Seeing Standard Come Together

We recorded some videos yesterday.

Exclusively standard, we recorded the Waltz, Foxtrot and Tango line by line to make the best use of the hall.

We haven’t recorded these new standard routines at all except for 2 or 3 individual steps, so it was the first time to see the work I have been doing come together.

The waltz (which we have been working on the most) looked the most polished. I can truly say that I am proud of how the waltz looked and I was really surprised by parts of it. Probably for the first time in a very long time I could see a distinct improvement in standard. It was really great to see!

The foxtrot was not as strong, but it also showed great improvement, especially the first half we have worked on a lot recently. The last half needs work, but it is not a complete disaster. It’s passable, but obvious that it hasn’t been looked at a lot.

The tango was a different story. I couldn’t seem to settle into it, and the position change for tango from waltz and foxtrot really threw me off. We had been working a lot of position in the swing dances and one thing that really helped me and kept me grounded in those dance was stretching back into Boss’s right hand with my left shoulder blade. In tango, because the position is different, that ‘anchor’ just wasn’t there and that caused me to not feel like the position was ‘locking in’. It was obvious watching the videos that my position was all over the place. It was also obvious that I wasn’t completely confident with the steps and in places you could tell I felt a little like I was chasing Boss through the dance.

We started on the quickstep, but it quickly became apparent that it wasn’t ready to be recorded in time with the music as we haven’t really worked on it and we have never tried it at speed. We agreed to make it a project for this week in my lessons and to aim to record it next weekend along with some of the latin routines.

Today at my lesson, quickstep was indeed the theme. We managed to work through the first few lines to the third corner in time with the music, looking at details here and there as necessary. Honestly, the hardest part was getting started and into the first line as I kept miscounting steps. Once we got going, it seemed to come together a bit better.

We finished today with a new conditioning sequence for jive. It’s a challenging sequence with steps straight from my routine, including what is probably the most difficult part of the routine with a combination of turning sailor shuffles and simple spins. It is already coming together better than it was on Friday when I just learned it and I can tell that it is stressing my system (in a good way) more than the samba. It takes longer for my heart rate to recover and it is working my body in a different way.

On a final note today, I had my 6-month follow-up with my oncologist. It went really well and quick, with only one “Are you Kidding?” note when he asked if I would like to try the hormone therapy again now that my ovaries have been removed. I think he realized pretty quickly that I wouldn’t even consider it and switched his messaging to acknowledge that I did try it for more than 6 months and I did have a very toxic reaction, which did justify leaving it behind. The good news is that I will see him again in 6 months and after that I will switch to yearly follow-ups with him with check-ups with my family doctor in between. One more step forward.

I haven’t written much as work has continued to be crazy busy and that combined with school and trying to prepare to be away has left me pretty stressed. I am off 4 days this weekend and I cannot wait. It’s the first full weekend off I have been going pretty full tilt with work since I returned from the cruise and I can tell that the break is completely needed. With the long weekend the week after and no duty in sight, I will have three 4-day weeks in a row before a really busy push to the end of September. After that, it looks like I will be in Ottawa for a few days before getting ready for the extended work trip after that.

Boss has also asked me to consider doing one of the latin routines in a showcase event with one of the other local studios. I am thinking about it, but I am not sure any of the latin routines will be ready in time and I am hesitant to add to my stress levels trying to push to prepare it. Part of my doubt is that I am really not sure where any of the latin routines are at as far as doing them at speed with the music because other than rumba, we haven’t tried any of them. This week we should have a chance and I will make my decision from there. It would be nice to do a performance before I leave.

So perhaps next week I will be able to write about how the latin is coming together.

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Rebuilding Strength

That has been a big focus of mine lately.

It’s not just in and for dance. Since returning to activity after my last surgery I have been able to consistently get back in the habit of regular strength training and rebuilding the strength I lost through all my treatments. It’s a little overwhelming the distance I have to go, but it gets better every day.

Having energy again is a huge difference and I feel like I have more every day.

To give an example of how much I need to rebuild, where prior to getting sick I would pull 120 lbs, now I am at 70. But I started at 60 just over two weeks ago.

I enjoy strength training. There is always a goal to aim for and you have to push for your best every time to reach a new one. I take my time and it usually clears my head during the day making me more productive at work and other activities. I work on improving endurance a lot too.

