As ready as ready can be

Last lessons before the competition are done!

Today was about putting together last minute pieces to the smooth VW and ironing out a few ‘odd spots’ that creeped up in some of the routines as we were running them today.

I feel very good about where I am right now.  Will the routines go perfect and be as strong as possible? No, I don’t expect that, but I do know that the routines will go as well as they can and I will be dancing them instead of just trying to ‘get through’ them.

I realized earlier this week that I am actually quite proud of myself for making the health decisions I did last month that ultimately led to me getting back to being ‘myself’.  Because of that, for the last month I have been able to train better and harder than I have been able to in over 2 years, and the difference is incredible.

On top of that, I am right ‘on target’ with my studying for the week, and aside from a break to get the mandatory mani/pedi for the comp, I should be able to finish up all the work for this week before we leave, leaving me able to relax some and perhaps even get a ‘jump’ on next week’s work over the weekend.

I have one of my dresses back and ready to go, and the other 2 should be ready by noon tomorrow.   I know my dressmaker has been working constantly to get all the stoning done and what I saw of the dresses tonight look absolutely fabulous.  I can’t wait to wear them and sparkle all over the floor.

I got the instructions/demonstration for doing my hair today and it kept itself up all day through 2 intense lessons, acupuncture and a lot of sweat.  That’s promising 🙂

I hope everything goes as expected tomorrow, and plan to just enjoy the experience competing this weekend.

After all, I have already won–I am able to dance again!

Turning Point

At least I hope so.

At the risk of jinxing myself, I want to say that in comparison with how I have been feeling the last few months I feel fan-freakin’-tastic.

My head is clear, I have energy, some of my confidence is back and I feel motivated again.  I also slept 8-hours straight 2 nights in a row without waking up.  I can’t even remember the last time that happened.

I really felt it today during competitive rounds practice.  It was a hard practice, but it was hard for all the right reasons.  Boss wouldn’t let me skip dances or stop–even if all I was doing was keeping my legs moving (which happened a bit in Viennese Waltz and Quickstep).  The best thing was that when I wanted to push my limits–my body listened.  It wasn’t happy about it, but it kept going.

For the first time in a long time, I didn’t feel absolutely exhausted at the end of practice, even though I did more than I have done in quite some time.  I even worked some on my spins this evening as regaining my confidence in my spins is one of my short-term goals.

I bought a ‘Turnboard’ this weekend.  I am not sure if you know what that is (you can google it though), but it’s basically a piece of plastic you can stand on and spin.  It helps you keep your balance but it also makes spinning easier due to less friction.

I got it yesterday and already I have discovered a rather significant fact about my body.  When I stand on my right foot and turn right things are pretty good.  I am balanced, I have some speed and I could easily do more than one rotation.  But when I switch legs and turn left it’s like night and day.  I can barely get more than 3/4s of a rotation, my balance is terrible and I am slow.  It’s a huge and unexpected difference, but it certainly tells me what I need to work on more.

I think that has to do with a couple different factors.  My right side is weaker in general from the surgeries and that is my ‘cancer’ side.  But my left side is also bigger–bigger in the chest, and bigger over the hips (enough you can see the difference).  It makes sense that having more on one side would affect my centre of balance.  ‘Centre’ is a bit of a loose term.  I have a feeling my centre is a little ‘off to the right’ to balance it all out.

With my motivation returning, I am starting to find myself understanding more and more how I want to restart in the New Year.  I really want to get back to basics, but also to work on rebuilding my conditioning.  Certainly by the end of practice today I was motivated to not have to work so hard to get through a practice–to work on making it easier on my body.  I just hope my body keeps cooperating and that my energy and motivation remains strong.

I hope this truly is the turning point it appears to be.  I am tired of having to fight so hard to do the things I want to do and until today I really didn’t realize how exhausting it was.

Time will tell, and all I can do is keep taking things one day at a time.

Smooth day

In a couple of ways.

First, thanks to the very low vacancy rate in the city where I live, I was able to find a new roommate. One major stress relief down.

Second, after 5 days off of hormone therapy, I can safely say I feel better and stronger. Much more like myself.

So that leads me to dance.

Today Boss and I ran through 2 of my smooth routines–waltz and tango, and we were even able to get through the smooth routine in time with the music–minus a few spins I forgot about.

