Distributing my energy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Slowly checking all the boxes to prepare.

Mosre dance later this week 🙂

Endurance Issues

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

7 weeks seems a long time right now.

Samba and Shoes

Sort of a strange combination, but yet related.

The end of last week was pretty much dedicated to samba.  Boss went through the sequence for the gold routine with me, and we worked on getting the sequence down, then looked at some of the technique in samba.

Samba is a weird beast for me.  It’s a little disjointed in some ways.  I have steps, such as whisks, stationary, bota fogos, and plait where I feel like the technique is pretty put together and I am able to get some bounce action.

And then there are other steps, like voltas, cruzado walks, and corta jaca where I feel like I have no technique happening at all, or I am trying to do some technique and bounce action and my body is just refusing to cooperate.  I am working on the cruzado walks and corta jaca I think I just need to think on a little (haven’t focused on it in a while), but voltas are like an achilles heel for me.  I just can’t seem to get all the actions working together.

That said, I really like the samba routines that Boss puts together.  They are some of my funnest routines, and the gold one is no exception.  I look forward to working on it more.

Secondly, shoes.  As I mentioned, I had been wanting to try working during the latin technique group class in my higher 2.5″ heels with the adjustments I am working on in my posture.  Last week was my second week working in them and I noticed something interesting.

Working on the hunch, in my next lesson I had Boss have a look at my position and latin technique in both shoe heights to see which is better. As suspected, everything was better in the 2″ heels.

What I noticed is that once I went up to the 2.5″ heels, I was unable to move my posture forward because of the height I was at and I was very restricted in how I could use my feet, which translated into much less movement through out my body.

Essentially, the added height limited the range of motion in my feet because it was pushing me up on my toes.  I couldn’t raise myself from my toes further than I was.

This is exactly why I use shorter heels for standard. I just haven’t really noticed it in latin before.

I have pretty short feet (size 6.5 US, or 23 cm), but on top of that, the ball of my foot is very wide.  I have a long arch, but it doesn’t leave a lot of space for the ball of my foot.  Basically, if I was wearing 3″ heels I would be completely forward on my toes only.

This actually makes things easier for me because now I don’t have to try and alternate my practice shoes, I can just work in my 2 inch heels all the time, and continue to strengthen my balance and feet and ankles consistently regardless of the style I am doing.

Of course, now I have to buy some high-quality latin shoes with 2 inch heels verses 2.5, but I have an idea of where I can get them (basically the same shoes I had in 2.5 with a lower heel).

There is no rush on doing this as my surgery will be July 11th, so most of my summer will be spent recovering.

On a slightly different note, my work hours were reduced today.  I just don’t have the energy to maintain a full schedule, so 3 days a week I will work only half days until we can find a solution to get my energy up.  The other two days will be full days.  I am really disappointed with this, but I know it is for the best.  I am not sleeping well and it is leaving me exhausted and like I never feel refreshed in the morning.  It is something that will need to be addressed over the next few weeks, and I hope my work hours won’t get reduced further.  I am tired of having to choose the parts of my life I will participate in, and which ones I can’t because I am too tired.

I am hopeful as I reach the 3-month mark for taking the hormone therapy this magical cessation of side effects that I have been promised will appear.  The end of this month will be that 3-month mark.  Beyond that, I hope that the surgery and not having hormone fluctuations or needing the injections will also improve things.  I just have to get there and I am not sure if I will have the energy.

But at least I get to buy new shoes 🙂

Mixed Messages

I am so frustrated right now.

Not about dance, about the medical world.  I just got a call from the scheduler for my hysterectomy and she told me they were currently booking for October.

OCTOBER!

Completely different from the End June timeframe the doctor told me 2 weeks ago.  At least when I explained that, and what I had been told by the doctor, the scheduler agreed to go back to the doctor to see if I should be moved up on the priority list.  Unfortunately, she won’t be able to get back to me with an answer until next week, so I have to spend all weekend wondering if I will have to stay on this medication and keep trying to hold the pieces of my life together until October.

I was having a hard enough time just dealing with having to make it until the end of June, and more likely July.  October is 6 months away.  The doc told me her goal was that I would only have one more injection of the ovarian suppression, and October doesn’t fit with that, I would need 2 more, possibly 3 depending on what part of October we are talking about.

