2.5 weeks

That’s it until we leave for Emerald Ball!

I honestly can’t believe it is coming so close. It still seems like there is so much work to do, and we haven’t really done any run-throughs due to my injury.

So far so good though. The hip is behaving with only a little bit of tweaking here and there – mainly in paso. Thankfully, that is the dance I do the least overall at the comp so hopefully that will bode well.

Today we reviewed a couple of places in foxtrot and waltz to look at some of the line figures and make some small adjustments. Following that, we looked at some spots in the Paso where I have a habit of over-compensating to shape and break my left side.

We ran through it a couple times and on the very last run-through at the very end I got the smallest tweak going into the twists that end the routine. It was fleeting, but enough to put me on edge.

We finished with jive, which honestly is the routine that is concerning me the most. For some reason, I can’t seem to keep the routine in my head and I have yet to get through it without forgetting one major part or another. The biggest issue is I get into my own head getting worried I will miss a part coming up and then end up skipping over the previous section.

I need to mainly get out of my head in jive.

I also keep missing the first turn and ending up facing the wrong way by confusing it with a later turn. There is just a bunch of little pieces in jive that aren’t quite coming together leading me to panic some and then forget what I am doing.

We did try it at full speed today and up until the very end it went well. It then became really obvious that we haven’t really done the end of the routine at full speed as all of a sudden everything both of us were doing got behind. We really just need to go through the entire routine about 10 times without stopping to nail it down.

I have one more lesson this week, and then this weekend Boss and I will run through the routines in the other hall on our own (as most of the others at the practice will be competing at the Canadian Closed Comp in Calgary).

Monday I pick up my new dresses. I haven’t seen them since the last fitting so I am really curious to see what the final result will be – especially since slowing down on activity I have lost almost 10 lbs without trying. I am hoping it won’t have too much of an impact on the fit overall.

Next weekend we should have a full rounds practice with the other competitors so that should set us up nicely for the comp!

A busy 2 weeks ahead!

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It looks good…

Today was almost hip pain free.

I started to feel a dull ache during the last 5 minutes of my lesson, with things feeling tight and tired about 20 minutes before that.

Compared to Monday, its like night and day.

Today in my lesson I didn’t hold much back. I had moments where I could feel myself being tentative because I was expecting what I was doing to cause pain and I was really surprised when it didn’t. Once I got through that first hurdle, doing it the next time was easier.

We even started with open jive and did 2 fairly good run-throughs- one slow and one more medium. We then switched to standard and ran through the silver routines, followed by the silver latin. We ended with the Quickstep and Foxtrot pieces we worked on at the end of Monday’s lesson.

Overall, a much more productive lesson than I have had in quite some time, but I am still being diligent and about icing and heating, physio and massage therapy. There is still 3.5 weeks until the comp and I don’t want to temp fate. I am also not going to be returning to the gym until after, just in case.

Small interesting fact: since I got injured and stopped going to the gym and reduced dance, I have actually lost more than 5 lbs out of the blue, putting me at the lowest I have been since chemo. Interesting that…

I have one more lesson this week on Friday and the weekend will be dance free as the rounds practice is cancelled due to a concert in the hall where it takes place. The weekend off will likely be good in the long run.

The plan is to review some of the latin styling on Friday and then do as much of a run-through as we can in the smaller hall on Monday to see how things feel. Hopefully my hip will continue to recover.

Looks like the competition is on! Words cannot express the relief I felt today throughout my lesson as I realized that I wasn’t getting pain like I was. I am feeling much more optimistic even though I am a little more sore tonight than I was after my lesson. I’ll do another round of ice and heat before bed and continue on with my routine.

Fingers still crossed.

A Glimmer…

Of hope. But so far only a glimmer.

I got the shot blindly on Friday and from there I spent the weekend sitting on my left side doing pretty much nothing. I noticed a little bit of an increase in range of motion, but not much else.

This morning there was a definite improvement. I could walk without pain on every step, I could do back breaks without pain and many of the things that were causing huge issues last week.

I still had some pain at the extremes of movements and it was up and down throughout the day. I am still icing alternating with heat regularly and taking ibuprofen.

