A Costly Loss

I lost my backpack in London.

It was a stupid mistake. I had placed it on an overhead shelf on the bus that took us from the ship to the airport and then forgot to grab it when I left the bus.

It still hasn’t surfaced and I am pretty much out of hope that it will.

With it I lost my computer with all my school files, dance videos, records, budget sheets, music and documents, an MP3 player, e-reader, apartment, work and scooter keys, fitness bands, and the charging cable for all my electronics.

At least I had my passport in my pocket along with my wallet and phone and was still able to get home.

I was also delayed more than 2 hours for my final flight and didn’t get home until well past midnight. I had to wake up my roommate to let me in the apartment. Thank goodness he was home!

Needless to say, my first day home was spent acquiring new versions of what I had lost. I have a paper due for school this weekend, so priority one had to be a new laptop. So far it has been the costliest replacement, although I haven’t looked into replacing my scooter key yet…

Since I had to buy a new laptop, I took the opportunity to try to address the issue I have been having with my neck by getting a larger size one than what I had, returning to the size I had before. Since I am not looking down as much to work or working so compactly, I am hoping that will at least give some relief to my neck and shoulders as I move forward.

I have had two lessons since I returned, both yesterday and today. We are working on putting together the last two routines (paso and fox) and Boss filled me in on his plan moving forward. It’s a good plan, but ambitious. I can tell it is still evolving some, which is perfectly ok with me. I am interested to see how it plays out.

One of the things I am most looking forward to is spending the entire summer at home without any surgeries (minus a very small nipple revision later this week that is done in office) or other obstacles. For the first time in almost 4 years I have a nice block of time to really focus on what I want to do. I can work consistently and can’t wait!

The fall is already looking busy. As of right now, I will be away for 6 weeks just before Christmas for work. I am looking forward to it and hope it does come to pass.

For now, I am definitely jet-lagged and feeling the full effects even though I seem to be adjusted back to my own time zone. My trip was pretty intense just with all the touring we did, so I can’t say it was restful, but it was amazing to see all the different places. 4 more countries to add to my list of places I have been.

I am giving myself the week to be a little more low-key before fully ramping back into the swing of things. Getting my paper done is my main priority this week and resting up some. I am almost done the most intense course of my degree and believe me I am counting down the days. Despite the setbacks, I am still fairly on track and now that I am home I can focus on it more.

I will try to write some more tomorrow or Wednesday as I have some post-vacation dance thoughts to share. As usually seems to be the case, the time off of dance seems to have led to some processing and a few pieces coming together from the step back.

Until then, I will mourn the loss of my bag, and move on.

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Quick cruise update

Greetings from the Atlantic!

I am on day 12 of my 14 day cruise and currently sailing from Inverness to Edinburgh. Following that we sail back to Southhampton to start the journey home.

It’s been a pretty amazing trip despite some small bumps. All of the ports have been amazing and I really recommend everyone take an opportunity to cross Iceland off any bucket list they may have.

I managed to get my group project for school done about a week early, so that is a load off! My weekend when I get home will be my next paper but I should be in a good place for it.

The first week at sea I was pretty diligent about eating, practice and weight training, but have relaxed a little the last couple days.

I am a little concerned because I seem to have upset my back and am getting pulling sensations down my legs, especially the right side when I sit or lie. It’s been 2 days now and can’t seem to get relief. I am hopeful it will settle once I get back to normal at home.

That’s all for now, back at things when I get home late Friday night, and a full summer yo build consistency without any travel.

At least so far.

Set to travel

At least physically.

Mentally….not so sure.

My mood took a crazy turn over the weekend. I am guessing it’s a combination of stress and hormones. I am back in crazy hot flash zone and that just makes me feel physically ill and tired.

I can’t seem to get excited for this trip. I keep telling myself it’ll hit later, but I am just waiting. Already I am delayed 1 hour, 1 leg had to be rescheduled and with it a seat at the very back of the plane for a 4-hour flight. I was almost rerouted so I wouldn’t meet my mother and sister in Totonto, but that got fixed, at least so far.