It was great to spend some focused time on the routines and to start to feel like I am getting them into my feet.  Tango I have memorized pretty well, but not enough to do with the music.  Waltz is definitely coming along.  We started working on the foxtrot some, but ran out of time before we could really get through it.

I felt really different today working in the studio.  There was just a sense and feeling I haven’t felt in a long time and didn’t know it was gone.  I just felt ‘on’ in a way I haven’t in a while.

That said, I had to cut my own practice short because I ended up with a really intense headache out of the blue.  In the grand scheme of things, it was minor, but still disappointing whenever I have to throw in the towel on something.

At least hormonally, I should have about 2 weeks of being clear and myself before my hormones get all wonky again.  I hope to make the best of it. As the smooth routines are the weakest right now, I hope to focus on them next week and I am even going to suggest to Boss doing 4 lessons instead of 3, one for each dance to focus on them before doing a smooth-focused rounds practice on the weekend.  I want to make sure that I am in the best position for running the routines before the practice. I think the intent is to record the routines to send them to the coach who choreographed them for feedback before the competition in January.

I have my first fitting for my smooth dress tomorrow and I am really looking forward to it, even though it will probably be nothing more than a body suit and underdress.  It’s just good to be moving forward on it and I can’t wait for when all 3 dresses are completely finished (the other 2 are getting a lot of additional stoning).

I will also have a rounds practice for my international style this weekend and I am interested to see how things go with the new latin routines–or rather the variations on the old routines.  The cha cha and samba should be pretty good. Jive is a little iffy, and rumba we made changes to, but only went through it once, so it will be rough.

I am expecting/hoping standard will go well.  I have two new strong focuses–trying to be consistent in the power of my movements and keeping my left side connected with Boss.  If I get at least one of those, it will be a major success.  I have a feeling though that the strength I seem to have recovered over the last couple days will have an interesting effect on the practice.

Here’s to hoping for at least 2 weeks of smooth sailing.

On a random note–I love December.  When I got diagnosed with Cancer I bought an advent calendar to count down the days until my first surgery (the dates didn’t line up, but it worked), and the tradition stuck.

Who can argue with daily chocolate???

Recognizing Anger

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

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

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

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

Changes to get healthier.

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

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

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

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

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

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

But it hasn’t worked.

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

The list seems to go on and on.

And I am very sick of it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And I feel like that is out of my control.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I just have to hang on a little bit longer.

Please forgive me for expressing my anger.

Back on the same page

When Boss and I clash, we tend to clash hard. But when we get past the clash, it’s pretty interesting what comes out of it.

Last night Boss and I sat down to discuss mainly the future for competing. It was a very productive conversation.

We discussed the value and merit of doing the local competition in January.  It’s a difficult call as there are advantages and disadvantages to doing it and in the end it comes down to what do I want to focus on now as far as routines.  If I do the competition in January, then it is an opportunity to solidify more the open routines and add the jive and paso routines I don’t yet have.  It is also an opportunity to put the open smooth routines on the floor.  I know I won’t be competing for a while after January, so it would be the last short-term opportunity to do so.

If I didn’t do the competition in January, then it would make more sense to put the open routines aside and begin working on closed gold routines (which is the plan after the comp in January).  As the open routines are not the most solid at the moment, putting them aside now would likely mean having to pick them up from scratch at a later time.  Considering the work I have already done on them, I am reluctant to do that.

So, after going through all the pros and cons and options, Boss and I agreed that doing the competition in January would be a good opportunity and an advantage.  I will be doing only open routines, and I will compete in 3 styles.

That means a lot of work needs to happen in smooth over the next few weeks.  We have 4 routines to put together and we have only worked on one once since I returned from overseas.  Boss will be adjusting the plan of my lessons over the next little while to give more focus on smooth and help bring them together.

Somewhere in the middle of the conversation I seem to have agreed to perform one of the smooth routines in just over 2 weeks.  Not really sure how that happened–I think I was tricked somehow 🙂 . I don’t know which routine yet, but Boss suggested the simplest one.  All we have to do now is figure out which one that is.  I had a look at the videos of them last night and actually suggested the waltz.  I don’t think it’s the simplest to put together (I think foxtrot is), but I think it works better with the season and focusing on it will make it a very strong start to smooth multi-dances.  I will see what Boss thinks about that.

