Back on the Floor!

Yes, finally!!

I was cleared to return to all activities yesterday, and I celebrated by having a lesson. 9 weeks until the competition, so a lot of work to do.

The lesson last night was very interesting and telling.

It ended up being later in the evening than I usually have a lesson and I was worried I would be too tired, but I was so anxious to get back on the floor I pushed it aside.

It was good that I did.

The start of the lesson was really really rough. We were working on standard since I have a couple coaching lessons this week and we started by reviewing and walking through our gold routines. I really felt like a wet blanket with no strength, and my mind was racing in about 50 different directions as my body tried to figure out what was going on. By the time we finished walking through the quickstep, I was honestly feeling quite panicked, and really couldn’t figure out what was going on.

We took a bit of a break before looking at specific parts of the routines that we will focus on for the coaching.

It turned out that break was what my mind needed to reconnect with my body and to trust that my body knew and was capable of doing what it needed.

After that, it was like the weight I have been carrying on my shoulders for the last 6 months disappeared. I felt my mind relax and organize itself, and as Boss and I prepared to work through one segment of our waltz, everything just came back together.

Actually, it came together better than it has in a longer time than I can remember.

It was like I needed the rough start for my mind to assess the state of my body and once it decided that all the movements were ok, it gave permission.  I could use my full strength and power, was able to move into full hold and to follow what Boss was doing. By the end of the lesson we were even traveling significantly more down the floor than we have in a very long time.

The best way I can describe the feeling is to say I felt free and free to dance. There wasn’t anything holding me back anymore–no hormone issues, no depression, no muscle weakness, no fuzzy head, and no fatigue.

In fact, I felt more energized after the lesson than I was before it–something that hasn’t happened since before I was diagnosed. I had honestly forgotten what that feels like.

I was able to ask my body to do things, and it responded–usually better than I expected, and much more than I have become used to.

Needless to say, I was pretty shocked and overwhelmed. I found confidence in my movement that had been missing for a very long time.

Aside from completely surprising myself, Boss seemed to be completely over the moon. I don’t think he has said he was pleased so many times in a lesson before. Considering how my previous recoveries and issues with treatments have gone, I can’t blame him–this ‘comeback’ is in a class by itself. He commented that I was dancing better than he was prepared for.

A lot of pieces that were only just swirling around in pieces before my surgery seemed to click into place while I was recovering. It’s a testament to how even when you have to take a break physically, mentally your mind may still be working. I could almost feel them all fall into place.

Of course, that’s not to say that everything was easy. It has been 6 weeks since I have really done any activity except light walking in the last 2 weeks. I was getting winded easy, and my pulse was racing. I could feel how out of shape and out of conditioning I am. It’s going to take a lot of work to get that moving forward again. While I could do full power in short segments, I know that attempting even one full routine at that power would be pretty draining. Overall, the lesson was fantastically terrible–a lot of success mixed with hard work that demonstrates there is a lot more to be done.

But its baby steps. The foundation is there. I achieve beyond my own goal in that lesson, in that after the initial ‘trial’, I was able to push myself fully through the rest of the lesson without giving up. While this lesson was hard, the next will be a little easier and I will be able to push longer and further.

It’s like remembering something from childhood–I know I used to be able to do it, but the details are fuzzy.

They are becoming more clear now.

I feel much more optimistic about the coaching on Wednesday, and my ability to get through 2 45 min lessons. The last time this coach was here, the work with him triggered a few things falling into place in standard that had been eluding me, and I am hopeful at something similar may be possible this time too. We (and by ‘we’, I mean Boss) have a good plan for things to work on, and if it is even remotely similar to last night, it’s going to be fun.

Fun. There’s a word I haven’t used in relation to dance in a long time. It feels good. Fun.

After last night’s lesson, I expected to wake up sore, especially in the surgical area, and completely tired and drained today from so much effort last night.

In another surprise, I woke up with tons of energy after sleeping better than I have in quite some time, and while I am moderately sore in the muscles I haven’t used in a long time, my belly and abdomen feel the same as they did before the lesson yesterday.

I am sooooo pleased to not have adverse after-effects! (I was pretty worried).

I expect my upper back, shoulder and leg muscles will be a little more sore tomorrow, but nothing unusual.