I am trying to remain calm about it, but I am not really succeeding.  At least at home I have some medication to help deal with it.

The only ‘up’ side I can see to October is that I will be able to have my reconstruction revision in July, since the date I was given in June didn’t work.  It’s a very small upside.

I really just want to get both of these surgeries out of the way, so I don’t have to think about them any more, and they can stop interrupting my life.  I feel like my entire life is being scheduled around surgeries right now and until they are done I am just in a holding pattern where nothing I do now will ‘stick’.  I was also told minimum 6-8 weeks off for the hysterectomy, not 4-6.

I keep trying to move forward with my life and feel like I am being constantly knocked back.

Not a great start to the weekend.

Pushing through the Changes

First, nothing ruins a Thursday more than realizing it’s a Wednesday.

It’s been that kind of a week.

That aside, there have been some high points to the week, and it seems that the medication I on (rather medications) are continuing to have a positive effect.

On the health front, it was a bit of a difficult week. As I am still continuing to experience a lack of energy and some other side effects, the docs are doing some testing to make sure that they ARE side effects, and not symptoms of something else (thyroid is the main suspect–which runs in my family).  I met with the oncologist, and as far as cancer prevention, he is happy with where I am at with the hormone therapy, and hopes I am able to get my surgery soon as he believes that will help with the side effects.

I had a bit of an anxious couple of days.  Since the weekend, I had been feeling a lot of tenderness in my right armpit, and as I was trying to figure out where exactly it was, I felt a very tender lump.  Considering my history, any tender lump on my right side is cause for anxiety.  I was able to get it checked out, and it appears that I have a swollen lymph node which is likely a sign I am fighting a bit of an infection.  I was told that the fact that it was tender was a positive thing as a cancerous lump would not be.  Just to be sure, I will have an ultrasound to have a look, but it does already seem to be feeling less sore. It’s a load off.

Now I just wait for blood work and keep doing what I am doing.

So, what am I doing?

The posture change continues.  I can feel it starting to take more solid hold, although I had a couple of days where my back was killing me–a sign that I was indeed making changes enough to irritate it.  It has started to settle down as this becomes the ‘new normal’ and I am pleased with how easy it is getting.  Still have to stay on top of it, but it is coming.

Another change I am making is to my practice, and this is almost proving a little bit harder.  It’s easy to fall into old habits of drilling and following the structure I am used to and comfortable with.  This week though, I set the changes and have been making myself stick to them.

I am only doing the set drill intervals on Monday and Friday, and only 1 set of each standard and latin, the rest of that practice time is reviewing things from my lessons.  Wednesday, there is no drilling. I am trying to use Wednesday to dig into things I want to dig into from my lessons and work through to figure out.  It’s a ‘supervised’ open practice meaning there are other dancers around doing their own thing and Boss is in the hall for anyone who has questions.  I have given myself permission to ask if I get stuck.

I wasn’t really sure what to do tonight, which is what made it a challenge, and I wasn’t sure if I would be able to fill the time.  There were a list of things I wanted to go through, so I just started with that and let it go from there. Top of the list was working through the sequence of my rumba routine on my own and figuring out the steps.  I had to ask about the footwork in one step, but I was able to go through it top to bottom a few times tonight, so it is getting pretty grounded in my head, and I have a pretty good idea where the uncertainties are.

I also worked through some of the waltz sequence we have been doing in lessons.  I wanted to see how it went on my own, but I also needed to test my own limits a bit to see what I can control and where I can push myself a little.  There are a couple places that are driving me a little crazy (particularly the transition from spin turn to turning locks), but it is slowly coming.

Finally, one of the other changes I am trying to get into my body is to keep my right foot straight in standard (which for me feels twisted in).  I needed to get a better idea of how much I have to twist it in to keep it straight, which I seem to have been able to figure out.  It’s a challenge in itself as I have to try to apply it across all the moves I make with my right foot–whether a side step, forward or back–and it’s still pretty ‘foreign’ feeling.  In Waltz in particular I find lock steps almost impossible as it truly feels like one foot is facing the wall and the other is facing line of dance.  I am hoping it will get better the more I work at it and perhaps it will force some physical changes in how that foot and knee turns out. Tango seems to be the best dance for working through that (as I can check my foot alignment when I do a close).