I had the doctor’s blessing to try dancing again today, so I did, although nothing full out and fairly slow. I tried some of the steps that gave me definite grief last week (jive swivels being one for sure) and I wasn’t getting any pain.

We started the lesson going slowly through the jive and working on the styling. I would get a very minor ‘zing’ every now and then, but for the most part things were pretty steady. About halfway through my lesson I started to get some aching on my right side, but no pulling or zinging.

After the jive, we switched to quickstep to review the steps of the last line that we started reviewing last week. Switching seemed to be a good idea, although I was still getting some aching through my left side, especially on the heel turns.

We finished with the foxtrot to go over the final piece of the routine to clarify the loop back to the beginning.

I am sore and probably where I was the day this started 2 weeks ago. Needless to say, I didn’t stay to practice and as soon as I got home I put ice on it, followed by a hot epsom salt bath.

I will ice and alternate with heat more as the evening goes on. Hopefully the injection will keep working to counter some of the inflammation from my lesson. I have physio tomorrow and massage therapy again on Wednesday. The plan for tomorrow is a lot of rest. Hopefully physio can offer some stretches or exercises to help keep things getting better.

I still haven’t completely decided whether to compete or not. I want to give the injection longer to work and see how the effects last this week. The decision will be made after rounds practice on Sunday. If I can do it and things are ok, then I should be good.

But if I get to rounds practice and I can’t get through it, then it is time to cancel competing.

But at least for now there is a glimmer of hope.

A Lot to Catch Up on

There has been a lot going on for me lately.

Hence the reason I haven’t posted much.

First, I wanted to share an article I wrote about my experience while I was deployed that was published on Dance Comp Review. To read it, click here.

Now that is out of the way, I am 40 today. For some reason that seems like a big milestone.

Part of it could be that I have been struggling a lot lately. I noticed I was really lacking in motivation, felt tired all the time and felt like I was forcing myself to do almost everything. I was really hating my strength training workouts and running was getting harder. Then the issues started happening.

In 2007 I fell from a wall during training and tore a disc in my lower back. It took a long time to get that injury under control and every now and then it flares up, but it hasn’t flared up since before I was sick so I wasn’t thinking about it too much.

Until about a week and a half ago. I was running and started to get a pain in my hip. At first I didn’t think much of it, but then when it kept creeping alarm bells started going off. The pain in my hip is usually a sign my back has flared up. I immediately started doing the back bend exercises that helps it feel better and as the pain moved back into my lower back that seemed to confirm it had flared up. I rested a few days, did hundreds of back bends and it seemed to be back under control.

But, I am not that lucky. I ran again yesterday and it immediately flared up again. I cut my run short, but it wasn’t good. My neck and shoulders were also acting up giving me the ‘twingy’ sensation through my neck. Overall, it was just too much. I had a bit of a breakdown and relented it was time to see the doc.

The conversation with the doc was good, but gave me a lot to think about. In particular, I am rethinking overall how I am training. Right now, my training at the gym is focused on building upper body strength and power for my PT test. Unfortunately, that is counter to pretty much all the rest of my goals. And focusing on training for my PT test is starting to break my body. It isn’t what I want to be doing and I am not making a lot of progress so it wearing on me overall.

The doc suggested I take a step back from preparing for the test and focus on what I want to do. It just makes a lot of sense right now and among other things, it would help me put my body back together since it seems a bit determined to fall apart right now.

I have an appointment with physio on Friday to have my hip, back, neck, shoulders and ankles looked at. It will also be an opportunity to discuss what I want to do for training to get some direction for what I need for myself versus what I need for the PT test. Next week I have an appointment with the adaptive fitness trainer I work with and that should give me a new program overall.

Running, unfortunately, is probably going to be completely off the table. Back to the elliptical for me most likely.

So that has been the main thing weighing on my mind – dreading my workouts and feeling like and knowing I was working hard but somehow never getting closer to my goals. When the work and the goals don’t match up, it makes sense.

The doc also pointed out that because of the radiation, chemo, side effects and surgeries my upper body muscles may never be as strong as they were and they may be permanently weak. Its something to consider at least.

I don’t know what the changes will look like, but I am looking forward to some sort of change.

Dance tonight seemed different in itself – but I will leave that for another post.