As a bonus to all of this, my doctor and I decided this morning to stop the anti-depressants, and see how it goes. The last 3 days I have been feeling symptoms of being over medicated again, and since I am on the lowest dose now, the next step is to stop and see how I feel in 2 weeks once my system has adjusted.  I can always go back if I need them. It’s the last of the medications I had to take to counter-act side effects of the hormone therapy.

In fact, I am now officially back to taking only the medications I was taking before I was diagnosed (actually one less, since one was a hormone supplement), one for insomnia, one for allergies. It’s another way to feel free.

Something else I haven’t mentioned which may be contributing to the increase in energy I am having–since the surgery I have lost 10 of the 40 lbs I gained during treatment, with only small diet changes on my part. Finally, it seems my body is ready to get fit again. It’s something I will need to stay on top of, but it’s the first real weight progress I have seen in over a year, and I finally feel motivated again to keep focusing on it.

In a lot of ways, my life is finally starting to resemble what it was pre-cancer, and I hope the momentum I now have continues to keep me moving forward. I am back to work next week, and looking forward to it. I have almost finished the 5th course for my masters.

And now I feel like I am ready and capable of getting back to fully dancing again.

Even more, I feel like I can really hope again.

It’s been a long time coming.

Why compete?

Why, indeed.

After sorting through thoughts in my last post, I guess I realized I need to figure out what drives me to compete, or rather what makes a competition interesting or worth competing in.

  • Competitions give me a real and tangible goal within a set time period.

I am a very goal-oriented person and having a competition to prepare for gives me something to focus on and a specific time within which to do it.  I need that to feel grounded in my dancing.  It’s not about specific goals within my dancing, but giving something to aim for.

  • Competitions set time frames for measuring progress.

It’s not really about how much progress is made between competitions, but more about having a definitive time to evaluate. It’s an opportunity to record my dancing under pressure and to compare it with previous videos.

  • Competitions help me feel structured in my dancing.

Along with being goal-oriented, I need structure, and really don’t do well if I feel there is no rhyme or reason to what I am doing. Competing gives me that structure–there are levels, others to compare to, things to evaluate.

  • The impact of a competition should reflect the price.

It doesn’t make sense to spend a large amount to attend a small competition, where I may be alone on the floor. It also doesn’t make sense to spend a small amount to attend a large competition that I have to travel to. The two parts need to balance and sometimes this can be the trickiest part. There are never any guarantees.

  • It’s not a competition if I am alone.

In order to compete, there needs to be someone to compete against. There is competitiveness in my nature, although its not always evident and I can say I am not comfortable with it. While I see the value in comparing my dancing against what I did at previous events, there is an element to competing with others on the floor that increases the drive to do well. It’s motivating.

  • Competitions motivate me.

There is something about competing that motivates and drives me more than just performing or social dancing. There is a thrill to it, and in many ways it is the time I feel comfortable acknowledging that I have done something well. It’s when I allow myself to really give myself credit, but it also gives an external justification too. It’s someone who doesn’t see me dancing all the time giving approval (or sometimes signalling problems).

  • Competing is the reward I give myself for hard work.

While I have lots of personal reasons for wanting to work hard, wanting to do well at a competition also plays a part. Competitions are something I earn. I work hard to save the money to attend, so I also owe it to myself to work hard to prepare for them. Competitions are an opportunity to have fun after putting in the hard work to prepare. Because I know I have worked hard, when I go to compete I can just enjoy the full experience, including traveling, the showcases/performances, and knowing I have done well.

Looking at this list, I can see where most of my recent competitions, and even my preparation for them have missed the mark for me. I also see that one of the things I experienced the most in the past 6 months was preparing for my silver test, which is very telling. Once my last competition was over, I felt very lost and aimless until the test prep started.

Part of me is scared about returning to dance without having decided on a competition goal. I am worried that for one reason or another, my next competition will be once again one of the same local competitions I have been doing for the last 2.5 years.

I am very worried deep down that if I can’t settle on some goals, especially for competing, I will lose the motivation I have gained following the surgery, and I will start to question why I dance–a rabbit hole I don’t want to go down again.

I feel like I lost some of the reasons why I dance in recent months, really since my mastectomies and reconstruction and all the issues with the hormone therapy. I got stagnant and I want to break that cycle. More than that, I need to break that cycle. I feel like I call myself a competitive dancer, but I have no right to since I never really compete.

