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.

Struggling

I am filled with fear that the hormone therapy is having very negative side effects.

I did end up going to see the doctor again today about my sinuses and he prescribed some antibiotics as the weekend made clear that they are now quite likely infected.  With some luck, I should start to feel better by Wednesday.

But my fear is that the sinus infection is really only going to clear up the pain and pressure in my sinuses, but that the fatigue and achiness, and general listlessness and depression will remain.

I do expect some side effects from the hormone therapy, but at the same time I have to be able to have some quality of life and at least right now I don’t have that.

I am willing to believe that some of what I am feeling is due to being sick, but at the same time it would be naive of me to think that it is all the sinus infection.

My biggest concern is that I am pretty sure the hormone therapy is making me depressed and that to counter that it will be necessary to take anti-depressants.  I want to be clear that it is not the stigma of mental health that worries me, but the need to add yet more chemicals to my body to counter the effects of chemicals I am already forced to add to my body.  On top of that, anti-depressants have their own list of side effects and I am limited in those I can take because of the hormone therapy.  It’s just a big overwhelming mess and a road I really don’t want to go down.

But if I am realistic with myself, I am struggling a lot more than I should be right now.  I don’t want to get out of bed in the morning.  I have started a new (old) position at work and I can’t seem to generate any excitement about it.  I go to practice dance and I wonder what the point is and I have no interest in what I am doing.  I am going through the motions like a robot.  I am working on a masters in a subject I usually feel very passionate about but can’t seem to motivate myself to do the readings or assignments.  I am usually very consistent about getting to the gym and doing strength training but I have no motivation for that either.

And while it seems like I am doing a lot, I have not been able to do even half as much as I was able to do previously.  I am very frustrated with that.  On top of that, despite being on the medication to promote weight loss for 4 months, my weight has barely budged–even with good (and prescribed) diet and regular exercise.

As time goes by, I find myself wondering more and more if I should just accept that the life I knew is over.  I should just be resigned to being overweight and heavy and feeling terrible.

So many people have been so supportive, but I feel rather guilty when they tell me over and over that I am so strong and brave for fighting and conquering cancer.  Yes, I was able to be strong and brave and had great support, but it seems that the price you pay for beating cancer is to feel miserable for the rest of your life. That is the truth of  my experience.  I am constantly beat down by my health no matter how hard I work to make it better and I am tired.

In fact, I am honestly completely exhausted.  I haven’t been sleeping well since my last shot to the point where I have been waking frequently throughout the night.  I was almost able to stop taking my insomnia medication (a big step back), but now I am finding it necessary to increase back to a full dose to see if that helps me sleep through the night.

I am not completely sure where to turn for this.  I almost have too many doctors.  Is this a problem for the oncologist? My family doctor? The mental health nurse?  It seems like if I go to one, I will be referred to another.  I am not scheduled to see the oncologist until April, and I am to see my family doctor next week.  Because of the sinus infection, I feel like I have missed far too much work due to illness, which is one of the issues I was sent back to this position to fix.

Regardless, it is obvious to me that I cannot continue living like this.  Part of me want to wait a couple days and see what goes away with the sinus infection, but the other part is very concerned that nothing but the pain and pressure in my face will leave.

I find that I am constantly trying to find something to get excited about–whether dance or work or school–and everything keeps falling short.  Once again I had a lesson where I found myself unable to concentrate and Boss had to repeatedly make changes to what we were working on.  At one point, I had a hot flash so bad while working on a standard exercise I had to push Boss away because I felt like his body heat was suffocating me.  That said, we do have a section of a rumba routine to add to the waltz routine from last week.

I just want things to get better and stay that way for a while.

That isn’t too much to ask, is it?

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!

Smooth Viennese

That was the focus of tonight’s lesson.

We got it to a really good point today where we were able to run through it a couple times without any major issues.  We haven’t tried it with the music yet, but I don’t think we are far off from it.

I like smooth Viennese Waltz.  There is just something about it that appeals to me–perhaps it is just the flow of movements at high speed. Perhaps it is this routine too–the choreography has some really neat and unexpected elements that borrow from another dance–and not one you would expect.  No spoilers though 🙂

We also fixed a passage in the tango that needed a little bit of adjusting so it is not quite so rushed and flows a little smoother.  Slowly things are coming together.

I spent an hour at the gym today working through the Paso like I needed to do.  It was good that I did it as I discovered a couple places where no matter how hard I tried, I am just not able to do the choreography in time with the music–not even close.  I mentioned one of the places to Boss and he was able to make a small fix which helps a lot (so I don’t feel like I am chasing after the music), but I haven’t had a chance to mention the other place yet.  I will have to put that into an email for him so I don’t forget.

