Topsy-Turvy Day

My day got a little upsidedown today.

I am on vacation from work until Wednesday and because it is a provincial holiday the hall where Boss usually teaches was closed.  This meant that I had dance in the morning and did my strength workout in the evening.

In general it’s been a good day.  I am making myself take a break from school as well as work as all my pre-residency papers are done and I only have a couple of readings to do before Monday.  That is helping me relax some.

Thank you to those who read my post yesterday. A few people reached out in various ways and it was great to hear from you! A wiseman added a further perspective to the situation here–the social dancers tend to find me intimidating because I do technique (remember, this is a social dance community where everyone learns step sequences, but not much technique), and the competitor dancers see me as someone who has only been dancing for 2 years–most of it while sick–because that is when they started seeing me in the community.  Very few of them understand that I was dancing 4 years before they met me and I got sick. It’s bit of an ‘island mentality’ here to treat people as though they sprung into the society with no background and started life only when they arrived–especially if they are under 50.  I have encountered this in pockets all over the community–not just with dancers.

That aside, today was a good day–both for dancing and strength training.

For dance, we did a quick review of some of my exercises based on the feedback I gave Boss last week, then focused into standard.  We received a couple amazing reviews of the videos of our smooth routines from the pro who choreographed them and the interesting thing about smooth is that pointers from it also tend to apply to standard and latin.  One of the points she made was about my position and pointed out that I have a habit of ‘breaking’ my neck line.  This has me thinking about that and working to differentiate between when my head is ‘back’ and when it is ‘back and up’.

We also did some work on standard position and started taking some of the static things we have been doing and trying them in basic steps.  It’s going to take a lot of work, but doing so already has my mind thinking and processing and that is a good sign.

For strength training, I started the new program and I am a little relieved that it takes exactly 1 hour (there was concern from my trainer it would be too long).  I started with the cardio sequence Boss designed and that worked out really well.  It certainly got my heartrate up (my fitbit recorded a high of 170) and I like moving through the different exercises–some of which I haven’t done in a while.  It even incorporates 3-step turns (which when done over 2 minutes is a lot of turning!).

The strength training also brings back some exercises I haven’t done in a while (like pushups), but also adds some new ones.  It’s an interesting combination.

One thing that is making me a little nervous is that Friday morning bright and far too early, I have to go do a practice run of the PT test so that physio and the rehab specialist can see what it is I need to prepare for it.  I haven’t done it since before I was sick and I weigh 20lbs more than I did then and I have lost a lot of strength.  Physio told me to go in with no expectations and just see how it goes, so that is what I am going to try to do.  I just hope I don’t flare up my back or knees too much.

Well, that is a good summary of my day.  I am still giving a lot of thought to dance, but I think that for now while I am still recovering and doing school I am just going to keep doing my own thing.

Really, that’s all that I can do.

Continuing on…

My lesson on Wednesday went much better than the one on Monday.

It was focused on latin, so that was probably a good part of the battle–moving my body in latin just comes  a little more natural to me than moving as a block in standard.

The lesson was really a lot of trial and error to figure out what exercises I should be doing for latin, similar to the exercises I now have in standard.  We went through a bunch of different exercises in rumba, cha cha and samba, slowly building a program. One small victory for me was when Boss asked me to do some samba whisks and whatever I was doing, I guess I was doing it right because there was a sudden ‘well look at you’ from the corner of the studio.  Of course they weren’t on time (I wasn’t warmed up enough for my knees to cooperate quickly without pain), but they weren’t far off.  I am not sure I could have done a full minute of them, truthfully, but good to know I am doing something right in samba (which based on my comp marks seems to be one of my weakest dances).

Many of the exercises involve focusing on core and hip movements and controlling the movements, which honestly I really enjoy.  I also get to work while pushing my feet into the floor, something else I like.  Back to me being a tactile person.

We weren’t able to finalize the program for latin, but that doesn’t really bother me.  I would rather take time and be sure of what we are doing than to rush and have things be haphazard.  I am sure we will get it narrowed down at my lesson tomorrow.

