Now, I can ‘dance’

I had a bit of a revelation last night.

Since my focus for this upcoming competition is not just on ‘getting through the routines’, there is a completely different focus now.  Now I can actually ‘dance’ the routines–and it seems like it’s been a long time since I have been able to do that.

It’s created a really positive ‘switch’ in my mind and one that I think I needed.  Last night, we were working through rumba, samba and paso and beginning with rumba this revelation suddenly came to the surface.  Especially with rumba as there are times when I can really move through the timing.

Needless to say, I am suddenly just enjoying how I am dancing much more than I have in a very long time.  Or rather I feel like I CAN enjoy what I am doing without having to worry that my legs will give out or I won’t be able to control something. It’s very liberating.

One of the biggest switch is that now when I ask my body to use a little bit of power, it responds.

We were working on Paso last night, in particular a step called ‘the twists’ which involves me moving around Boss then doing a heal turn before moving around him again. It’s a step that moves a lot and involves a lot of shaping when it is done right.  It also involves changing the ‘epicentre’ of the rotation from one partner to the other.  We were working on this switch last night and for whatever reason, I felt very free in what I was doing as well as strong throughout the movement.

Yesterday seems to be a start of a bit of a reawakening that I think has been coming since I stopped the hormone therapy last month and started to get my hormones under control.  I was feeling some small side effects from the injection yesterday–such as nausea, headaches and light-headedness, but already today I can feel myself experiencing the same recovery of energy I had after the last injection.  Definitely a huge relief being only 1 week from competition.

If I were to summarize how I am feeling, I would say that I really just realized that going to this competition, I can actually compete, instead of feeling like ‘filler’ on the floor.  I am trying to keep control, but I can certainly say that excitement for the competition is starting to build–in a good way.

There is still a lot to do to finish the preparations for this competition, but already I feel more prepared and ready for this competition than I have since 2014.

I am ready to dance.

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Sinking it in

At this point, a lot of the routines need repetition, repetition, repetition!

We worked on some more details today, first in samba then rumba and ending with a little bit of paso.  I was told we will review smooth tomorrow and go through the smooth Viennese Waltz.

I made a proposal to Boss today which he accepted as a good idea and that was to suggest we take some time, separate from lessons to work through the styling and only the styling for the smooth and latin routines.  The point is to sync our styling together, get rid of any strange things that don’t make sense and make sure that the routines have a strong sense of performance. I want to do it in a focused block for the focus and to ensure nothing gets put aside.  I also don’t really want to put any time limit on it–we do it until we finish.

The biggest problem right now is actually to find time when both of us are available to do it, but the hope is that we will be able to do it over the Christmas break.

The work today in samba was just to clean and work through one small part that just didn’t work well at the last competition.  We got the idea sorted, I just have to work a little bit on the timing for my part.

The work in rumba was focused on establishing and using our connection to execute the steps.  This gives the step a little more ‘snap’ and ‘power’ and contributes the flow of the routine as it works with the hip action.  It also allowed us to clarify the timing in a couple parts and cement the steps in the parts that are newer.  I am very eager to put this routine on the floor.

We didn’t have a lot of time to work in Paso today and I was starting to feel a bit sick near the end of my lesson.  We clarified and fixed a little bit of the timing and choreography so I can start to work through the routine on my own.  I don’t know why, but I find Paso really hard to learn and work on by myself.  It’s the equivalent to the foxtrot in standard–my mind just never seems to want to completely put it together.  Perhaps it is because it is such a strong partnered dance and the frame and strength of the couple is so pivotal to it.

On the health front, I did have my hormone surge yesterday and it was a really rocky and emotional day.  On top of that, I had a terrible time getting to sleep even with medication as my mind was just spinning in twenty different directions.

I also found out yesterday that my medical coverage will not cover the medication that was prescribed by the endocrinologist unless I try another medication first and return to see a dietician.  I am not looking forward to trying the alternate medication as it is known for having terrible gastric side effects, but if I don’t it is like I am condemning myself to being overweight.  I did achieve a small win in that I was allowed to choose the dietician I see and I chose one who specializes in sports nutrition and is a former pro ballet dancer.  I had a brief conversation with her today and already I can tell she will be different from the dieticians I had seen previously.  I will see her early in the new year and I am looking forward to it.