We discussed a few changes for my latin routines as I had made some small suggestions over the weekend.  Boss seems to like them, so we will see how they will go.

He also surprised me by making some suggestions for ways we could focus a little bit on fitness and general conditioning for dance at the end of lessons.  After the conversation we had last week, I really didn’t expect any sort of suggestion or further discussion on this, but I guess Boss took some time to think about what I had said and reconsidered his position.  It will be interesting to see what comes of his ideas.

We also talked a little bit about the plan for after the competition in January.  It will be a period of adjustment as I get used to being a student on top of balancing work and dance.  I think Boss expects I will be doing less dance and less focused, but I am not quite sure I agree.  I know there will be some changes I will have to make, but I also know that dance is one of my escapes and stress reliefs and that fitting school around dance will only be a benefit to school.  That said, we will see how it goes.

We are going to talk more about competing in the new year after the competition in January, but I have made a decision to prepare, commit to and focus on a large competition overseas at the end of August.  I am not going to give more details now, but a competition goal like this is something that I really need to give me something big to look forward to.  Boss is very excited about the idea and I hope that other people will want to join us.  I don’t know right now if I will do any other competitions before this one, but it is going to be the main goal in the new year.  I am eager to work out the details some more.

I am having a difficult day again today with the reduction in medication.  It’s been a very rough day and I have been quite light headed and nauseous.  I did go to the gym and that made me feel a little bit better, and I am going to try to practice tonight (although it remains to be seen if I will be able to as the world keeps spinning a little unexpectedly).  I talked to the pharmacist yesterday and all I can do is keep fighting my way through these symptoms until I adjust or go back to my previous dose.  If anything, the side effects and difficulties I am experiencing now cement my determination to get this drug completely out of my system.  It’s just a very difficult battle and my body still hasn’t adjusted to the reduction (which according to the pharmacist is not surprising and it might take a week).

I am so torn about this.  On the one hand, I know I should give my body and mind a break–it is trying very hard to adjust to being without a chemical it became accustomed to having.  On the other, I need to push my way through it to maintain my mental and emotional health.  I am making some concessions for the adjustment, but I am trying not to cut back too much on my activity–as I said it does seem to help some even though it is difficult.  I already missed one lesson and practice this week due to this, I don’t want to miss more. At least every other day I feel ‘normal’.

I will have a competitive practice this weekend and I hope it will be productive.

Confidence

It’s funny how it can make a lot of difference.

Before getting sick, there were two words that people would generally use to describe me: powerful and confident.  That of course trickled into my dancing.

From my very early days at my first studio, I had decided that I was going to be a dancer and if I was going to be a dancer I had to project an image of a dancer and KNOW I was a dancer, even if others might not think so.

Confidence.

As my dancing began to grow and develop and I felt more and more sure of my steps, I started to challenge myself to step outside my comfort zone, but to also make sure that I put everything I had into every.single.step.

Confidence.

I went to my first competition having absolutely no idea what to expect, but I knew I would step on that floor and would give everything I had to do my best, no matter how anyone else danced.

Confidence.

I was always the bigger girl on the floor, but I never let that bother me.  I knew my weight and fitness was something I was actively working on myself, and that despite how I might look I had done the training to bring everything I could to the floor.  I knew that even though I was overweight, I would be able to give everything I had from the first step to the last.

Confidence.

I knew I might fall (and in my second competition I did–in a solo!), but I knew I would get right back up again and pick up where I needed to like nothing happened.  I attacked my spins and turns and steps with so much power I sometimes overdid it.

Confidence.

Even if everything else seemed to go wrong in the dance–whether I forgot my steps, or turned the wrong way or had to adjust to other couples–I knew nothing would stop me.  I was a dancer full of strength, determination and perseverance.

Confidence.

But I have been struggling with all of those things lately, and it came to a bit of a head for me at the last competition.  Today something occurred to me, which I wanted to share, that I think explains a little why it sometimes seems like all the things I mentioned above are missing.