For practice last night, I ran through the standard exercises 3 times.  I like how they are set up–1:30 of movement, 30 seconds rest through 8 different exercises.  Then a 2 min break and I start over.  I can set my fitbit to vibrate for each interval.  It’s a small start, but it’s a good one and I hope to increase the activity time once I gain more strength (don’t want to overdo things!).  Despite the struggles I had in my lesson on Monday, the exercises are already coming better and I am feeling a little more confident in them.  I still have to be very vigilant about twisting from my hips and not my upper body, and one of the exercises is still very challenging–but the point is to keep getting stronger, isn’t it??

I am actually pretty impressed with how this week is going for me.  My energy levels are staying consistent, I don’t feel exhausted and I have been doing work, strength training, dance lessons, practices and studying.  I am slowly settling into a balance and I hope I am able to maintain it.  I am also less than 1 week from my next shot and I still feel ‘hormonally even’, unlike last month.  I still plan to wait one more month before starting the additional hormone therapy just to give my body more time to adjust to the ovarian suppression before adding something new.  My fingers are crossed that the worse is behind me.

New Year

New work to be done!

Mainly, recovering from the past year.  As much as I would like to think that breast cancer is behind me (and the cancer part definitely is!), there are a lot of lingering side effects from treatment that will take close to a year to work out.

I am hoping that’s an over-estimation, but I am trying to manage my expectations.

First order of business is to continue healing from this surgery.  I am down to only one spot being bandaged and cleaned daily, but still have a few other spots that are ‘almost’ there.  I still have to wear the elastic binder around my waist, but even the nurse today commented that he wasn’t sure what help it was doing.  I have to wear it at least until I see the surgeon again on the 14th.

Second is getting through the first 3 months of hormone therapy.  After less than a week of taking it, I can tell it’s affecting me.  I am emotionally all over the place and the hot flashes are bad–especially at night.  I have to give it 3 months for my body to adjust and then go from there.  I am hoping my body adjusts sooner.

Third, I hope, will be a slow return to work.  I see my family doctor on the 7th and she should have a better idea then when I can start back.  With it will hopefully come a referral to physio and/or a rehabilitative specialist.  Prior to getting sick I did regular weight and strengthening training to supplement dance and I am really eager to get back to it.  It’s especially important as I have an older permanent back injury that needs to supported through my core (hence another reason why dance is so important!).  I have missed work and look forward to getting back to it.

Finally, will be my return to dance.  I don’t know when it will be yet as it really depends on my healing.  I still have a gaping ‘hole’ that is about 1 1/2″ that is healthy, but doing very little healing.  Unfortunately, it is in a place that could easily be pulled and stretched doing dance, and until it is closed up, I don’t see me being allowed to go back to full dance.

The surgeon is the boss on when that will happen.  He has allowed me to do small stability exercises so far, and I am hopeful at my next appointment he will allow me to do more with my lower body and perhaps return to my latin ‘rocks’ as long as my upper body isn’t too involved.  We will see how it goes.

I have been giving a lot of thought to how I want to return to dance, taking into account how I am feeling.  I haven’t discussed it with Boss, but I think once I get a ‘go ahead’ in January I am going to take the time to sort and figure things out for myself first.  Then I will return to lessons with him in February.  I need to give myself time to figure out all the new sensations going on with my body right now, especially through my abdomen.  I also need to get more used to my lower centre of gravity (I feel about 6 inches shorter, even though I am not!), and see where my balance is at.  I think because my centre is lower I am actually a little more grounded–but we will see.

2 weeks to go before I see the surgeon again and it seems like forever.

In the meantime, I have put my fitbit on again, and now that my mom is gone stocked the fridge with my ‘singles’ food fare.  I am looking at this 2 weeks as a chance to get a ‘jump’ on my diet before I can go back to regular activity.  I am doing my ballet exercises daily and my arm endurance every other day (right now, 2 mins per hold is a challenge–and I used to do 3 mins each no problem!).