When I was on the hormone therapy I had such little energy I couldn’t do strength training. During the brief 4-month period I tried, muscle weakness meant I rarely saw increases in weight.

Since the surgery it has been so different.

Dance and strength training support each other. What I am doing in dance now actually relates a lot to the strength exercises I am doing–particularly in regards to my right foot and knee.

I am doing a lot of exercises right now to build strength around my knee and increase stability and I am finding that both dance and strength training are going hand in hand for this. One of the things I have found out (through discussions with my trainer) is that on my right side, my inner and outer thigh muscles don’t quite fire the way they are supposed to meaning that my knee collapses in and I also don’t use my glute minimus muscles to stabilize myself. That leads to my foot falling out to help support my body. It’s been something I have been doing for a long time and I have to re-teach my body to correct it.

Even then, it might not be possible to ever fully correct it but I am determined to try.

Among other things, it means paying attention to how I walk on a normal basis and being conscious of keeping my knees pulled out as I walk and not allowing them to fall in.

Something I am doing seems to be making a difference. I can tell because it’s been a pain in my ass.

Literally.

Because my glute muscles are working in a different way, I am getting some DOMS on my right side. It’s tricky for having to work at a computer at work, but since it’s a positive sign, I am ok with it. I just have to keep persistent with it. I don’t think I have quite gotten my inner thighs to start engaging, but I think it is coming.

I am doing some dance exercises to work on the inner thighs, in particular controlling closing my legs in standard. I am going to keep trying to do it.

The bottom line is finally I can feel some of my strength returning and I can see potential for returning to where I was.

I have also loss 1/3 of the weight I gained during chemo–and still counting! Creeping closer to halfway.

This is me time.

Finally.

Released

I will not be doing any more preventative cancer treatments.

The decision was made today with my oncologist. Initially, he wanted me to consider trying one of the other 2 hormone therapies I have not yet tried, but after we talked more he changed to waiting 6 months to try one of them. With more talk, we finally agreed that the side effects I experience from the hormone therapies were not worth the 10% reduction in risk they would give me.

So no restarting the hormone therapy. No HT side effects, no side effect preventing medications (with their own side effects), no more medications.

My only follow-up from now on are regular 6-month check-ups for the next 3 years until I am outside the 5-year high risk window. My overall risk of recurrence during this time is approximately 15-20%. The risk for a woman my age with no history is 5% (but with breasts and ovaries). My risk will never be that low again, even with treatments.

I feel like I was just officially handed my life back.

For some, any increased risk may seem to high, but for me the side effects took so much of my energy I couldn’t live my life. I am actually more afraid of the effect of the side effects than finding out I have cancer again.

That said, it wasn’t an easy decision. There was a lot to consider, pros, cons, advantages, disadvantages. It was a lot of discussion with my oncologist, but in the end this is the best decision for me.

I can’t live my life in fear of cancer coming back, and I can’t live my life experiencing the side effects I was having.

This may have been an easier decision for me than my oncologist expected. When it comes down to it, the thought of recurrence is not one I dwell on. I have done a lot to reduce my cancer risk, but they are the basic things expected–chemo, radiation, surgery. If I didn’t have side effects from the HT I would still be doing it.

When it comes to cancer, I chose from the beginning not to live in fear.

I don’t have any regrets from my life. I have been very lucky, had lots of ups and down, but I don’t feel like there is anything unfinished. It’s not that I am ready for my life to be over–far from it–but if fate determines that cancer is to be a part of my future I don’t feel I have or could have control over that. I had no (known) risk factors before I was diagnosed, but I still found a lump and began this journey.

I can only live my life as best as I can right now and take the future as it comes. I was not able to do that while undergoing the hormone therapy and that is reason enough to not do more HT.

I don’t know what the future holds, but in the meantime I am ready to continue rebuilding my life. I am ready to embrace the whatever challenges the future holds as I am now and I feel like I have been given final permission to put cancer behind me and move forward.

I feel released from the hold cancer has had on my life.

It’s been almost 3 years coming.

Post Surgery

My surgery went well yesterday and I am already home.

The surgeon is really pleased with how things went.  She didn’t have any interference from the scar tissue from my reconstruction, and told me there was even minimal bleeding.