When I graduated from University, I was a size 28, even though I weighed almost the same as what I do now.  I was depressed, lonely and extremely out of shape.  Walking even 1 kilometre seemed hard.  Stairs were impossible.  I would get out of breath just thinking about exercise.  Shortly after, I hit rock bottom and realized I had to make some changes if I wanted to make things better in my life and be a better person.  I realized it was time to take care of me.

So I started working on me.  Talked with a trainer for strength training and cardio. Stopped allowing myself to binge eat and tried to eat healthier. Set goals for myself and looked for the tools to reach them.

It was hard work and took a very long time.  There were detours on the way, but eventually I went from a size 28 to an 18, and even though I was still quite overweight (I actually weighed more than I did at a size 28), I had a lot of muscle, strength and cardio.  I could run 5K (and enjoyed it).

My life went into flux for a bit as I changed jobs, got married, moved, got divorced, moved again.  I started to dance and then moved to where I am now.  Shortly after that I found the keys to make things work for me and I got down to a size 12 and was lighter than I had been since graduating from high school, although still overweight.

I felt good and confident.  I had a lot of power and strength and every day I was improving.  One of my biggest assets in dance was speed, especially of my legs and in my spins.

Then I got sick and everything changed. I got derailed some. Being sick and treatments negatively affected my body and fitness.  I regained 30lbs and went up to a 14. I had major surgery. For the longest time, physical activity made me sick, light-headed and dizzy, so I had to learn to be careful with what I did and how I did it.

In my reflection today, I realized what is missing is my confidence.  But more than that, I feel right now the same way I felt when I was a size 28: heavy and slow and unfit.

As I was practicing tonight, I was working on running through my routines on my own.  Things were being difficult tonight and I felt distracted and out of sorts.  I was making mistakes I don’t usually make.  But I was also trying to do things to the music.  One of the things that struck me very strongly was that I was moving a LOT slower than I used to.

Two of my latin routines are similar to my old silver ones and as I was working through them I found myself frequently getting behind the music on spins.  No matter how hard I tried, I could not make myself spin faster to stay with the music. It was just physically impossible.

But I used to be able to do it. Yes, I am doing more technique now, but not enough that it should make that much of a difference.  I think tonight is the first time I realized how much slower I am now than I was before, and I often feel like I am trying to move a tank around the dance floor.  Even though I am smaller than I was before, I have lost enough strength to make it feel like I am trying to move around more–like 200lbs more.

I think it is necessary for me to figure that out.  With that, comes the realization that I have lost confidence in my ability to move myself.  I have fallen twice in the last 3 months working on spins and that is making me a little ‘gun shy’.  I am worried to put all my power into what I am doing because I might not be able to control and I might fall.

I don’t know if it is possible to get that confidence back, but I intend to go searching for it.  It’s only Wednesday, but already this week I can feel a difference in me and my approach.  Despite the disappointments from the weekend, I haven’t let that derail me.

I know my confidence is out there–I have to find it again.

I did it before, so I know I can do it again.

Confidence.

 

Deflated

That is how I have been feeling the last couple days.

Since getting home from overseas, I have been working to make the most of the momentum I felt I gathered after the last competition and reset myself and get ready to prepare for the next competition in January.

Then I got an email from Boss two hours before what was supposed to be my first competition practice.  He said not only were we not going to practice that day, but that he had decided to only do 2 practices in November, one every other week, instead of every week. According to him, it was because I can’t do the complete routines on my own to the timing, and that I should essentially be grateful he was willing to do even two practices.

It was a badly worded email.  And the last thing I felt was grateful.

I was livid and angry.  I had spent most of the week looking forward to that practice and reviewing all my routines, seeing how they might go.  I was gathering tools and looking forward to putting the momentum I felt into action.  The one thing I wanted to improve before the next competition was my endurance and stamina when dancing in a couple, and having regular weekly round practice with Boss was the one thing I was looking forward to, in order to develop a way to consistently push and stretch my limits.

But it is not to be.

Among other things, I had no idea that Boss really doesn’t understand what is my main competition goal right now.  I tried to explain it, but whether it is a language thing, or he just doesn’t want to hear it, it’s fallen on deaf ears.

I even presented other options, such as doing lead/follow during the other practices until I have the routines better, or instead of doing practices every other week (which lacks consistency) waiting until the last two practices of the month.