I feel like I am pretending. Perhaps that is the root of the problem.

It’s time to get back on a full competition floor.

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.

Cha Cha Conundrum

It appears I am focusing on latin lately.

It makes sense as now I have 4 of the 5 latin routines for my test and more so than standard I need to try to get them memorized.  For whatever reason, if I blank in standard I can just resort to following (which sometimes may be better!) but I have a harder time doing this in latin.

Working on the latin routines has been, well, strange.

Of all of them, cha cha is definitely the strangest.

It took me most of practice last night just to work out the timing for the routine with Boss’s help.  There seemed to be a lot of steps I really had no clue how to do on my own, and that is a little concerning.  I went in early tonight to practice some before the latin class because I honestly wasn’t sure if I would be able to stay late enough for the class (I did in the end, but I was pretty much a zombie the whole time).  I managed to get through the rumba, minus one step at the beginning, then I focused on cha cha.

One of the most odd things about latin in general, whether rumba, samba, cha cha or Jive is that anything we do in hold seems completely alien to me–like I have never done anything in hold for Latin before.  It’s to the point where I find myself questioning where I am supposed to put my left hand (shoulder, back, bicep?), and I keep stretching my right arm out like for standard (and then constantly reminding myself to drop my elbow–at least I remind myself!). I feel like I am either too close or too far, about to trip Boss or fall over forward.  It’s really bizarre.

And then there is cha cha specifically.  For whatever reason, as I am working on it I can’t seem to incorporate ANY technique I have worked on.  Of course then I remind myself that I can’t really remember the last time I worked on cha cha technique that wasn’t forward lock steps, cuban breaks or time steps–but I can’t seem to put even those into context.  Most of my latin focus lately has been rumba (for the last couple years) or samba (more lately).  Rumba technique has a lot of crossover, but that just isn’t coming into cha cha.

Granted, I really am focusing on working out the sequence of steps right now, but I guess I expected that I should be able to at least do a basic step with some semblance of technique (which isn’t happening right now).  When I try, the best I can describe is that it feels ‘odd’ and like I am trying too hard and off balance.  And that is just the basic step, and other steps feel like there is no hip movement going on and I can’t keep my legs straight.  In short, nothing about cha cha seems to be muscle memory or automatic, but I do vaguely remember a time it was.

I am really confused about this.  I know I can do time steps, whether fast or slow, with no issue on my own, and even with Boss they are not too bad.  But the minute I do a step that is pretty much not lateral side to side (and has forward and back steps), it just gets weird.

I can’t figure out if this the work I am and have done in rumba trying to adapt to cha cha (but not really succeeding with the speed), or if I have really forgotten my cha cha technique. Even New Yorks feel weird and off balance.

It doesn’t bode well for my test, although I probably have higher expectations of myself than Boss does.  At this point though, I feel like the cha cha I do now is actually weaker than the cha cha I was able to do for my bronze test, and it is really uncomfortable to feel.

Samba still has that in/out feeling for technique I have described before, the out being mainly the voltas and some rocks (which are more a I hate how rocks look issue).  I haven’t had a chance to work on it on my own yet, but I am not concerned about it as samba routines seem to come together fairly easily for me.  It will be a project for tomorrow’s practice.

Jive was actually a bit of  a pleasant surprise.  It’s a bit like samba in that the technique comes in and out, but it is more ‘in’ than ‘out’ than I expected.  Practicing it on my own is a bit tricky as in the end the ladies part is a lot of just turning (while the man’s part has hand changes) and without a partner for reference it is hard to know what direction I am supposed to be facing. I still have to work out the timing for it, but that will be the main focus for tomorrow’s practice.  The main thing I need to figure out is where the knee lifts are and making sure I do the rock step on bent knees (which is easier for me than straight as it’s an ingrained habit from my rhythm days that seems to have stuck).  Once I remember that, it came together better.  Endurance still sucks though.

So I am not really sure what to do about my cha cha conundrum.  Really at this point, I don’t think there is much I can do as the test is only two weeks away.  Better to focus on the things I can control, improve, or at least stabilize, rumba, samba and jive, and be prepared for cha cha to be a mini disaster.

Haven’t done the silver Paso yet, but I am hopeful it will be pretty much my old closed silver routine which should come back fairly easy.  I can’t think of any silver steps in Paso that would give me issue, and because it is mostly in hold it is easier to follow than the other latin dances.