Because my incisions are all in the area where I don’t have sensation from my reconstruction, that cuts down on the pain.  Most of it is the deep internal pain from the organs being removed.  I can’t stand up straight, but the pain is managed while I am still.  I am limiting my movement and my range pretty much is my living room chair to the bathroom to my bed.  My roommate is helping out and some friends will come to help me out while he is at work.

One of the best things I am experiencing seems to be a dramatic reduction in hormone symptoms.  My hot flashes are much less frequent and less intense, the bone pain is gone, and even with pain killers my head is much more clear than it has been for months. I even have more energy than I had pre-surgery which is probably the most telling part of how much the hormones therapy was affecting me. It is better than what I hoped for and I only hope it remains or improves as my body adjusts to not having ovaries anymore.

I am off of my daily hormone therapy for a while to allow things to settle.  I have to wait for the ovarian suppression to wear off in about a month, and then see what is left over.  I am truthfully not looking forward to restarting it, but I will deal with it when I have to.  At least at that point, I will know that the side effects are specifically caused by the therapy and if they are too much I can choose to stop it.

The next two weeks are pretty much just healing. Keeping an eye on my incisions as they heal, resting, and taking it easy. After that, the external incisions should be healed and the internal healing will continue.  At least 6 weeks before I can get back to activity or work.

But the good news is that things are already looking up.

Hope it continues 🙂

Coming Together

Slowly things are beginning to end before surgery.

Today we were able to record all of the gold routines with music, except Paso which we did just with the counts.  There were a couple of mix ups here and there that we had to do again, or which Boss had to make a note of clarification but I was pretty impressed to get through them all.

Quickstep seem the one most likely to spell disaster, but even it when ok with a need for a restart only because we ran out of room (which was number one reason to restart in standard).

We also discussed some of my ideas for the waltz showcase, which Boss seemed to like so it should be interesting to see how that comes together in the fall.

We are also working on getting open routines choreographed during my break, although we won’t be able to try them until well after I get back. Getting them done while there is a general summer ‘break’ in competing seems like the best plan to get them all together. I am looking forward to see what they come up with.

On other fronts, I have started working on an afghan to help pass the time healing and have also some school stuff to work on.

I am hoping that once I get home and begin healing I will be able to fall into a pattern.

I will admit that one of my biggest concerns is that I will gain weight while doing nothing to recover. I am working to mitigate that, and hope that between the stabilizing of my hormones and some care with diet it won’t be too significant.

My biggest hope from this surgery is that when it is all said and done overall I will feel better–that my energy will be up, the fatigue will be less, I will sleep better and that my mental health will settle back into normal. It may be too much to hope for, but I do hope to be able to return back to full time at work and full time at dance.

I am also hoping that with that, my motivation will also come up. I realize it’s like a accumulation of all the side effects and everything that is going on, but I am having a hard time feeling focused and even looking forward to competing.  It just all seems like a lot more work than I want to do right now, and that the benefits I am getting are not anywhere near the effort I am putting out.  It’s not so much dance, but fitness in general.  I feel like I work very hard, am careful about what I eat and it doesn’t seem to matter–my fitness never improves and my weight doesn’t go down.

We shall see how it all comes together.  Surgery i s Tuesday.

Distributing my energy

As I get closer to surgery, the harder things seem to be.

I was a little under the weather for two weeks, but even as that has past, I still find myself with minimal energy that I am having to distribute as best I can over all my usual activities.  Last week, most of it went to work (major event happened), but this week I am hoping to put more to dance.  I only did my private lessons last week, that was it as far as dance.  I used my practice time to write out routines and clarify timing, but not doing any actual dancing.

That said, we now have a nonfecta (is that word??) of gold routines.  Finished up the last one tonight. Boss told me he would like to record them all this Friday.  It will be a rough recording, but he thinks we can get through them all together without any major disasters (he is so optimistic!!).

He is hoping to turn the attention to the mambo showcase routine we were working on before focusing on the test, so it should be interesting to return to it.  The plan is still for me to work out choreography for a waltz showcase and I do have some ideas for that percolating a lot in my head.

I really hope I have the energy to get through the next two weeks.  It is a long weekend, so I am hoping that will help. I am wondering if this is all cumulative of the fatigue of the hormone therapy.  I never seem to get caught up on my sleep and to feel rested, so I can see where my ‘tank’ is gradually getting lower and lower and never filling up.