But Boss doesn’t want to discuss it.  In fact, when I got to my lesson tonight, he told me that my goals were none of his concern, and why should he adjust himself because of what my goals are?

Basically, he told me I should just work on practicing more myself.  According to him, that is the complete solution.

But I fail to see how practicing by myself will improve my stamina in a couple.  Everything I do on my own requires twice as much effort when in a couple.  There is no way I can work at the same level on my own and push my limits to improve my endurance in a couple.

It’s like training to run by walking all the time.  I can walk all I want, but it is not going to improve my running.

Having those practices essentially taken away, and finding Boss had a complete lack of understanding of my competition goals right now literally deflated me.  I went from feeling positive and motivated back to feeling stuck like I was feeling before the last competition.

It might seem like a small thing, but at this point it is the only thing I want to focus on.

I have watched the videos from the last competition and the one thing that strikes me over and over is how much my stamina affected me.  Having to do single heats one after the other, I was done before the end of the first dance.  The multi-dances were awful.  I felt like all the work I had done while I sick was taken away from me because I didn’t have the endurance to maintain my usual level of dance. It felt terrible.

I don’t want to go through that again.

So, after a lot of thought both during my lesson and the practice after, I made a very tough decision.

I am not going to compete in January.  I don’t want to embarrass myself, or Boss by not being able to improve my stamina and endurance to allow me to dance at my best.  I have always pushed my hardest and danced my best at every competition until the last one, and I just couldn’t pull it together. I don’t want to go to that competition and again be essentially useless after 1 or 2 dances–especially in the multi-dances.  That’s not the dancer I am.

I would have less than 3 months until the next competition and with only an option of inconsistent round practice until then, I don’t see how my endurance is going to be able to get better.  Especially because I know that only doing the practices every other week will only stress and frustrate me further.

So I have also decided not to do anymore rounds practices until Boss decides I am ready to do them consistently.  And only at that point will I decide when to compete next.

I am also considering taking the month of December off of dance to give myself a break and perhaps focus on my fitness on my own.  I haven’t completely decided on that yet and will wait until closer to December and see what the holiday schedule is like.

This was an extremely hard decision for me, but given the options (or lack of them) I seem to be faced with, it is the best one for me.  I don’t want to go into another competition feeling I am less than prepared.  I could know all my routines forward backward and upsidedown, but it is not going to give me any more stamina to get through 3, 4, or 5-dance events.

I wish the issue of practices didn’t hang over me like such a black cloud.  My lessons themselves have been great lately and it seems even though I have only had 3 that they have been productive.  I started the new practice program today and I could already see some improvement in some of the steps I had been working on. But the practices are very important to me as a way to measure progress, build stamina, and put together everything from my lessons–but only when they are consistent.  I know from the past, that doing them every 2 or 3 weeks is just frustrating.

I also had a really interesting meeting with the rehabilitative specialist today, but I will post more about that tomorrow.  Long story short, my strength training and fitness program is going to have a significant change to better support dance.

I am feeling disappointed, but at the same time, it is like there is a bit of a load off. Perhaps I am just understanding what Boss has been trying to tell me all summer.  I am not ready for competitive practices.  And if I am not ready for practices, I am definitely not ready to compete.

It’s a hard lesson, but a necessary one.

My stamina and endurance are the biggest things that cancer took from me.  I want them back.

Tomorrow will be a better day.

Giving it all

As I mentioned yesterday I have some thoughts to add.

One of the things I have realized recently is that somewhere within my journey I stopped giving 110% in every movement I did.

The reasons for that in retrospect, are easy–I didn’t have 110% to give.  Most days I was lucky to give 80%.  Now that I am recovering though, what I am discovering is that somewhere along the way I developed a bit of a fear of going all out and losing control and exhausting myself.

One of the things I saw watching the videos of my last competitions is that everything I did seemed ‘small’.  As I watched, I could feel myself just wanting to say ‘come on girl, just push just a little bit more…’ You could actually see when I tired and that I was trying to conserve my energy.

That was only one of the issues, but certainly it was one of the biggest.  I have given it a lot of thought though since then, and one of the things I have realized is that I have to remember and figure out how to always give that much again.  To get over the fear I have developed and just ‘go for it’.