I haven’t started working on the standard routines yet, although I have them as I feel latin is where I need to focus–it is more independent than standard.  I have also done a lot of work in standard lately so the steps and techniques are more familiar (and they transfer more through each dance).

I have surprised myself lately with the amount of energy I have had for my own practice–far exceeding what I expected to be able to do.  The side effects from my injection are starting to abate and I even slept through the night last night–first time I can remember in recent history.

So it appears cha cha somewhere went sideways in the last 6 months–literally–side steps seems to be the extent of what I can do.

The Return and End of Smooth

Stopping dance proved to be disastrous for my health.

The day after I decided to stop, I had a complete breakdown and ended up at the ER.  I didn’t think it was possible to get worse than I was, but believe me, it was much much worse.  With everything else, the medication I was on gave me violent mood swings as levels of brain chemicals went up and down until a stable level was achieved.

It was the longest and most difficult 3 weeks of my life.  I really thought I might die, and to be honest, I wished the cancer had killed me.  It was a very very dark time.  On top of everything else, stopping dance actually made the grief I am going through over losing my fertility even more poignant, because I felt as though I had absolutely nothing left to hold on to. I had created a giant hole in my life that I could no longer fill and the little bit of joy and meaning I had in my life disappeared.

But somehow I got through it.  It took a lot of talk with mental health experts, time for medication to kick in and dose adjustments, and a complete reevaluation of my life and dance.

On top of the medical staff, I also (with their encouragement) talked with other dancers in the community (pro/am and amateur), non-dancers and Boss.  I took more than a week to go through and write out all of my thoughts on dance–what was important to me, what I wanted to do with dance, what I felt was missing, what needed to change, and where dance fit into my life–or where I wanted it to fit.  I wrote because that was the best way to express myself and let it all out.  It took me a week and was more than 10 pages, but it helped me find a place for dance in my life–even pro/am.

It took a while, because my energy levels have been quite non-existent and it took some lessons of just talking things through with Boss before I was ready to come back, and we were able to agree on changes that worked for both of us, and hopefully will help to address the issues I was struggling with.

There will be two significant changes to the structure of my lessons.  First, one lesson a week will be devoted to working on showcase/performance routines.  This is to give me an opportunity to be creative and collaborative in dance, something I was missing a lot.  Second, half a lesson every other week will be spent on ‘dance appreciation’.  Time to discuss dance, look at videos of different levels and styles, and develop my ability to think critically about dance and recognize various aspects of it.

My practice is changing as well.  I will still do some drilling, but it will not be the sole focus on my practice, it will be about 2/3rd of it.  The rest of the time will be spent on working through steps and routines as I want to.  The goal of that is to mix time spent drilling, which is more meditative, repetitive, and not requiring a lot of thought, with other aspects of dance that require me to ‘figure out’ and think through what I am working on.

I am also scaling back everything I am doing.  I will be focusing only on international style, and full gold routines for competing.  I will not be competing in smooth anymore.  Boss had wanted to turn the smooth routines into showcase routines, but to me it would be rubbing salt in the wound to work on the routines, but not be able to compete them.

And so ends smooth for me.

It is yet another casualty to cancer.  In all honesty, it hurts a lot, but at the same time I am grateful to still have some way to dance.  My relationships have also taken a huge loss and been damaged through the difficulties of the last month and I do fear they may never really mend.

I saw the surgeon and my hysterectomy will be likely end June/early July.  It will be 4-6 weeks of recovery off of dance and work.  It will be another slow and careful recovery.  The small silver lining is that with a little luck (and I am definitely due!) it will alleviate many of the symptoms from the hormone therapy as I will no longer need ovarian suppression and my hormone levels should fluctuate less allowing my mental health to stabilize.

In the meantime, I wait for a solid date for my surgery and attempt to hold my life together as best I can until then.  Every day is still a struggle, but the past week has seen me become a bit stronger and able to return to strength training.  This week allowed me to return to dance.

I am scared that everything will fall apart again before all of this is finished.  It’s taking a lot to control the depression and anxiety, and I am still in constant pain.  The hot flashes are happening in cycles indicating my ovaries are not as suppressed as they should be.  I have to have another shot in May, but the surgeon told me her goal is for it to be the last one. I truly hope so.