Still a lot to catch up on.

 

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.

A New Name

You may notice something different about the blog.

About a month ago I started thinking that perhaps it is time for me to change the name of my blog to reflect that while my journey is not over, the active cancer part of the journey is. I couldn’t think of something at the time, but earlier this week, a name finally came to me. I rolled it around in my head and decided to go for it.

So this blog is now “Beyond Cancer Ballroom Dancer”.

I feel it is fitting because currently my blog is not about dancing through treatment anymore (thankfully) but its more about moving beyond cancer – figuring out how life works again after so much time spent focused on an illness.

And so it is.

I have been a bit quiet lately and for that I apologize. I was getting quite stressed between work, school, and dance and I had to take a step back to reset a little and decompress. I just really needed to take a little time to let my mind calm down so I could think again.

So that is what I have been doing. Focusing on checking things slowly off my ‘to do’ list until I reached a point where I felt like I was back to being a little ahead instead of feeling always behind.

It’s been a really crazy few months. It occurred to me as I was working this weekend that I have actually worked every long weekend since New Year’s, between being on course, being on duty and managing some media requests. It’s no wonder I feel a little like I haven’t stopped. Even the cruise that I was on for ‘vacation’ turned out to not be as relaxing as I hoped when it ended with me forgetting my bag and my ‘recovery’ days getting eaten up being stressed about replacing the things in it and making up for the school work I lost.

I will have a few days off in a couple weeks around the week before the next long weekend and I truly will have the entire Labour Day weekend off. I just need to get through the next couple weeks.

I am hoping tomorrow might be a bit of a funner day at work. As part of my job, I am required to maintain regular qualifications in weapons handling so tomorrow will be spent on the ranges shooting to requalify. Its something completely different and gets me out of the office. I expect to be hot and sweaty but feel like I truly accomplished something. After that, I am going to a dance performance show with a friend and will probably see another I haven’t seen in a long time. I really can’t wait.

I may be a bit absent for a little while yet, but I do promise to write about dance soon. I have been quite busy over the last couple weeks and after the small successes with the latin routines, we are now turning to standard and working in a lot of detail through those routines. The goal is to record them the weekend after next, in time with music, even if not at full strength. It should be interesting.

In the past couple weeks we have also discovered a new challenge for my body related to my knees that I have been actively focusing on fixing. I will speak some more about that too.

In the meantime, I leave you my name change which better speaks to the message I want to convey —

There is life beyond cancer.

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.

A New Chapter

I’ve been thinking a lot about dance lately.

It started before the cruise and has continued into this week.

I think the time away from competing, as difficult as it has been, has been good for me. I can genuinely say that I am enjoying being able to take the time to dig into the details of the routines and steps and movements that I am doing. I’ve been able to connect with my body and dance in a way I didn’t expect.

And I really really like it.

That’s not to say I don’t want to compete anymore, absolutely I do!

But I am not in a rush to do it. I also don’t find I have a need to do it as much as I felt I did before.

What I crave most from dance right now is the experience of it. Yes, competing is part of the experience, but it is no longer the main goal for me.

Right now, I want to see how far I can continue to develop and grow through dance. I want to keep developing those details, keep pushing myself, keep working to see what I can do.

I want to inspire others to dance and to be an example for other dancers to look up to. I have overcome a lot to be where I am right now and I know life is going to continue to throw obstacles at me, whether in dance or other areas of my life. That is just how life goes. By meeting those challenges, that is how we grow and get stronger.

I have grown a lot and come so far in dance, and there is so much more of this journey left.

But right now I feel my focus in dance needs a slightly different focus. I want to focus more on development.

For the past 8 months or so, my dance journey has been focused on me and my development. I haven’t really been able to do that since before I got sick because there was always a competition or test or performance I was preparing for. During that time, that prep and focus on tangible goals was what I needed.

I am surprised to discover that I don’t really need that sort of focus anymore.

I do still have a need and desire to compete and perform, but it is not as pressing. When I do it, I want to do it to show my progress, and mostly it’s to show that progress to myself. I feel that competitions, and by extension performance (I would much much rather compete than perform) are necessary to help give a limit to break up phases of development. They give a timeline for taking a step back, evaluating, and refocusing.