I will start the new medication tomorrow and I really hope it a) works and does what it is supposed to, and b) doesn’t give too bad side effects.

I am looking forward to working through smooth tomorrow.  We have some feedback from the pro who choreographed the routines to incorporate and that should be interesting.

I am already starting to feel better today after the hormone surge of yesterday and I am taking that as a good sign.  I started having some hot flashes in my lessons which made me feel a little nauseous near the end, but my mind is clearing and I am more calm and less agitated.

Fingers crossed everything will continue to improve!

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.

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.

Mish Mash

That’s a good description for my mind right now.

It’s like the pictures in my head (I think in pictures) are all under water and I can’t clear them up.

The last 24+ hours has been a bit of a personal hell.  The side effects from the HT seems to have ramped up to super mode.  I went to bed exhausted at 630 pm last night, meaning I didn’t get any practice in.  I woke up briefly at midnight to a hot flash, then again at 430 for more than 1 hour of ‘cascading’ hot flashes (best description I can think of for repetitive and building).  I fell back asleep and work at 830 to go to work.  I have had constant nausea so bad gravol wasn’t keeping it at bay and it was keeping me awake as well.

If it weren’t for my apartment building undergoing massive roofing repairs and that I live on the top floor, I would not have gone to work.  But the only thing I could think of worse than how I felt was to feel that way while sitting around at home with nothing to do but listen to roofers pound and bang on my ceiling.  At least work was a distraction and my supervisor is well aware that I am not doing the best.

I have no focus or concentration.  I start reading things and find myself fading in and out.  I tried to write at work today (which is one of my main jobs), and I couldn’t put the words together.  It’s only 730 pm and I am ready to go back to bed.

I have had serious debates with myself over the last 48-hours if what I am going through is worth it.  Then I remembered that I have only been on the full dose of HT for 1 week.  It’s only been 1 WEEK.  It seems much longer.  I am trying to figure how much longer I can stand these side effects.  I feel like I did on my worse days of chemo :(.

I feel so weak and tired that any extra activity at the gym or practice has reached the point where it is not helping me, it is hindering me, so I have to stop going until I feel better.  My legs are a bit like rubber.

The small silver lining and hope I am clinging to is that when I was on the 1/2 dose, after almost 2 weeks I started to feel normal again.  So I hope that as I reach the 2 week mark next week, things will lessen. I am planning for a rocky weekend and trying to give myself at least until the 2 week mark to adjust to the new dose.

I am trying to keep myself busy in the meantime.  I am still thinking a lot about dance and costs and pro/am.  Big should out to The Girl with the Tree Tattoo and her ‘Dance Diaries’ books.  I won an advanced copy of her second book on ballroom budgeting and had a chance to read it over the last couple days.  For anyone doing dance, especially pro/am, I highly recommend reading her first book and checking out her second when it is published in the next little while.  I am not going to give away any secrets, but I will say that the second book on budgeting said a lot of things about the cost of dance and pro/am I have been thinking and providing just the things I needed to hear as I am trying to figure out what to do with the future.

I also had a fitting at Spirals Designs for my new competition dresses yesterday and that helped a little bit too.  I am excited about finally getting some new dresses and my new standard dress (which I call ’emerald wine’) is really coming together.  I had forgotten how rich the velvet looks and it felt amazing to try the dress on–even while trying to avoid getting poked with multiple pins :).  I am looking forward to my next fitting in a couple weeks.

This week has definitely been a challenge.  Only being able to practice once and strength training twice has been frustrating.  The amount of sleep I have been needing is daunting.  I think there is nothing worse than constantly feeling nauseous and not being able to really do anything about it–the gravol is just taking the edge off.

But I have to give my body time to adjust and even though I feel terrible, I still feel marginally better than the first time I tried HT.  I am trying to keep my strength together.  I noticed my resting heart rate is down today, so I hope that’s a sign my body is starting to adjust.  I have 2 days of virtually nothing ahead of me except rest.

I thought the hard part was behind me, but I am re-ordering my thinking so I can get through this too.Read More »