Let the rebuilding begin.

Fitbit fitness

I meant to post yesterday, but the day got a little away from me.  Probably I will post twice today.

It turns out, the radiation might not be causing all the nausea and fatigue after all.  It seems I have an infection so now I am on antibiotics, but I could be feeling a lot better by tomorrow.  I really hope it’s the infection causing the issues.  Fingers crossed.

I mentioned before that I have fitbit charge HR watch that I use to keep track of my daily calorie burns, sleep, weight and heart rate.  I have it set so that it ‘buzzes’ when I reach my goal calorie burn for the day.  It’s pretty interesting to see how much more calories I burn on dance days VS non dance days.

Up until the end of last week, I had been pretty consistent with my diet, practice and exercise and getting my fitbit ‘buzz’ almost every day.  As a result, my weight finally started to slowly go down at about 1/2-1.5 lbs/week.  It’s not much, but it is something.  Looking at that, it has helped me to figure out that I would like to be close to or below 200lbs again by my surgery.  That leaves me 12 weeks to get there, and if I can stay on track with my little buzzy friend, it should be quite doable.

The biggest hurdle will be the radiation fatigue, but so far so good, knock on wood.

I am still a little frustrated with the chemo weight gain, but that’s life and time to move on.  As I start to near the end of my journey I can look more and more to the future beyond it, and I really look forward to that.

In the meantime, I have good, strong and clear goals, a diet plan that works for me, a way to track my activity, solid exercises and a lot of motivation.

Getting back on my feet

Literally….in heels.

I finally made it through a Monday practice again–and I did it in full heels–2.5 inches for latin and 2.0 inches for standard.  Felt so great to make that accomplishment.  Only one small blister.

Of course by tomorrow I may be singing a different tune once my muscles catch up with the work they did today.  According to my ‘fitbit’, today’s practice burned 870 calories with an average heart rate of 128. I guess I was working hard!

Today I was able to feel a little bit like my old self–just forget about chemo and pretend I wasn’t dizzy and nauseous and just dance in my happy place.  It’s been a couple weeks since I have been able to get there.

Despite that, there were some frustrating moments.  My spins and spirals are definitely feeling the new heels and have back slid some.  That will require some hard work for sure.  My back lock steps in Cha Cha don’t really want to work, and samba is just plain weird.  Oddly, my standard exercises felt better in my standard shoes.  I think I like the extra stability they provide being less flexible than my practice shoes.

It’s a start though, one day down and as many to go as I want.

I got a call today that I see the radiation oncologist on Thursday and Friday is my radiation planning session which includes at CT Scan, measuring and tattooing.  I was told Radiation will start August 11th and will then last until September 18th.  28 different sessions, every weekday.  I hope it goes by fast.  Thursday I should have a better idea, I hope, of what to expect.

For right now, I am just trying to enjoy and make the most of the little break I have.

Tomorrow I have 4 lessons with a top-level Standard coach and I can’t wait!  I was told we will spend 2 on Foxtrot, 1 on Waltz and 1 on Tango.  We may or may not get to Quickstep.  That’s ok because most of the stuff from Waltz translates to QS pretty well.

I want to share this song that really kept me going when things seemed endless and never ending. It really is like the song of my life: Rachel Platten–Fight Song.

I feel a sense of peace today I haven’t felt in a while. Perhaps it is sinking in that Chemo is really over.

Thank goodness 🙂

‘Fitbit’tting it

I was sick again during practice today and had to stop 😦

but I don’t want to focus on that.

Today I want to talk a bit about my Fitbit.

As I mentioned, I had bought one to use just before I started chemo and have been pretty steady with it.

Unfortunately, when I had a bout of bad side effects 3-4 weeks ago I stopped using it so much and I realized last week it’s been a while since is ‘buzzed’ meaning I achieved my calorie burn goal for the day.  That speaks to how much less active I had been during those side effects.