It sounds very simple, but at the same time, I find I am fearful of sending myself (and Boss) off balance, or falling, of failing. I am holding back, and it is now becoming more and more obvious as I regain my strength, and (I hope) my stamina.

Sometimes the first step in finding a solution is recognizing the problem.  I recognize the problem, but I haven’t yet figured out the solution.

That said, I have slowly begun trying to challenge myself to do more and not hold back in my lessons.  I tried to apply it today, but I can’t say I was fully successful. I don’t want to hurt myself, and most especially Boss in trying to push myself.  But push myself is something that is necessary for me to do right now, and in many ways it is something I need to relearn to do.

Mainly, it is a mind-set.  Once upon a time, I used to attack everything I did with everything I had.  But at the same time, I wasn’t able to control the power I had and the momentum that came with it.  Now, I am just not sure, and honestly lack the confidence I need to just get to that extra step.

It is like I am almost on the verge of a breakthrough, but I just can’t seem to find where that last step is.  I am on the edge…of something but I am not sure what yet.

What I do know, is that I have to figure out what 110% is again and fight through the fear to be able to put that into everything I do.  I am just not me otherwise, and that is what I saw in the videos.  I could see someone holding back, and that is not something I do.  In previous videos, the problem would actually be that I was ‘overdoing’ things and losing control.There has to be a happy medium somewhere, and I need to find it.

My journey to resetting is continuing though.  Today after my lesson I began to formulate a plan for practices and I hope that Boss agrees with, or at least provides some guidance to what I have put together.  It’s very important to me right now to get back on track and be focused in what I need to do, and slowly the steps are coming together.

I know the next two weeks will be tiring, I will be hungry, and likely quite fuzzy-headed.  But once the first two weeks are done, things will start to adjust and become more like ‘normal’.  I am feeling very motivated and committed now and all I can do is capitalize on that.

On a slightly different note, after a week of medication reduction and inconsistent dosing schedule, my body is slowly starting to adjust to the new levels and I am getting back on schedule.  I am reaching the point in my medication where I am ‘almost there’ in getting off of the one I want to get off of, and reduced to minimal levels on the other.  Eventually, I hope that the hormone therapy will be the only medication I will take regularly, with the exception of supplements like vitamin D and calcium (which are needed to help prevent osteoporosis with the hormone therapy).  I am still at least a month away from that goal, but it is getting more and more in sight as I adjust to my current doses.

Getting off those medications is almost another sign of recovery and it gives me something to focus on health-wise (other than diet and fitness at least).

I can feel a lot of pieces coming together for me, and my goals coming into focus.  I am on a cusp of moving forward and I am slowly gathering what I need to do so.

Reset

And so it begins.

My lesson tonight was good.  We started looking at some steps Boss wants to add to the open routines as well as sequences for me to start doing as exercises.  We also took some time to review the videos from the competition and look at good and bad points.  We seem to agree on the same points and Boss had a few things to add, such as use of my foot in standard, to set the stage for the next few weeks.

Bending my knees when I need to is another issue I need to work on.  My knees are feeling better after the break I have had and I hope they stay that way.  I am not allowed to run for now, so cardio is going to be elliptical for the next little while at least.

One of the things I was able to figure out this week was some new motivation for fitness and my weight.  I developed some new goal ‘rewards’ for myself and they are more enticing than those I had for myself before.  I think this will be a better plan for me and it is similar to what worked for me before but updated.

I also bought a new fitbit today, the updated version of what I had before.  I am already enjoying the updates and hope it will also be effective as the last.

One of the other things I discussed with Boss was some small changes to my dresses, although mainly about adding stoning.  He agrees with what I have suggested, and I hope the dressmaker does too.  We have to start working on the smooth dress too.

Speaking of smooth, hopefully in the next couple weeks we will start working on it again.  I am going to do some extra lessons since I have some ‘banked’ from being away.  In a way, it is like learning 4 solos and that is how I plan to approach them.

I can feel myself starting to build momentum and I am glad for it.  I have some other thoughts but I will save them for a post after my lesson tomorrow.

Until then, happy dancing!

I’m Back

Well at least in Canada again.