I am taking things one day at a time and trying to live my life as best I can.  I am so far able to work and keep up with it.  Strength training makes me feel better, not drained or exhausted and I am seeing genuine improvement in strength for the first time in almost a year.  In the middle of everything, I managed to finish the first 3 courses of my Masters, and am now working on my 4th.  So far, my lessons have been positive and also leave me feeling better than when I arrived.

I have slowly returned to myself and hope to maintain it.  I have lost much in the last month and I continue to grieve for my fertility–something I expect will continue until after the surgery when it is truly gone.  Things are rocky, difficult, but manageable.

At least for now.

I am back.

Eyes up

This is my new challenge.

As I mentioned previously, when I do my exercises and personal practice, I find it meditative and tend to go a little inside myself and just focus on the sensations of my body moving.

Unfortunately, when I do this I tend to focus my eyes on nothing and typically cast my eyes (and my head) down towards the floor.  It’s a habit which comes back to haunt me a little as when I concentrate, that is my ‘default’ mode.

Yesterday in my lesson, we went through all of my exercises as Boss had already noticed a few things that needed to be addressed.  Number one on his list was that I need to do all my exercises keeping my eyes and head up, with my chest lifted–just as it has to be when in standard position.  Latin exercises are more focused forward.  The biggest thing is to keep my gaze up from the floor.

This shouldn’t be hard to do, but for some reason it just doesn’t quite gel with what I do naturally, so it takes a lot of conscious thought.  But habits are build through perseverance so time to keep on myself and develop a new one.  This will also help with my endurance for maintaining my standard position in the long run.  It certainly is learning a new way to concentrate and focus internally.  It should be a good challenge (like I don’t have enough already!).

For the most part, it seems the exercises are going well, even though it’s only been a week I have been working on them.  Some of the biggest changes came in latin exercises focused on rumba walks (hardly a surprise!) and bota fogos.  It’s good to know that things already seem to be rebuilding.  Boss mentioned we might start working on some sequences this week, but honestly I am in no rush.  I like what we are doing now.

Boss asked me to provide him with some feedback for things I am not sure of on the exercises, but I told him I wanted to wait until after Wednesday’s practice to give myself time to evaluate, and settle into more consistent practice.  I find if I don’t give myself time then things get confusing as my body hasn’t figured out what it is doing in the first place before I start making changes.  I am quite happy with how things are feeling already (as far as consistency) and there are really only a couple exercises our of 18 that continue to vex me.

So now I will add in keeping my eyes up and see how that changes things.  Part of the issue is just being comfortable with myself and not trying to ‘hide’ inside myself too much as I work.  On the one hand, it is great how focused I get, but on the other….

I need to be able to dance ‘out’.

Ending on a ‘high’ note

Well, I got through the week.

Finished the bootcamp both Thursday and Friday night and also had a lesson on Friday just to tie things up neatly.

The lesson on Friday was mainly a review of my standard and latin routines ahead of the rounds practice tomorrow.  The standard routines went well, although they were just a run through of the steps in practice hold.  After them, we worked on the Paso Doble, which is finally started to come together–at speed.

There were a couple glitches along the way which we had to work out, usually with one of us on the wrong foot (mainly me) but we were able to run it from top to bottom at speed without stopping which is encouraging ahead of the practice tomorrow and two weeks before a competition.

After Paso, we ran quickly through the cha cha to try out the change I made to the beginning (which worked!), but this is where we started to run into a bit of trouble.

I had been feeling a little ‘off’ since Wednesday and the feeling has gotten gradually worse since then.  It’s hard to explain but I can almost feel my hormone levels creeping up and today I turned into a bit of an emotional wreck–a sure sign.  My head feels all fuzzy and behind and this is what started happening in cha cha–I just felt slow and detached from what I was doing.  Boss found I wasn’t quite ‘with it’ and I wasn’t using his connection to do my steps.  I have to agree it was like I was stuck in my own world.

After cha cha, we worked on jive, and this just went from bad to worse.  I kept mixing up the steps (even though less than a week earlier I knew them), I wasn’t forward enough and as such I just wasn’t connecting through the steps and they just weren’t working.  I wasn’t even able to really follow the lead I was getting.