In many ways, I am looking forward to surgery as recovering I might start feeling rested again, and it may end up putting hormone therapy to bed for good. It will still be close to September before that decision can be made.

In the meantime, I am just trying to conserve my energy where I can and use it on the activities I enjoy.  Pre-surgery appointment tomorrow.

Slowly checking all the boxes to prepare.

Mosre dance later this week 🙂

One-woman Disaster

That is how I feel today.

But let me elaborate.  It really has not been my day or night.

It started this afternoon at work.  During lunch, my computer randomly crashed twice and told me that the video card was failing.  It made work difficult when each restart took more than 20 minutes to boot up.

Then, I was almost hit by a car on my way to dance. Thankfully almost. I was coming out of my driveway on my scooter and there is a large white panel van that parks on the side of the road just next to our driveway.  The issue is that the way the road is built, and because it has no windows, the van completely blocks the view to the right.  To compensate, you have to look down past all the cars that are parked (about 500 m) to the bottom of the hill and then keep track of the cars you see coming until there is a break.

The issue is that there is an intersection and other driveways you can’t see.  So even though it might look clear all the way down the hill, cars could turn on to the road without you seeing them. That’s what happened tonight.  I was slowly peeking out around the van and discovered a car coming right for me.  So I ended up braking hard, losing my balance and falling over, landing mostly on my scooter.  Missed the car (which stopped and asked if I was all right), and thankfully didn’t hit anything hard.  Cracked the windshield of my scooter in two though when it hit the pavement.  I was able to get it upright and started again, and assessed that I had bruised my shins and had a small scrape on one leg. Mostly I was shaken up.

Following that, I got to dance.  I had received some unexpected news about what to expect for my recovery from surgery yesterday and that has possible repercussions for dance–particularly competing in the fall.  Long story short, it could be 12 weeks after my surgery before I will be able to dance, particularly for any length of time without pain and pulling.  It’s quite different from the 6 weeks I was initially told to expect.  That required a bit of a conversation with Boss, but pretty much at this point I haven’t really gotten to a place where I can completely process this and start to adjust my goals. Again.

The conversation itself wasn’t bad, it was just a disappointing one to have to have.  That said, I still have my silver test this weekend and work to prepare, so it was another lesson dedicated to rounds and running through the routines.  We started with latin tonight, which didn’t go too bad, although jive is still a bit questionable for endurance.  Following that, we moved to standard.  That was going pretty well…

Until I caught my heel on the cuff of my pants during the quickstep and fell over backwards hitting my left hand and hip pretty far.  Also ripped the hem of my pants.  That actually hurt more than falling on my scooter. Go figure.

In general, I was ok, just bruised.  Had to work out my left ankle a little bit, but after rolling up my pants we were able to continue with the lesson and get through the Quickstep.  We followed that with Viennese Waltz.  We did a full minute of that, but I was really dying after 45 seconds.  We ended with a section of foxtrot I was blanking on a bit to review it, but by the second run through of that I could tell I was pretty done.

One comment Boss made tonight and my last lesson is that he is finding my endurance is improving, and the most significant thing is that when I get tired I am better able to compensate instead of just completely sinking and collapsing. It’s good to hear because compared to where I was before I got sick and had treatments I would say I am about half where I was–especially in VW, QS, and Jive.  Cha Cha can also be questionable sometimes.

What’s a little disheartening about that is after up to 12 weeks off to recover from surgery, I am going to have to start over on a lot of things–rebuilding endurance being one of them.  I have been there before though and my focus right now is to try and build as good a base as I can so hopefully there will still be some when I am ready to come back.

I really hope the falls tonight won’t result in me waking up broken tomorrow.  I also wrenched my shoulder trying to open a door (seriously–how does that happen??), burned my hand on coffee and spilled it in my scooter case.  All signs I should have just call it a night.  I didn’t though, I stayed for practice and was able to run through all my routines on my own except paso.  I had a long epsom salt bath after so hopefully that will head off some of the bruising coming my way.

As far as the test, I still feel pretty good about it aside from the endurance issues.  I have most of the routines down and that is helping my confidence. Fingers crossed my body holds out till then.