I did get my paper finished after swimming my way through a crazy weekend of being on-call with a doggy brain. Already I fell stressed for the next assignment that us due the day after I return and a group project. I am trying to keep that in check as I can’t even start it till the weekend when the rest of the class catches up.

I do plan to try to relax. It’s a busy trip and, of course Blackpool is on!

I am just waiting to get into relax mode.

When tragedy strikes…

A member of our dance studio suddenly passed away in her sleep last week.

I found out the news on my way home from out east when I asked why classes were suddenly canceled. Needless to say, it was not what I expected.

In addition to being a dancer at the studio, she was also Boss’s part-time admin assistant. She had remarked to some dancers one night she wasn’t feeling well and when she didn’t show up at the studio and couldn’t be reached Boss and her dance partner became concerned and went to her home, where they found she had passed.

She has no family in the area so we are waiting to hopefully hear about a service here, but likely it will be out east where she is from. I don’t know her age but I believe she was late 50s to early 60s.

The gap at the studio without her will be profoundly felt. As Boss’s admin assistant, she interacted with almost every student, regularly attended group classes and was preparing for a medal test to take place next month with her dance partner.

A death in any community is always felt, but none more so than in a community as small as ours. The full implications are only beginning now and even myself I am not sure I have completely processed that she is gone.

Lessons resumed today but even something as straightforward as scheduling lessons now has different considerations. Boss and I tried to scheduled my next set of lessons for after my next return and it led to discussions about how things will likely be rearranged in the studio schedule. We put off scheduling for now until things settle a little. There will probably be some impact on some planned coaching as it was related to the upcoming medal test.

I anticipate a bit of a hard week coming up at the studio as people slowly learn the news.

Rest in Peace my dancing friend. As you dance among the stars, you will be missed in the studio here on earth.

Refocusing Exercises

My last two lessons have been about exercises.

It’s a refreshing change actually as it has been a while since I have focused on exercises and what I was doing got a bit lost in the shuffle between surgery, Christmas and a high work tempo. Actually, because work has been quite challenging lately, working on the exercises has been quite welcomed.

I am a bit of a strange nut (in case you haven’t figured that out). I like working on exercises. It’s ‘me’ time and very meditative. I enjoy doing the repetitions as it’s a time to focus inward and just allow myself to feel how my body is moving. It’s a time to connect with me. I have missed it during the last few weeks when between neck issues and crazy work and school schedules I haven’t been able to do it.

We are starting a bit fresh on these exercises. Many of them are things I have done before, but we are breaking them down a bit further into finer details than previously. Looking at those details, should help correct some of the enduring issues that are a bit of a gap in my dancing.

I group my exercises into three groups right now. The first two should be obvious–latin and standard–but the third I call my strength/gym exercises. That is because I do them at the end of my strength training, while at the gym, and in sneakers instead of dance shoes. There are strengthening elements to them more so than specific techniques like working on foot and body rise as well as hip mobility and core endurance to support it. They take about 10 minutes at the end of my gym time during the day.

We have the latin exercises more or less worked out and for now, I am doing them slow so I can pay attention to the details, but also build some muscle memory and give time for me to think about what I need to do. They are focused on hip settling movements, back steps and the foot work for back steps and some elements from my open routines. It’s a good combination of exercises and right now I just need to figure out how much time to spend on each–whether a block of time or number of repetitions and how to track that. I should figure that out by Friday.

We just started to dig into the standard exercises tonight. They seem to have two focuses–footwork, or upper body work–both of which need some fine tuning for open routines. We are working on foot and body rise as well as the connection between the two sides of my upper body. Some of them I am doing in socks, and some in shoes. I have found some new muscles, in particular how to engage my inner thigh muscles and my lats. I am looking forward to sussing them out a bit more during my next lesson on Sunday.

Because of my next, we also got away from doing cardio rounds, so I hope we will get back to doing those next week as things settle into a grove.

Boss and I seem to be pretty agreed to give about 2 weeks for me to work through the new exercises and build up my muscle memory before revisiting and pushing them forward a bit. I feel it’s important to establish that time line because I have a tendency to get too comfortable in an exercises, especially when it is slow, and need a bit of a regular push to move it forward. It’s not so much about progressing as allowing myself to get too bogged in the details going slow that I end up over-thinking when I try to do things faster instead of trusting what I learn. If I am not pushed out of my slow and steady comfort zone, I would happily never leave it.

