A Successful Performance

And two of my open latin routines are on the floor!

Some poeple can grow a human in 9 months. I can’t, so instead I grew 2 latin routines to initial performance level.

The showcase last night went really well, but instead of just talking about it, I am going to show you.

First, we did the open Cha cha then we did the open rumba.

It felt so good to be performing. I really didn’t realize how much I have missed preparing for a goal. We decided to do the cha cha just over a month ago, and added the rumba 3 weeks ago. I was really amazed how much we were able to polish up the routines in that short amount of time – especially as prior to that we hadn’t even tried either in time with the music.

I could go into multiple details about what was wrong with them – little stumbles, legs not quite straight, some strange styling – but that was not what last night was about.

Last night was about getting back on the floor, knowing I worked hard and taking the time to just enjoy dancing and presenting two challenging routines to a local audience who haven’t seen me perform since 2016.

I was approached by one of the local social dancers after the showcase and what she told me really stuck. She told me she really enjoyed watching me perform last night because she could see the pure joy I was experiencing being on the floor.

It really stuck out because she has seen me dance through my entire cancer journey and when it became known I had cancer she was one of the first to approach me and share that she too had battled cancer and won. Her sharing that with me helped me to realize I too could win this battle. Sadly, last night she shared she is once again battling and will be doing a form of chemo for the rest of her life. But to know that seeing me back on the floor and doing what I love meant a lot to her really touched me.

Cancer has not been nice to the dancers in my community. But we keep fighting and supporting each other to overcome it.

2 of 9 routines now on the floor! I am sure the others will follow in the new year after I get back from this upcoming extended work trip.

I reminded myself of something last night I hadn’t realized I had forgotten. It’s easy to always declare new routines ‘not ready’. The truth is that they are never ready, but at some point they need to be put on the floor so the next steps for them can be determined.

Ready for the next steps in cha cha and rumba now.

 

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Preparing to perform

So it appears we will be performing in two weeks.

We are focusing on latin and we will do the cha cha routine for sure, but we are also working on the rumba and will probably do that as well.

It’s a showcase for another local studio that Boss’s studio has been invited to participate in. It presented an opportunity for us to perform just before I leave for the rest of the fall, and gives us a goal for getting two routines ready to perform.

It just makes sense, especially since other than a really brief and quick demonstration back in July we haven’t done any competing or performing since last October.

Both routines are actually not in bad shape right now.

The cha cha we are able to get through in time with slow music and the medium music has only a couple of bumps but doesn’t completely fall apart. Since the last time we ran it in full, we have worked out almost all of the bumps, and most of the styling. In the end, the routine has only two major spots where arm styling is a concern and I have been working on them pretty hard.

The big thing we have been focusing on in the cha cha is the lead and follow as that is key to getting the turns on time and executing quite a few of the steps. It’s actually pretty together right now, but needs some polishing and running through a few more times to hopefully lock it down.

I have actually really enjoyed the concentrated focus on the cha cha routine to pull it together and it confirms for me that agreeing to do the performance has been the right thing to do to move some of the routines to the next level before I leave.

We started digging into the rumba on Monday. It’s actually also not in a bad place, but it also has a few bumps to iron out and we really need to go over the styling in detail. We ironed out one of the biggest bumps in the middle of the routine yesterday, taking the whole lesson, but it was time well spent as we were able to go through that section in time with the music several times.

The key to the rumba right now seems to be the timing. Its tricky because it varies quite a bit and there are holds and pauses for development – some of which are one bar, some are two. The trick is remembering how long to develop at what part.

The styling will also be tricky, especially some of the transitional pieces. I already accidentally clobbered Boss in the face yesterday in a combination of not getting my arm high enough and him having his head a little forward. Some of the hold changes are also tricky.

One of my biggest concerns about the styling is that I am not very good at developing some of the lines and some of them need a lot of very specific movements I just can’t seem to make work for me. One of the key parts of the routine has me do a double turn to roll-out into a side lunge stretching away from Boss. When I hit the lunge, I need to make sure I have reconnected with Boss after turning on my own and after I stretch away I am supposed to melt.