I discussed with Boss tonight the idea of filming the routines during the test.  It will be up to the adjudicator, but I am hoping we will be able to.  It’s been almost 6 months since we recorded anything, and at least according to Boss there has been a lot of changes.  I toyed with the idea of filming them before the test, but I don’t want things I may see in the videos to distract from the test, or to kill my confidence.  While probably things will look better than I expect, I don’t want to risk that they might possibly look worse.  Better to keep going the direction I am going at this point, and evaluate later.

After the test, I have 4 weeks until surgery.  Mainly, I want to get all the gold routines laid out and if possible filmed so I have them to refer to while I recover.  One of the things I want to have a look at (and should be able to) is to figure out the styling for latin and put together some ideas where needed.

In all honesty, I think that is the main part missing from the silver latin routines, but I am trying not to let myself worry about that.

Hopefully, tomorrow will be a better day.

9 Routines down…

Well at least written out with timing.

The latin routines are going well and getting into my brain.  I was able to review them some on the weekend and was glad to see things had fit.

We went through the paso routine today, which was the one missing routine, after reviewing the timing in the standard routines and a couple steps which I couldn’t figure out on my own.

I spent my practice working through the standard routines on my own, and got through the waltz, tango and most of the Quickstep.  Foxtrot will be for Wednesday, as it’s a supervised practice, and there are a couple steps I am not sure about and need to take the opportunity to go through them.

I feel good about where the routines are, considering the time left until the test.  It’s actually been pretty interesting for me to go through all the steps on my own because some of the steps, while I have done them and followed them, I have either not really known their names or they are new to me. It’s been a new area to explore.

It’s actually been quite a while since I have worked through memorizing and putting under my feet a sequence of routines.  Especially in standard, going through the timing has been a good exercise for me as I haven’t work through standard routines with timing since before or shortly after I got sick.

I haven’t put them together with the music yet on my own, but that will be some of the goals for the end of this week and early next week, although I am not quite sure how it will go.  I think rumba, samba, paso and jive will be ok.  Cha cha could be iffy.  Waltz and Tango should be ok in standard, Quickstep questionable and foxtrot will be interesting in general.

There may not be enough time to get the routines down on my own as much as I would like to, but the foundation will be there for my test and that is the main thing.  There are some technique things I wish were coming a little stronger (as I previously mentioned about cha cha in particular) and there have been some pleasant surprises.

The way I have been able to focus in and memorize the sequences of the silver routines gives me some good optimism for learning the gold routines.  I am hopeful that once the test is done, we can focus in on finishing the rest of the sequences (currently I have Waltz, Tango, Foxtrot, Rumba, Samba), and be able to go through them on my own (so far only the rumba is in my feet).  I hope to have all 9 gold sequences before my surgery, and with some luck to have them videotaped as well so I can refer to them as I am recovering.  Haven’t had a chance to discuss that with Boss yet, but I hope he will be on board.  It’s a conversation for after the test.

Health-wise, I have had a bit of a turn around in the past week.  My energy levels are truly up, and while I have fuzzy-headed moments, they seem less frequent.  The full body aches have dissipated, although I seem to keep ‘tweaking’ my neck. Still not sure why.  I hope this will be the status quo until my surgery, but we will see how it goes.  I am still working some part days during the week, and today was the first time I was able to return to strength training in more than 3 weeks.  As I rebuild my stamina and add more of my usual activities back in, I hope things get better and not worse.

But for now, I have 9 routines to focus on for the next two weeks.

Endurance Issues

This is the thing that concerns me most about my dancing right now.

Unfortunately, doing anything about it right now doesn’t make a lot of sense as I will be off a minimum of 6 weeks after surgery.

Its been an issue since chemo, and it really hasn’t recovered (not sure it has really had time).  One of the most frustrating things about it is that I tend to go from 85% to 5% over one step. And once it is gone, there is no recovering I like a pile of jelly and no strength of will pulls it back together.

We were doing some rounds during my lesson on Friday to prepare for my test on June 11th.  Basically, its pretty obvious that VW and QS will not be very good, foxtrot will be iffy, and jive will be pretty questionable.  I am pretty much resigned to the fact that my endurance is just going to be the biggest issue.