I was also working through some of my rumba styling and steps in the squash court (the gyms were being used and they are usually an isolated place with a wood floor), and one of the other dancers who also works in the same place I do (and uses the same gym) popped in to ask me if I was practicing rumba (yay–she could tell!!), and was wondering what I was preparing it for.  It’s really funny how small the world is some times.

The other thing I have been working on myself is one section in samba.  The styling for this section is absolutely killing me.  Nothing a do feels ‘right’.  It all seems too contrived or forced.  I think one of the biggest problems though is that I am not comfortable with the steps–not the mechanics of doing them, but just being comfortable in my own skin doing them.  It’s 12 beats of shaking and shimmying on my own and I am trying to get comfortable and confident about it, but I am just not there yet. I just have to keep doing it over and over until I am comfortable–but the problem is I feel self-conscious about it when there is an audience.

My latest ‘mini-project’ is spins.  I am working on just doing them as much as possible to a) build up my dizzy tolerance and b) build up my confidence and strength in them.  Basically, whenever I go into my kitchen I make myself do 10 spins each way.  That’s enough at a time for now, although I am thinking of switching to 20 on one foot per time to push my tolerance more.  I used to be a lot stronger at them and I really want to be again.  Especially in paso I need to get my spins faster and stronger for the choreography to work. Consistency. That is the name of the game right now.

One more lesson this week tomorrow.  I don’t know what Boss has planned, but I hope it will be a review of everything–especially smooth.  It would be good to run through all the routines with the music.

I started my new medication today and so far so good.  We will see what tomorrow brings.  My hormone levels are definitely going down as I am feeling much more calm and clear headed lately and much less emotional.  Thank goodness.

1 month to the competition and all 13 routines seem to be in a good place and coming together.  Next week should also bring an update on my dresses and I am really looking forward to that!  I wasn’t able to do a fitting this week because my dressmaker was sick, but I hope she is feeling a lot better!

It really amazes me the difference in how I feel this week from last.  I am capitalizing on those good feelings as much as I can!

Sinking it in

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fingers crossed everything will continue to improve!

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.

Change of Direction

Unfortunately not in dancing.

Yesterday I saw the endocrinologist. I hope you never had to experience a doctor telling you that she can’t help you, as that is what happened to me yesterday.  She had a look at all my bloodwork, my history, etc. and told me that other than prescribing a medication for weight loss (which may not be covered by my medical plan), there is nothing she could do for the PMDD, high estrogen levels and low progesterone levels that would not put me at high risk for cancer recurrence.

Needless to say, I left her office feeling pretty defeated and like I would be spending 2 weeks of every month for the next 20 or so years being non-functional, depressed, and sick.  On top of that, after almost 2 years of absence, my period returned signalling a clear sign that I am no longer in ‘chemopause’.

The one thing she did tell me was to go speak with my oncologist, which was the next stop I made.  I haven’t seen him in almost 6 months but I was able to sit down with him and explain everything that was going on.  He was concerned about my estrogen levels being so high, especially while taking hormone therapy as that in itself is a risk for recurrence.

I asked him about returning to taking the progesterone supplements I was taking before diagnosis to balance out the high estrogen levels and he said it would be risky.  Then he suggested something that is a rather newly approved treatment for preventing breast cancer that also coincidentally dramatically lowers estrogen levels–ovarian suppression.

Basically, I am injected with a small ‘pellet’ of medication that shuts off my ovaries and puts me into chemical menopause.  It has the same side effects as menopause (hot flashes, body aches, fatigue, increase risk of osteoporosis), which I experienced over the past 2 years already.  There is an option of an injection 1/month or once every 3 months.  The issue is that once I have been injected, I have to live with the side effects until it wears off.

I did some research on the medication (called zoladex) and discovered it has been used to temporarily treat women with PMDD to see if an oopherectomy would solve their problems.  Many of them reported that despite the menopause side effects, the ovarian suppression dramatically changed their lives–for the better.

Everything about it made sense and I am not willing to live only half my life, so I have decided to go for the ‘hail mary’ and try the injection for one month.  I have to increase my calcium supplements, but other than that, my fingers are crossed.  I was injected this morning.  One unexpected bonus is that the pellet is injected into my belly–where I still have no sensation so I couldn’t feel the injection at all.

I was told to expect an estrogen surge over the next couple days which will make me emotional and achy, but that it will subside.  The surge somehow leads the brain to tell the ovaries to shut down.