But I am happy to report I am back on track and I have had the ‘buzz’ almost every day for a week.  Because I have been able to re-motivate myself things are looking good.  Also, being off the steroids I actually have a chance of starting to lose the ‘chemo weight’ and getting passed the plateau I was at before all this started.

The buzzing helps keep me motivated.

I didn’t wear my chemo cap today to practice.  I think over the weekend I decided not to wear them anymore.  Doing so seems to be giving in to the cancer and pretending I am not at the end of chemo.  I have hair now, I want to show it.

Tomorrow is my next lesson with boss.  We will see how that goes….

A word on weight

So had my treatment today, but it took longer than normal.  For some reason the pharmacy thought I wouldn’t be having a treatment so they didn’t prepare my drug (chemo drugs have short expiration date and are expensive and doses can change from one to the other, so the drugs aren’t prepared until it is sure you are going ahead and dose is confirmed).  I ended up waiting an extra hour for them to prepare my drug.

I have some (sort of) good news though!  I spoke with the nurse practitioner today about the issues I have been having with the nausea that has been increasing as the week progressed, instead of abating.  I was also having an issue where I was hungry to the point of being in pain almost 24-hours a day, despite eating.  Apparently, these are symptoms of an over-production of stomach acid, which could be caused by the steroids.  She prescribed an acid reducer and hopefully this will take care of the extra nausea and stomach pains–meaning it shouldn’t interfere with dance anymore! It is surprising sometimes what is considered ‘good’ news in my world these days 🙂

I am glad to hear the that unending hunger should go away too.  Even though I am doing treatments, I am still trying to follow a diet and keep my weight controlled.

Most people assume that when on chemotherapy people automatically lose weight.  For most people, and most chemo protocols, this is a MYTH.  In fact, the opposite is true–because chemotherapy for most people involves taking or being given large amounts of cortisol steroids, and activity becomes reduced, most people gain weight.  There are exceptions, but I am not one of them.

Before I was diagnosed, I had lost 75lbs and was 25lbs from my goal.  Since I was diagnosed, between my surgery and starting chemotherapy I gained back 15 lbs just from the reduction in activity from dancing 15-16 hours/week + 45 mins of weight training 3 times/week.  I have gained another 10 lbs during chemotherapy, again reduction in activity to just 3-4 hours of dance, no weight training and the large amount of steroids.  So, 25 lbs gained back, and I have no idea how easily it will come off when all this is finished.  I can’t even really keep an accurate track of my weight as the chemo drug I am on now causes a lot of ‘edema’, which is a fancy world for fluid retention and bloating. They did reduce my steroid dose 4 weeks ago and that had an effect of stopping the weight gain, and I had even lost weight at my last oncology appointment, but I expect I will be back up again at my next one next week.   This constant hunger pain has taken a big toll on my diet.

But, I hope, things are looking up and the pain will go away and I can go back to following my regular diet without feeling like I am starving.

Small product plug–when I found out that chemo was likely to make me gain weight, I wanted to try to find some way to keep control.  So I bought a ‘fitbit ChargeHR’, and I have to say I am really happy with it.  I can track what I am eating, but it also shows me how much I am burning too, so I can easily see if I am burning more than I am eating.  It also tracks my water intake which is essential during chemo.  While I have been gaining weight, I know it is mainly the steroids as I am very disciplined about entering all my calories–even the fast food I sometimes give in to eating–and I can see there is usually a deficit at the end of the week (not all week, but most!).  I am really really really looking forward to being able to use it properly in 4 weeks when I have the last of the steroids, the last of chemo treatments, and well, feel like a normal person again 🙂

Having to lose 50lbs again is disheartening.  It took a lot of time, effort, discipline and hard work to lose the first 75 lbs, so to gain 1/3 of that back hurts a little.  But I know that I will become more active again when my body is not being poisoned regularly, I am not tired all the time, and have energy to motivate myself beyond just getting out of bed, and that my usual self-discipline with my diet will also return.

I’ve got this. I just have to be patient a little while longer. 3 treatments left.