I don’t melt very well. I really think we need to considering another way of styling that step, whether it is to stretch it a little longer and then turn in for the transition which is to a pivot to a lunge done together. I hope it is something we look at a bit closer very soon. I know I can do a good stretch because we have done one in a previous showcase routine.

For both routines, it really is about polishing right now, minus a couple of timing and step bumps to work out. For the cha cha, I need to make sure I add more power and speed to my turns, and the rumba is about the timing and not rushing. I don’t feel relaxed about performing, but I am not feeling overly stressed about either routine not being ready.

At least not yet. We will see how I feel in a couple weeks.

The focus on latin and the details has really been interesting over the last week. I’ve really enjoyed what we have been doing and actually been surprised at how things have come together. I feel really good about the work we have done and while I know neither routine will go perfectly, I am starting to look forward to performing. I have missed it more than I realized.

More prep to go.

Adjusting to my new body

It seems strange to say, but it’s only recently I have discovered how much my body has changed from my journey.

And it is still changing.

Some of the work I have been doing recently has really brought to light some of the challenges I am now facing due to the scar tissue and side effects of my cancer treatments and resulting surgeries. Some of these things really surprise me.

For example, today it really came home just how tight everything on my right side is – not just on my chest, but all the way down to my hip and hip flexors.

When I was doing my own practice, I was trying to focus on keeping my right side ‘up’ when working on standard because Boss made a small remark about my right side ‘still going down’. It was just one of those things I wanted to explore for myself and see what I found.

I am not sure what I found is that great. After only 15 minutes of trying to keep my right side pulled up, I felt what initially felt like a stretch at my right hip, but then turned into a pull, followed by burning. When I stopped, the burning has remained, right over my hip bone where the tissue feels incredibly tight.

Bottom line, my right side going down is a combination of me not paying enough attention to pull it up, and tightly stretched tissue working to pull it down.

It’s like the issue with my chest being constantly pulled down and irritating my neck and shoulders. I have to constantly work to try to keep pulling it up to allow the tissue to stretch so my body can adjust.

So it is apparently going to have to be for my right side too.

It’s not just in standard that this is affected. Latin is also suffering.

Aside from my range of motion through my shoulders being about half as much on my right as my left, it is also very difficult for me to keep my latin frame in front of me. We haven’t worked on that a lot until recently, but the work we have done has really surprised me with how difficult it is to the point of being mildly painful.

I know that when I cross my right arm too much across my chest the pulling has causes shooting pains across my chest muscle in the past. I am hoping it will work out in time.

There is probably another reason this has become more prominent lately, which is the other thing I am slowly trying to adjust to.

Finally, after more than a year past hormone treatment I am starting to experience consistent weight loss. I have lost almost 15 of the 40 lbs I gained through my treatments in the past 2 months and it is starting to have effects.

I wish I could say all the effects are positive, but unfortunately they aren’t. One of the effects is my body redistributing my weight, resulting in lost inches, but also leading to new places, like my hips and belly, feeling even tighter than they did before. My chest has also gone down 3 inches in size, but not evenly on each side meaning one side is heavier than the other.

The other thing that only just clued in today in conversation with my acupuncturist is that as my fat stores are being burned off, it is very likely that the toxins and hormones that have been stored in them are being released into my body. The hormones being released was something I had to deal with the first time I lost the weight before I got sick, but now there is probably some residual effects from chemo, radiation and hormone therapy.

It would explain why in the past two months I have had a resurgence of menopause symptoms after almost 4 months of them being settled down. During those 4 months, my weight sat pretty steady bouncing around the same 5 lbs up and down. Once I started consistently losing again the hot flashes started up and with it the other menopause symptoms and general feeling of not quite being well.

There is not much that can be done about it until the weight is lost, other than holding weight here and there to give my body some time to adjust and flush the toxins out. I have had to increase my water intake a little bit recently so that should also help, along with the cooler weather.

I am also experiencing something I also did with my previous weight loss which was my back injury becoming irritated every 10 lbs or so as it also tries to adjust to the new distribution of weight and new centre of gravity. That at least I know will work itself out with some exercises and about a week.