For the past year, I have enjoyed working with Boss more than I have during the 5 years prior to it. We really have come into a solid grove with how we work, and it really is at a higher level than I ever really thought possible, in consideration of the struggles we had trying to get and stay on the same page before that. There is an element of mutual respect I never expected.

It makes me optimistic and eager to see where Boss’s teaching will lead me next.

I am so grateful that I discovered pro/am, despite the unique challenges it presents. Without it, I likely would have stopped dancing a long time ago and I would definitely not be where I am now. The opportunity it provides me is unmatched.

I don’t know what the future holds. I expect at some point my career will take me to a new location and that will mean new dance experiences. For now, I intend to embrace the opportunities Boss gives me as best I can. I don’t know what all those opportunities will be, but I do know I will continue to get fitter, healthier and feel better — which finally brings me back full circle to the main reasons I started dancing in the first place. Before I found dance, I was very lost and broken.

Through dance I have become strong and confident. I would never have beaten cancer without it. Words cannot express my gratitude for those who have been part of my dance journey, especially Boss who never gave up on me, even when I seemed determine to give up on dance, myself, and to make it as difficult as possible.

This has been such a long time coming.

It’s time for a new chapter in dance for me. I am not quite sure where it will go, but I know it will be great and ideas are already forming. Once I can get them organized into some sort of sense, I will present them to Boss and see what he suggests.

I’m excited for this new chapter and where it will lead me.

Time to start writing.

What is going on?

First — My bag was found intact!

I am just waiting to hear it has been shipped. Words cannot express the feelings of relief that flooded through me when I saw it had been found.

But on to the rest of the post…

As far as I can tell, I seem to be experience some sort of extreme effects of jet lag.

Or maybe it’s a combination of things. At this point I can’t tell.

Exhausted doesn’t even begin to describe how I feel. I have never felt jet lag like this. I am not sure it even qualifies as jet lag, since I am actually sleeping pretty good and mostly usual amounts and hours.

It could very well be jet lag combined with menopause symptoms (perhaps brought on by the jet lag??) and stress. With the loss of my bag and late arrival it was certainly more stressful arriving home than I anticipated.

I am having trouble thinking. There is that entire feeling like I am trying to “think through water” and I can’t seem to put a full sentence together without remembering what I wanted to say. I have recently missed some details leading to obvious mistakes. I do know I was having a lot of intense hot flashes last week.

Last night at dance I got through my lesson (we were finishing off the Paso), but struggled all the way through my practice, barely getting it done. I went to review what we had just done in paso and what I retained seemed to be pretty slim. Today I can’t seem to get past the first two bars before I hit a huge gap.

Work today was painful. I couldn’t concentrate and what I was able to do was pretty limited. I have been working on a course and tomorrow I will have to reread everything I did today. The worse thing is that it is a review course.

I went to the gym to try to clear my head and do some cardio and I came very close to stopping halfway through, even though I wasn’t working as hard as I usually do. I cannot believe how much of a battle it was to do my usual 35 mins of cardio and I couldn’t push myself enough to get my pulse up to the right level no matter how hard I tried.

I did finish my paper for school, but I am loathe to proof-read it. Thank goodness it is a formative step to a bigger evaluated paper.

It’s just before 8 pm and I am more than ready for bed and will head there right after I finish writing this.

I am super frustrated with this feeling because I can’t fully explain it. Beyond being exhausted, I feel weak. It was a struggle even to walk back to my office, which is not that far.

I really hope it is just a perfect storm of factors and after a restful weekend (once the paper is handed in!) it will all resolve. I did have minor surgery on my chest yesterday (10 mins in office) and perhaps that is also contributing. Since I can’t even feel what was done it’s a little out of mind, but I do have 3 stitches that are healing.

This has also left me frustrated at dance because I feel like if I could pull it all together I might have some good progress going on, instead of feeling like I am fighting my body for every movement and step. My balance is off and I feel really ‘clunky’ and cumbersome.

All I can do at this point is keep plugging through and wait for it to sort itself. I have never felt jet lag so intensely. Hopefully when it clears, I will be able to sort through the mist and water and fog in my brain and things will emerge clear.

It’ll come.