I think this is going to be one of those things where I have to take all the pieces Boss gave me in my lesson and take a little bit of time here and there throughout my days to work on putting it together myself.  I think I know what I need to do, I just need to give my mind time to process it a little to put all the pieces together.  I am just not used to struggling so much and not being able to capture even a basic understanding of how my body needs to work.

Jive aside, the other exercises seem to be ok.  I am working on specific steps in waltz and tango, as well as fluid and strong arm movements and position for paso.  I should have one more lesson before Boss goes on vacation, and that should leave me in a good position to work through the exercises while he is away.

On a similar note, today I finally got to meet with the rehabilitative specialist at work to get and begin a new strength training program 3 times a week with a small running program.  I am excited to get back to regular strength training, but all I have to say is that I am really weak compared to where I was!  The program she gave me is great and she understands about dance and tailored it to help compliment the work I do in the studio.  It means next week is going to be a lot of DOMS, but it will be worth it.  Since Boss will be away, my goal is to put together the strength training with a regular practice schedule so that when he gets back I am ready to add in lessons.

We will see how that goes.  In the meantime, if you need me, I will be working on jive 🙂