It was super frustrating to feel myself lacking focus and essentially unable to pull it back–especially after the rest of the week had been so great.  It makes me more than a little nervous about the practice tomorrow because I know that today I feel even worse and I don’t see tomorrow as being better.  I am due for my next ovarian suppression injection on Wednesday and I have a feeling the effects may have worn off a bit through the last week.  I feel very scattered and tired when I want to be focused and energetic.

Unfortunately, all I can do at this point is take tomorrow as it comes, and accept that things might not be as strong as I would like them to be.  In one way, this is a good opportunity to see how I do when I am feeling like this.  One thing I do know is that after my injection, I will feel better and my energy and focus will return.

I finally saw the dietician today and we had a great discussion.  We suggested some small changes I can make and I will see her again next weekend.  For the most part, what I am doing makes sense, it just needs a few tweaks here and there to try and get things working again and for the weight to come off.  Having steady hormones will make a difference for sure.

I also had a dress fitting today for my smooth dress and it is looking so great!  Some of the stoning is done and the final touches of the sewing is all set to go now.  I am waiting on some stones to arrive for it and my fingers are crossed they arrive in time!  My other dresses are really coming along as well–my dressmaker has been stoning up a storm–especially on the latin dress.  I am definitely going to sparkle at the competition.

So that is how my week has ended and I hope it starts with a good practice tomorrow.

Wish me luck!

Turning Point

At least I hope so.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Slow and clumsy

That’s the overwhelming feeling I had during practice today.

But that’s not to say that it was bad. There were some elements of it that were good, and even recognizing that I was feeling slow and clumsy is in itself a little bit of a step forward.  It shows awareness that things can and will be better.

My endurance seemed to be better today and I felt stronger overall.  We tried to videotape the routines, but there were some big gaps where we were off camera, so it was hard to evaluate overall.  I made it through almost all my dances except quickstep, and viennese waltz.  I came close to the end of both though.

I did have an unexpected dizzy spell during a waltz and had to stop and sit down to make the world stop spinning and let some darkness fade.  Once I recovered, I was able to continue for the rest of the practice.  I am hopeful that in 2 weeks at the next practice I will be even stronger and I will get to the end of a quickstep without all my strength leaving me.  Unfortunately, that is what it feels like and it is incredibly frustrating.

I could tell Boss was a little frustrated today as well and I felt bad for that.  It seems like it has been such a long time since I have had any strength or been able to get through an entire practice.  I keep trying and coming up short and while there are improvements I can be happy with, they don’t take away the overall frustration and reminder that I am not the same as I was.

I am really starting to doubt about doing this competition in January.  If it wasn’t my last competition for a while, I think I would have already decided to pass on it.  But if I always wait to be ‘ready’, I would never compete.

One thing that become really obvious today is that I really need to rebuild my tolerance for spinning and turning.  The biggest problem I had with VW was that when we finished my world still kept turning and I had to hang on to Boss so I didn’t fall over.

My spins in latin are similar too.  Aside from being really slow (it seems like no matter how hard to try to do them fast I still finish well behind Boss and music), just one spin can leave me off-kilter. Previously, I was able to spin just as fast as Boss and do multiple spins without dizzyness fazing me at all.

That means there is probably going to be a lot of random spinning in my future to try and rebuild my tolerance.  Unfortunately, it’s the only way to do it.

I am pretty sure the reason I feel slow and heavy is because I am.  Despite a lot of hard work, my weight continues to be stubborn and I don’t think my body is really strong enough to move around this much weight.  I reviewed what I have been doing and eating with my family doctor and she also feels there is something unusual going on, so it is part of what the specialist will look into in 2 weeks.

I will admit to being pretty anxious and nervous about my weight.  I am doing a lot of activity and a lot of monitored eating right now and I seem to be barely able to maintain my weight, or slowly gaining.  .2 or .3 lbs a week doesn’t seem like much, but it does add up and it is frustrating knowing I am doing as much work as I can and it is already having secondary effects–such as joint issues.  I am terrified of what might happen if I miss a workout or a practice.

I really hope the specialist will be able to figure out what is going on with my body.  It’s been through hell and it seems it is not able to pull itself back together on it’s own. 2 Weeks seems like a long way away right now.

All I can do for now is keep working hard and hope that with time my speed will come back.

Next week should be focused on smooth and I am really looking forward to it!