It should feel good to lose weight, but the process is really hard on your body. Essentially it is feeling starved all the time and having to use reserves it got used to having. Everything is changing including it’s shape, and as fat is being burned off what is stored in it is being released and needs to be flushed out. It’s constantly working hard and doesn’t get a lot of breaks to try to adapt to all the changes going on.

But once the weight is lost, it does get better. The body doesn’t have to work so hard to move itself. Energy levels go up as the body gets more efficient at using nutrients and repairing itself. It’s able to work better and harder with less side effects and that is really the goal.

So here is to hoping I am able to keep on track and slowly get back to the weight I was pre-diagnosis so I can finally get back to the goal I was aiming for and got derailed from – getting down to a healthy size and weight overall. I was about 25 lbs from that goal when I got sick after losing 75 already. Now I am about 50 lbs away.

What a difference that will make.

Lift off on styling

It appears Boss and I were on similar pages about what is needed for styling.

So, when I got to my lesson today, the first thing we started with was discussing arm styling and going through 3 basic exercises for me to add to my collection.

The first thing I noticed is that there is a lot of pulling at scar tissue and some of the movements hurt, although not intolerably. More like there is some very intense stretching going on through the tight muscles and scar tissue in my shoulders and upper chest.

I am optimistic that as I keep working on my arm styling the scar tissue will breakdown a little and free up my motion. There is already a noticeable lack of mobility on the right side, but I am trying to work through it. Until I start, I will never know.

After going through the basic movements we started to look at the cha cha to figure out how and where to apply them.

If I said it was a success, that would be a gross exaggeration. There is obviously a lot of work that needs to be done and of course my arms don’t want to work with my feet. But I have an idea of what I need to do in my head and I am optimistic with some work it will come together.

Oh, and we got through to the end of the second phrase. About 15 seconds of a 2 minute routine. It’s going to be quite a process, although now that both Boss and I have a better idea of how it needs to work, that should move things along a bit better.

Just the little bit of work we did today has me feeling much better about styling. I have something I can work on, so I know it can only get better. I feel like I am doing something productive to fix my styling – I am taking control of something over which I didn’t have any.

It’s certainly going to be a long term project, but since I will be traveling for work this fall and stuck in rather confined spaces without any studios to work in, 2+ months focused on arm work should go a long way.

In the mean time, I am hoping that I have enough time before the performance in Mid-September to clean up my arm work in the cha cha. After that, I can start looking at the other routines.

We finished the lesson today looking at a portion of the jive routine to try to clean it up as well.

It was a productive lesson, but more importantly, its the beginning of fixing the ‘gravy’ in my latin.

Emerging

There’s been a change for me recently.

It has taken until now to fully understand what it is. It’s actually quite simple — I am finally beginning to emerge past my illness. It’s finally starting to be in the distance of my rearview mirror, instead of sitting in my rear window.

It feels good, like baggage I am leaving behind.

Part of it is that I feel as though I am moving forward instead of just trying to get where I was. It’s not that I am back where I was, but that I am just taking a different road to some place new.

It’s interesting, new, and unexpected. Not that I really thought I could go back, but just that I didn’t think forward would come so soon.

I am seeing progress in a lot of different areas of my life and that momentum is what is pushing me forward. I feel as though I am ready to take on new challenges again and to conquer new goals.

I feel strong again, mentally and physically. That’s the biggest difference in the last few weeks. I feel grounded and content. I like where I am now.

Oncologists are still going to be part of my life for at least a few more years, but my appointments with them are pretty straight-forward and not much different from an appointment with my regular doctor.

I am not on any regular medications and haven’t been for so long when I had to pick up a temporary prescription lately the pharmacist remarked he didn’t know I was still here!

It was the same when I saw my family doctor about my neck and shoulders this week – he remarked it had been a while since he had seen me (granted he’s my alternate as my usual doc is on maternity leave).

It occurred to me that I no longer organize my life according to doctor appointments (and until that occurred to me, I hadn’t realized I was doing that!).