Compounding the endurance issue, I had my injection Friday and it seems to have caused some strong unwanted side effects (at least I think its the injection…).  As is my usual habit on Saturday, I went to the gym to do strength training.  Unfortunately, 10 mins into my cardio routine my legs turned to jelly and I could barely make them move.  I had to stop and head home, where I barely made it up the stairs my legs felt so weak.

Muscle weakness is not an uncommon side effect but that seemed just extreme and very disappointing.  I am hoping it is mainly just a bit of shock by my body from the injection itself and it will adjust.  I am tired today, but so far not feeling ‘weak’.

The trickiest thing about this side effect is that it is really hard to gauge and not very consistent. Its limiting on my life in general and there seems to be nothing to do about it.

I am getting hit with this just as Boss announced he is adding a standard technique class which I would like to participate in, but I feel my health is going to make it impossible.  Its on Monday nights, so I would have (in theory) strength training during the day, then practice, a lesson, and a class all in a row.  I’ve done it before, but not recently. It doesn’t start for a couple weeks, so really I will just have to see how I feel closer to it.

7 weeks until my surgery.  Once again I feel like I am going to have to more or less completely reset and start over on recovering from everything when I finally get clearance to get back on the floor.

Not for the first time, I find myself wondering if I will ever fully recover and be able to work full time and do a minimum of dancing to allow me to progress and compete.  It does seem a bit like an impossible task right now, but I am trying to remain optimistic that this next surgery will truly be the start of a return to ‘normal’ for me.

Speaking of my surgery, I had an idea for a dance project to do while I am laid up and recovering.  There is a showcase piece to a waltz I did as my first showcase.  At the time, the steps were very basic and simple, but I would like to redo it now I can dance better.  So I proposed to Boss that I work on coming up with choreography for that showcase.  Not sure how it will work, but at least it will give me something dance related to work on.

7 weeks seems a long time right now.

Latin Let-down

I am not sure why I feel so frustrated with my latin technique tonight.

I do have a theory that perhaps it is just the late hour of the class (8 pm is late for me these days), coupled with an extremely busy week at work (it’s not over yet!). The end result being that I feel like I couldn’t do anything right tonight during the class–even though I know that is not the case.  Its almost like a mini ‘crash’ after the class.

Usually I feel pretty good about my latin technique.  While there are some things I struggle with a lot, there are others that come more naturally and no matter what I do, my hips definitely move. The adjustment I have been making to my posture is becoming more ‘mainstream’ but I have to stay on top of it.  I am at the point where I ask myself if I am forward and discover that yes, I am.

Tonight in general I think I was just having endurance issues.  It’s hard to explain but I felt like everything just lacked in strength compared to how it usually feels, and my body just wasn’t as responsive as usual.  It wasn’t a lack of trying, but it just seemed to be ‘off’.

I think because of that, the things that usually frustrated me just ran a bit rampant.  By the end of the class my frustration level just seemed exceptionally high.

One thing that is just a constant source of frustration for me is jive.  I have mentioned before it is like my latin achilles heel dance, as it is the one dance where on the one hand things work out well naturally, but on the other I really have no idea how I do any of it.  And there there are some things which I have no idea how to do and quite honestly it looks ridiculous when I try.  I think I am getting in my own way by trying so hard I am actually preventing my body from moving in the way it needs to.  That’s said, it feels like everything I am doing in jive is really ‘loosey goosey’, when it should be more tight and compact (because of the speed).

Some time jive just feels like the dance I never work on.  The little bit of technique I have done in jive has been a little ‘here’ and ‘there’ and very spread out.  I have never concentrated on it–even at a basic level.

To be perfectly honest, my frustration and feeling of lacking in jive really makes me reluctant to do it right now.  I feel that compared with the amount of time and work I have spent on the other 4 dances my jive is woefully behind.

I am hoping this is just the result of a long week and fatigue and that it will pass in time.

The other thing that keeps popping in my mind is that I might not have the endurance for my medal test.  I am feeling a little overwhelmed with the idea of doing 10 dances in a row because its been so long since I have actually done that.  I guess I am not feeling really confident in my strength right now.

I get my injection tomorrow, and I hopeful that with it some of these frustrations will pass.  I am also a bit stressed that I will have some mood swings following the injection as my body gets used to it again.

It’s hard to know what is real and what is just side effects right now.