So far today, I feel good.  I had a couple hot flashes, but not very intense ones and a few moments of feeling light-headed.  One thing I will say is that around 2 pm I felt almost like a wave of calmness come over me and suddenly I did feel better than I have in over a month.  I have had a few more dizzy and light-headed moments since then, but the calmness seems to be staying–and I hope it lasts.

I can honestly say that there were moments today when I felt more like myself than I have in a very long time.  It seems strange to want to be in menopause, but one thing I can say is that even during chemo and after while the hot flashes were at times very difficult to deal with, overall I felt stable and even.  I hope that this medication will have the same effect on me.

Being in menopause will make my weight likely difficult to manage, but it is hard to say.  I lost my most weight while taking progesterone supplements to balance out the estrogen in my system and that is apparently unusual.  If my medical plan does cover the weight loss medication the endocrinologist prescribed I will try it for 3 months to see if it makes a difference. My family doctor is optimistic they will cover it.  Fingers crossed.

If all goes well, I will be injected again in early January (every 28 days for now), just before the competition I am preparing for.  I am hopeful everything will go well and this won’t interfere too much with the competition or my preparations for it.

I am more than ready to feel better. Even my oncologist told me I was due for something to work out for me, and perhaps the ovarian suppression plus the weight loss medication will be a ‘double whammy’ for me that will allow me to get back to being fully myself.

I feel good about the decision to do ovarian suppression, even though it was a hard one.  Looking to the future, if the suppression is effective I will give serious consideration to having my ovaries removed for a more permanent solution.  It is not ideal, but it would free me from the injections and the PMDD, and while it would cause surgical menopause my body would adjust to it just as it would to natural menopause.

The other thing that happened today was that I was referred back to acupuncture to help with the side effects I will feel, especially the joint and bone pain.  It was really effective for me during chemo and radiation and I am hopeful it will help with how I feel overall.

It’s been a crazy week and it certainly has gone in a different direction than what I expected.  There has been dance this week, I have a new paso routine and some modifications to my rumba routine.  One more lesson tomorrow and rounds practice on Sunday.  I will try to write more about dance and my competition prep soon.

Fingers crossed this is truly the beginning of the end of this long journey.  The past couple weeks have been reflective for me so I will write a bit about that.  I do feel like I am coming out of a shell and resetting and I have some very definite ideas for moving forward after my next competition.

Until next time–wish me luck that this ‘hail mary’ will work….with few side effects.

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!

When it rains….

It inevitably pours…

I have been quiet lately, but mostly because I was having a hard time finding something positive to say. A lot has happened over the past 2 weeks and it doesn’t look like things are going to improve in the short term.

I have been off work for almost 2 weeks now. What started as withdrawal symptoms from one medication merged into another issue which caused issues with the hormone therapy.

I seem to be finally on the mend, although it may be temporary for now, and in 2 weeks I will see an endocrinologist–which will hopefully be the beginning of the end of these issues (understanding it will take some time to work things out).

I am taking a break from hormone therapy on the recommendation from my family doctor and endorsed by my oncologist.  Just stopping the hormone therapy has already started to make a difference in how I am feeling.  I have moments where I feel really good and strong in a way I haven’t felt since before I got sick, but I have also moments where I feel pretty miserable.

I had bloodwork recently and it showed something my family doctor and I had hoped would have been behind me–a severe hormone imbalance.  My body is producing 4 times the normal amount of estrogen and almost no progesterone to balance it out.  When you add hormone therapy to the mix…it’s been like a perfect storm.  Before I got sick, my family doctor was able to treat the imbalance with progesterone replacements, but now that is no longer possible.  Hence the referral to the endocrinologist.

I am lucky that I will see her in 2 weeks and hopefully she will be able to look at everything and come up with something that will help and make a difference and rebalance my hormones.  According to my family doctor, the hormone imbalance would explain a lot of the symptoms I have been having from depression, to foggy brain, to nausea, muscles aches, and unexplained weight gain. If my hormones are able to be rebalanced, I can try to return to the hormone therapy again.

Taking the break from the HT has helped me feel better.  It is funny how you don’t really realize how terrible you feel until you start feeling better.  Yesterday, I had real energy for about an hour.

But, as I said, when it rains, it pours.

I was greeted by the news tonight when my new roommate got home that he will be moving out in two weeks to live in a place that is not so restrictive on  noise (he is an avid accordian player).  I wish him luck in his new place, but it leaves me in a big pickle dance-wise as it throws off my budget for the foreseeable future until I can find another roommate.