I have thought about changing my name on here. When I first created the blog and chose my name I wanted something that talked about my journey but that could also be still used when I was ready to change it. That is why the address is “bcballroomdancer”. I am a dancer who lives in British Columbia, Canada.

I don’t think I am completely ready to make that change yet, but the time will be coming soon. I still have things to offer those who are dealing with breast cancer, its treatments, and side effects, and my own journey is not over (I still have side effects myself) and I don’t want to lose those things.

Do you have any thoughts? I would love to hear them. Perhaps you have an idea for a name that still represents my journey, but is more obvious I have survived?

I feel like I am coming out of my cocoon, but I am not quite sure I am a butterfly.

Yet…

A reflection

It occurred to me today that this time a year ago I was preparing for my total hysterectomy.

In some ways, I can’t believe its only been a year because the difference is incredible.

This time last year, I couldn’t work full days. I was exhausted all the time. I was still on hormone therapy so my mood was all over the place. I was depressed and on strong anti-depressants. I couldn’t sleep so I was on strong regular sleeping medication. I was plagued with hot flashes and most days I felt like I couldn’t think.

I was living through the nightmare of my final days of preventative breast cancer treatments, waiting and hoping that having the full hysterectomy would bring an end to the treatments and side effects and give me my life back, without knowing what the result would be.

It turned out to be better than I or my doctors had hoped.

It was a really difficult decision to make, essentially giving up any chance to bear a child, but once it was made I didn’t look back. In the end, despite what I lost it was the right decision.

Fast forward to today, 1 year later. I have energy. My strength is returning. I am losing the chemo weight. I feel motivated, strong and positive again. I am enjoying my life. The only regular “medications” I take are vitamins. I am back to taking medication for insomnia about once a week and a half dose at that.

I am fully back to work and achieving great things. I am more than halfway through a masters degree. I am dancing on a regular basis and gaining strength with noticeable improvements at the gym.

There is still a long way to go but I am definitely moving forward again. Some elusive goals are starting to look like they will be achievable sooner than I had hoped.

It is amazing the difference that a year can make, and as I reflect I also feel myself doing some small reevaluating and looking at some of the things I want to make a priority for the next year.

Lots of adventures still to have, now that I am healthy enough to fully have and enjoy them.

I can’t wait.

Milestone reached

Whew!

I finally started feeling better yesterday (thank goodness!), and along with it came the completion of going through all 9 routines during my lesson yesterday!

It’s been a pretty long road for this. Yesterday we reviewed the end of the Paso and finished the foxtrot meaning I now have the steps for all 9 routines in my head.

Now I just have to finish solidifying my memorization, get the timing down and do about a million other things to get them ready to perform, but minor details 😉 At least I have the ‘working’ knowledge down.

I should be able to work through all the routines on my own now, although admittedly, some are more solid than others (afterall, paso and foxtrot are only a couple days old!).

It still feels like a good milestone to celebrate, although I really have no idea if and/or when we will actually put them on the floor at a competition.

There is still a lot of work to do, but at this point its about building layers on the foundation, rather than trying to build a foundation, and that feels better.

My ‘one week post vacation grace period’ I gave myself ends today, so tomorrow it is fully back at it. Due to some schedule changes in the studio, my practice time for exercises is shifting slightly from MWF to SunWF, and I will be adding a standard technique class on Mondays after my lesson. I will be dancing slightly more than I was before my vacation, but very marginally and I am hoping it won’t cause problems. My intent is to add a little more to what I was doing and see how it goes as the level I was at before seemed to be working well.

I am (or at least should be) home for the entire summer and I am looking forward to it. Besides being home, there are no surgeries, no treatments, not even any medical appointments (except a 6-month follow-up) until the fall. For the first time since 2014 my summer is all mine to work consistently on dance, fitness, school and work.

I also have only 2 more weeks of my current course for school (which is definitely the most intense), and then I am on to two courses which are completely led by me giving much more flexibility.

I am eager to see what improvements I can make with just over 2 months of consistent work.

Time to get started.

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.

Getting it done

It’s always a challenge to practice while you are traveling.