I have made some small changes to my schedule in general, which I hope will make things more manageable on my body.  I have moved strength training to Sat, Mon, Wed, and kept dance MWF (with Latin technique on Thursday).  I am hoping by spreading things out a bit more at the end of the week, it will help distribute my energy a bit better and keep me from getting exhausted.

The only other thing that is on my mind is that I still don’t have a date for my hysterectomy.  I was called today and offered a date for the revisions and reconstruction still needed from the mastectomies and reconstruction, but it was for mid-June and I really don’t know how close together the two surgeries can be.  I also am tied up with work until at least June 22, so all surgeries need to be after then.  They are looking at doing the reconstruction work in July now, but again, it depends on the other surgery.  If I don’t hear about a date tomorrow I plan to call as pretty much my entire life has to be scheduled around the hysterectomy and its recovery.

Until then, I will just keep working through the changes.

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.

Another Surgery….

I have been quiet while having to deal with some health issues related to the hormone therapy.

I found out today that I will be having a total hysterectomy end June/early July.  The sincere hope is that once my ovaries are gone, my hormones will settle down and I can get back to feeling like myself again.

In the meantime, the hormone therapy has more or less crashed my entire system.  Because stopping the hormone therapy is not an option (the shot lasts until May), I have had to be treated with medication for the side effects.  Almost 4 weeks later, I seem to be finally starting to get to a functional point.

I say functional.  The psychiatrist who is treating me calls it ‘presenteeism’–it’s one step up from absenteeism.  Instead of being absent from my life, I am there, just not really participating.

To be perfectly honest, I have never felt worse in my life–including during chemo, radiation, and after surgery.  And I feel helpless to do anything about it, I can only manage it.

Slowly, the mental health issues are improving, but unfortunately the physical ones are not.  I am exhausted.  I am ready for bed at 6 pm after a full day of work.  It takes almost 12 hours for me to feel refreshed.  When I am awake, my energy is fairly fleeting.  It has improved a little in the last week (likely due to the medication), but it is still very restrictive.  I also ache all over.  If you have ever had aches from a fever, that is what I feel like all the time.  That in itself is exhausting.  Usually by 2 pm I have to take some ibuprofen to take the edge off.  I also have frequent headaches and right now the hot flashes are fairly frequent.

At least now, I have a general time frame to aim for when things might get better.  I say might because there is no way to know how my body will respond to surgical menopause versus chemical menopause, but there is a good chance that without my ovaries causing fluctuating hormone levels, things will stabilize and be more controllable.

This also makes very real for me something I have been avoiding–I will never have children.  It was highly unlikely before, but this makes it an absolute ‘no’. In many ways I am grieving for the children I will never have, and I have to acknowledge and give myself time to do that.

To be perfectly honest, I am not really sure if I ever would have had children or if it was something I wanted to do, but I took comfort in having the option. There is a lot more to that, but there are some things I need to keep to myself :).

I do have some dance news.

After I decided to stop dancing, I did go and advertise for a partner in the area where I live.  The response, I am sad to say was two offers for sex and one guy who was genuinely interested in dance, but who also was looking more for a relationship.  It was disappointing, but not really more than I expected, to be honest.

I had a fairly significant breakdown shortly after making my decision.

As part of that, I spent a lot of time discussing dance and what it means to me with my health care professionals.  They encouraged me to reevaluate and to talk to another dancer in the community.  They also pointed out that since my system was so depressed, no matter how much I might want to, I would never be able to see the good side to dance, only the bad.

It took a lot of talk, both with an amateur dancer who has also had breast cancer and previously danced pro/am herself when her partner was unwell, and talking with Boss, in addition to the health care professionals.

In the end, I decided to start writing.  I wrote about what led me to dance, what I enjoy about it, what I want from it, where I am, where I want to be, what I think of pro/am, how I want to learn–in short, 10 pages about dance, going through everything.

It was the most comprehensive evaluation of dance I have ever done, and it occurred to me that throughout my sickness I have had to reevaluate almost every area of my life–but I have never reevaluated dance.

It was long overdue, and it revealed a lot about what I really want and it is quite different from what I was doing and the direction I was going.

I don’t want to say more on that for now, but the evaluation is on-going.

One of the biggest obstacles I am encountering right now is actually the lack of energy, but I hope it will get better.

We shall see.  But now I seem to have something of a timeline for when this nightmare might end.

And so I fight on…