Haven’t hit the dance floor yet, but still working on jet leg.  I worked today, but I am taking the rest of the week off in recognition that my body just needs a little more time than usual.

I was sick on the way home.  I will tell you there is nothing worse than being sick on a plane as you are stuck in your seat with an audience.  The good news is at least the plane wasn’t too full, and I had 3 seats to myself and could sleep between bumps of turbulence that just didn’t end well.

I am not too sure why I was sick, but there are several possibilities, all of which could contribute.  I have been going pretty hard for two weeks, I was dehydrated thanks to my bank card not working in China, and my medication schedule was screwed up from the jet lag.  Guess that made almost a perfect storm.

I slept more than 16 hours straight once I got home and honestly I can’t remember ever doing that since I was a teenager.  Unfortunately doing so meant missing another dose of medication, so I am still feeling the effects of that.  I am also reducing medication again, so like last time I am a little dizzy, nauseous, light-headed and fuzzy-headed.  I feel better sleep-wise today, but hope my body will adjust to regular dosing by the weekend.

It seems like nothing is easy anymore, but all I can do is adjust as I go and remember that my body has been through a lot and give it a bit of a break.

The problem is that I am a little tired of giving my body a break.

In some ways, it is harder to not be reminded I had cancer now than it was while I was being treated.  At least while I was being treated I expected to feel weak and sick.  Now, I am just over it and want to get on with my life.  Get back to normal.  Medically, I probably have another year before my body fully recovers from everything.

But despite the difficulty in recovering, I am truly proud of what I accomplished over the last two weeks.  I worked erratic hours, produced a lot of quality work and was able to get the job done.  That is an achievement and a milestone in itself and I remind myself of that.  I will take the time to recover and look forward to the next project.

I did have some time to reflect while I was away (11 hours on a plane has that effect!), and it was good to get some time away in that respect.

I have been feeling a little unmotivated lately.  Not so much with dance, but in general.  I came to realize that although I constantly adjusted my dance goals throughout this entire process, a part of me somehow figured that when all was said and done I could just pick up my life where I left off and resume those goals.  What I have realized is that is not the case and I do have to adjust those bigger goals as well–I have to recognize that the things that once motivated me are no longer what motivates me now.

One of the biggest area of my life I am struggling with right now is fitness and weight.  I am still carrying the 30 lbs I gained with chemo and I think part of me has been almost expecting it to just start to fall off at some point once I got back to things.  That part of me has forgotten how much work it was to lose weight the first time and how it took a lot of discipline, patience and hard work.  It’s not that I am not working hard now, I am just working different, and I haven’t adjusted to that.

I can feel myself resetting though, in a good way.  I see the rehab specialist on Monday and I have already told her I want to focus on rebuilding cardio and overall fitness more so than weight.  While I was away, I had a small email exchange with Boss to discuss the way ahead with dance too, as he left the decision of what to do up to me.

A plan is forming in all areas of my life and I can feel myself feeling better with it.  I have given some long hard thought to what motivates me now, what has worked in the past and what I need to do to get to my goals. It is time to shift my focus back from dance and more onto me again–as it was in a lot of ways before I got sick.  Initially, I didn’t dance just to dance, I danced for me. To improve my fitness. To be active. To be stronger.  As I got stronger, so too did my dancing.  In that respect, everything won.

So, I am resetting my goals and focus and seeing where it takes me.  I have the tools, I just need to remember how to use them again.  Monday is more or less ‘go’ day for me and I am working to have myself organized by then.  The first thing is really just developing a regular routine and giving myself meaningful ‘mini-goals’ to strive for.

On the dance front, we are going to continue to work on the open routines.  Boss has told me he is going to adjust my practice program some to combine drilling with mini-sequences, and we are going to dig more into my latin styling, which is the one thing that really stuck out to me in the videos from the competition.  I am looking forward to my first lesson back which is tomorrow.

We are also going to work to put together the smooth routines for my next competition in January.  At least I hope so.  Boss hasn’t really said much about it, but it is one thing I truly want to do, so I hope he isn’t just stalling by staying quiet.  It also means getting my third dress made.

It’s been a lot of flux lately and a lot of changes, but I am confident I will get back on track.  In the end it is just one day at a time.

One step forward and two steps back is not a disaster, it’s a cha cha.