But I am getting it done.

Not only have I been able to get my practice in, but I have also been able to do my cardio and strength training, although all of that has been due to some good luck and being able to maximize your work time to finish up a bit early and your lunch times.

It’s certainly garnered a few different looks from others in the gym where I have been practicing. I guess they are not used to seeing ballroom in the gym.

Things have actually gone pretty good. A couple of the exercises I need Boss to look at because I think I have incorporated the twisting, but I am not sure (I could be just fooling myself).

The other thing I have been doing besides exercises are reviewing my routines daily. The standard ones each have 1 spot that needs a little review to smooth out, but overall, not too bad from start to finish.

The latin routines are also going quite well. I am pleasantly surprised that even the new section in jive is pretty together, although there is one step I need to go over with Boss to understand how to do my own steps without him.

In general, I am proud of the amount I have been able to do this week. Work has been a bit intense, but strange hours and before I left I set a goal to try to get my practice and training in, and I have done that!

That’s all for now, one more day here then I head back home on Friday and will have a lesson that night (my way to deal with jet leg). I am looking forward to it!

Digging in

We are starting to blend working on steps with technique.

I had a lesson Thursday night which was a bit of a hybrid.

First, we worked on the jive and adding another small section for me to work on while I am away. If all goes well, I should be able to have it down so I can learn the final piece when I get back, leaving only Paso and Foxtrot to learn.

Once we had gone through the new section a couple times, Boss decided to try the jive with slow music (almost half speed) and see how it went.

It actually went well, and better than he expected. It certainly went better than I expected!

Actually, once it was put in context with Boss it made a lot more sense than what I have been working on. There was one spot I wasn’t doing right (it’s much easier than my version–whew!!), and one spot that I couldn’t quite get to in the timing, but even Boss remarked that he wasn’t quite ready for me to have the steps down as well as I did.

And, it’s actually quite a fun little routine. I can’t wait to try it a little faster, but I am nervous about it at the same time.

The second half of the lesson was focused on one of the promenade footwork pieces in tango.

We have worked on it before, but we were working on my position and tightening it up a bit and making it look sharper. Promenade position continues to be a bit of an achilles heel for me, but it seemed like I made a little bit of progress.

One of the more difficult things I am struggling with right now is best described as trying to balance as a couple vs balancing on my own. It requires me to keep my energy and position forward into Boss so that he can do the same to find a point where we more or less balance against each other.

I always feel like I am going to push Boss over (which is actually more or less what I am supposed to feel like). It’s still a bit of trial and error though because there is such a small window where it isn’t too forward or too back.

In the tango, there is one piece in the sequence we were working on that it is crucial we do this or one or both of us will lose our balance. By the end of the lesson I seemed to have gotten more consistent with finding it, but I could still feel the doubt in my mind every time we worked through that section. I am sure it will come with time and confidence.

At the end of the lesson, one of the other students recorded the sequence of us doing it in time with regular tempo music. I was pretty surprised at how it looked. The sharpness really stood out, and there was only one place where I have to have a look at my timing as my feet were quite out-of-sync with Boss. Overall, that is going to be a pretty impressive section in our routine.

Digging into a couple sections in my routines really went a long way to helping me feel more productive in my work and helping me to understand a bit more of the context to the full routine rather than just my part. It’s funny because a lot of the things we have worked on are coming out when we dance together, often without me realizing it (or Boss sometimes), which is a pleasant surprise.

When I get back from my work trip next week, Boss told me we are going to start digging even more into the routines as we finish up going over the steps for the 2 we haven’t looked at yet and I am looking forward to that. I have 7 lessons between when I return from this trip and when I leave for my next just after the long weekend in May. I hope that I will be able to get the sequence of steps for all 9 routines down enough that I can keep working through them while I am away.

After that second trip, I should be here all summer and I am looking forward to it. I just realized it is the first summer since I was diagnosed where I am not on any therapies, not recovering from any surgeries, and not biding time waiting for a surgery. It’s the first summer that is completely my own. What a concept!!

It should leave lots of time for digging before the fall.