It’s interesting what we have already discovered in breaking down these exercises. Among other things, my tendency to over turn out my right hip actually limits my mobility on my left. It’s amazing how often we have discovered that when working in latin its quite common for me to end up with my right foot facing almost sideways, while my left foot is forward to compensate. When moving my right foot backward, I have a tendency to put my heel down to the side instead of straight back which leaves my right hip too turned out and facing towards the right instead of forward. Its really highlighted the difference between my two sides.

I have also found the mirror to be a bit of a hindrance because it confuses me a little (I can’t quite wrap my head around what I see being the opposite of what I feel) and it encourages me to look down at my feet when I need to be looking up. It’s also become a bit of a crutch for how I move my feet as in order to make a correction I need to understand the feeling of what is turned out too much or too little and the mirror takes away an element of trial and error that I personally need to go through. So in the studio I am moving away from the mirror.

On a slightly different note, I found out this week that I will be in Europe for training for 2 weeks in March. I am also going to take a week of vacation while I am there, so I won’t have lessons for 3 weeks then. Boss told me tonight he hopes to have some sort of update about competing when I get back and I hope it is a positive one or at least something that gives some direction. I guess I will see then.

I will also be away for the first week in May and the last week followed by the first week of June. There is also a strong possibility I will be away for work again over the summer, but it will be a little while before I hear more about that. As I said at the beginning of the year, it is shaping up to be a busy one.

Already, I have one more full week of work then I am off for two weeks of vacation. It’s a little bittersweet because I originally took the time off because there was a plan to compete then, but that isn’t going to happen now. My father is coming to visit for the first time since I moved here, so at least there will be something interesting going on. I haven’t seen him since I went back east between chemo and radiation so I am looking forward to the visit.

I can’t believe that January is already over. Usually this time of year seems so slow! Guess that is what happens when you get busy. I also finally have my physio appointment tomorrow to see what is going on with my neck.  That should help all over.

I did start tracking my menopausal symptoms, BTW. Already, it’s been interesting what I have found out. Following the terrible week of not being able to think, I suddenly had things come into focus and sharpen up, but with it came a bout of incredibly intense hot flashes that are sapping my energy and strength while making it difficult to sleep. I figure after a couple more days it should shift again, hopefully to the ‘mini-flashes’ that are much easier to deal with. It should be interesting to see if there is a cyclical pattern.

I am definitely ready to slow down a little and refocus.

Leaving on a jet plane….

Actually, I think the first on is just a turboprop…

But heading home in just over 12 hours…well starting the 9 hour journey anyway 🙂

It amazes me how much precautions I have to take to fly because I am a cancer patient.  I saw my regular doctor on Friday and was surprised by all she has me doing ‘just in case’.

First she is concerned because my sinuses are running a lot since the chemo drug has stopped drying them out.  So that means a decongestant to make sure I don’t get a lot of sinus pressure.

The second part, which I didn’t realize, is that I am at a much higher risk for blood clots and leg edema because of the chemo.  So that means taking daily baby aspirin to until a week after I get back and having to wear compression socks on the plane (and let me tell you they are fash-ion-a-ble!!).  I was also told, especially on the longer flights to make sure that I get up and move around at least once every hour.  Here is hoping I can get an aisle seat or I am going to have a very irritated seat partner.

In the grand scheme of things it’s not too bad.  At least I am allowed to fly and get home! 🙂

Haven’t started packing yet, but thought about it–does that count?  I am really a last minute packer, so all I have right now are, of course, my dance shoes.

Does anything matter after that????

I did it!!

Got through the performance tonight–only had one ‘rough’ spot!

There is a place where I do a spin into squat and my legs almost gave out on me, but I pulled it together and managed to stand and continue with the routine.  A big part of me can’t believe I actually did it, and I was able to reach my goal of posting something tangible for my family who are far away to see I am really doing ok.

I did do a statement in the end, and several people came up to me after to thank me for sharing this piece of my journey.  In the end, this is what I said:

“As some of you know, in October 2014, I found a lump in my breast that turned out to be not ‘just a cyst’ but one of several breast cancer tumours. In January 2015, I began chemotherapy and I have now completed 13 of 16 treatments—all while continuing to dance. Tonight is for all those who have survived any form of cancer and for all those still fighting their fight. I would be remiss if I didn’t take a moment to thank and acknowledge ‘Boss’—whose patience, instruction and support have really made it possible for me to keep dancing. It is not easy teaching a student to dance who has cancer, especially a pro/am student, and that deserves special recognition. I also want to take a moment to thank you—the dancers here—because your support has helped to keep me dancing as well, and I know I wouldn’t be doing so well or be so positive if I couldn’t. So thank you very much, and I hope you are enjoying yourself tonight. This is to show that with faith, patience and determination, it really is possible to do anything you put your mind to.”

When I got home, I discovered one of the people who watched also recorded the performance and shared on facebook dedicating it to those fighting cancer.  I didn’t expect that at all, and am a little wowed that what I did had such an impact.

I am now ready to finish chemo and move on to the next phase of treatment–I have proven to myself I CAN do what I put my mind to.

You can do anything

I wanted to add a quick post with a dance update 🙂

Had a brief conversation with my instructor last night and if the open Cha Cha isn’t ready we will do our rumba competition routine, not jive (whew! load off there). Again I hope the open routine will be ready as it would be pretty amazing to perform.

My instructor asked me today if I would be ok with either him or me to make a brief statement before my performance to talk a little about what I am going through–not to say ‘give her a break, she’s sick’ but to say ‘you can do anything you put your mind to–just watch me’.

One thing I can say about this entire process is I am slowly learning and accepting that my instructor has developed a lot of respect for me as a person outside of dancing (not saying he didn’t before–this is just a different level).  He has mentioned a few times he is amazed at how I am doing, at what I am able to do, and that I (for the most part), remain calm and positive through it.  I guess because he is my instructor I have always had a lot of respect and looked up to him, but it never occurred to me that he might look up to me.  This conversation today was an example of how, without realizing it, I have affected him in a small way, and he seems to want to share that with others in the community. He actually, without realizing it, encouraged me to start this blog and share my passion for dance, as well as my journey.  Funny how we can affect one another without realizing it.

I am not sure about doing a statement, but then I am not sure if I will even be able to dance at all yet.  Certainly, I have to get the nausea and stomach acid problem under control, and I never had any idea week to week how I will feel on Saturdays–sometimes I am ok, and even a little ‘buzzed’ from the steroids (like I had 10 cups of coffee), other times I feel like I have the flu.  So that decision will have to be made that day.

Part of me thinks making a statement makes sense. It does allow me to share my journey and I know there is a powerful message there.  One of the reasons I want to perform this showcase is partly to prove to myself I CAN do whatever I put my mind to (within reason), and part of me would like to dedicate it to all those fighting cancer. I will have to think about it seriously.  I have a week 🙂

Also if the performance is recorded (and it will be), I can post it on facebook for my family to see.

You see, I live on one coast of the country, and my family all lives on the other.  I am ok with it, but especially now, it is difficult, especially for my parents, to understand and see I am doing ok.  I post a lot of dance videos on facebook so they can share in my dance world–otherwise, they would really have no idea about it.  Facebook is the main place I communicate with my family.

I haven’t posted a lot about being sick on facebook (I see no need), but I have posted two pictures of me smiling in my chemo scarf mentioning I am ok and still dancing.  At least I look healthy.  But it is one thing to see a random static picture once every 3 months, and another a dance performance video.  I think it would drive home that I really AM ok, and doing well.  And I truly am.  The support I have here, through dance, work, and friends has been truly amazing.  I am truly blessed.

I guess I will give the statement some thought.  One of the things that surprises me is whenever someone mentions how inspired they are to see I am still dancing.  It just never occurred to me that I could be an inspiration to others, because that is not why I am dancing, so not something I ever think about.  I just feel lucky that my side effects have been relatively mild (compared to what others go through, and what is possible), and that dance is still possible.

I just want to dance and be me 🙂