I am disappointed that I have to now recalculate a lot of plans, including coaching and competing, at a time when I feel very close to finally getting back on my feet again dance-wise.  He also told me the day after rent was due and essentially left me without his rent in December, which I had no reason to not expect.  With his rent in my budget I made a decision on extra stoning for my dresses that his rent would have covered. I am hopeful that I will be able to find a new roommate before too much time passes.  No roommate means no competing or any other dance ‘extras’.

This seems to be my quota of disappointments and bad news for December, so I am hoping it will be nothing but happiness and holiday cheer from here on out.

The sun has to come out some day 🙂

Recognizing Anger

I am angry. And I have been for a while.

I very rarely get angry and when I do, I seldom give into it, but sometimes it is healthy to let out the anger and frustration to give it a chance to ‘clear the air’ so you can move past it instead of ignoring it.

So I apologize in advance for the angry post that is about to follow.

My body and I are still not getting along.  Even when good things happen (like being able to stop taking medication I no longer need), my body rebels.  I feel like my body and I have been at odds since before my diagnosis, and in some ways my diagnosis was my body’s way of fighting back against the changes I had been making.

Changes to get healthier.

The year before my diagnosis was one of the most positive years in my life.  I was doing very well at work, I was progressing steadily in dance (even transitioning from bronze to silver), I was steadily losing weight and that was having a positive impact on my body.  I rarely needed medications, and I can’t even remember the last time I saw my doctor other than for a mandatory check-up since sorting out my hormone issues the year before.

I was full of positive momentum and charging forward with it.  It wasn’t free of bumps in the road, but the bumps were easy to work through and I just kept overcoming it.  I could even see myself reaching my weight loss goal and was only 25 lbs from it (considering I had already lost 75, 25 was really not much).

Then I found the lump in my breast and everything changed.

Suddenly, I had no control over my body anymore.  Everything from diet to medications to hormones was taken out of my control and put into the control of my cancer diagnosis.  I kept trying to maintain control by eating a specific diet, trying to stay active and doing as much as I could.

But it wasn’t enough.  My activity level had to be reduced, medications (mainly steroids) that caused weight gain had to be taken, and chemo caused so many food aversions I couldn’t eat the things I had come to rely on in my diet and had to find substitutes.  My hormones were thrown into complete flux, first because I had to stop taking my supplements, then chemo caused premature menopause (which also tends to trigger weight gain).

My body was abused, worn out, and eventually gained 35lbs I had lost (which I have been told is the average for chemo).  After recovering from my surgeries and returning to work, I started working on me again–trying to take back control of my body–and get it back in ‘fighting form’.

But it hasn’t worked.

Over the past few weeks I have been getting angrier and angrier because I have put in a lot of time, effort, and sacrifices, but the result has been the opposite of what I expected.  It just seems like every time I get just a little more control of myself, something happens to take it away from me.  I get sick. I have to adjust medication. I have side effects from medications. I fall. I get injured.

The list seems to go on and on.

And I am very sick of it.

The withdrawal symptoms I started experiencing last week are continuing.  I missed 3 days of work last week and will miss most of this week to try and give my body the chance to flush out the medication and get used to functioning without it again.  One doctor said expect 3-4 weeks, another 7-10 days. At this point, I don’t care how long it takes, I want this over with.  It is almost like the last hurdle I need to get over to really take my life back and it is like I reach the top of it only to discover there is still another summit to go.

I feel like I have been fighting to regain my life for more than 2 years now. And I am tired. I am angry. I am trying not to give up the fight.

I am trying to remember how good it felt to see positive and expected results from hard work. I am trying to remember what it felt like to be strong and confident.  I am trying to remember what it feels like to be me–driven, motivated and full of perseverance.

Perseverance used to be my word. I might not be first or even second, but I was going to finish and I was going to do it the best I could knowing that the work I was doing meant I would be even better next time.  I knew that because I knew if I kept doing my best every time, then my best would just keep getting better.

I don’t feel I can do my best anymore. I feel like that has been taken away from me.  I know what that was and despite so much effort I feel like I am no closer to reaching the goals I was trying to reach before I got sick.  And I am really angry about that.

I feel like I am doing everything I can to help my body get stronger and healthier and it is refusing to respond.  I feel like despite all the work I have done in the past year, I am still where I was this time last year–recovering from radiation and shingles and preparing for the biggest surgery of my life.

My instinct is to try to keep fighting and force my body to cooperate as much as I can.  But in the past 3 weeks, my trainer, my physiotherapist and my doctor have told me I am probably doing too much.

I am angry that the thought of slowing down and giving myself a break puts me in a panic.  I am barely able to maintain my health and weight doing as much as I am–doing less sounds like the road to disaster.

I am angry because it is like cancer was a cruel joke sent to me as a message to tell me that I can’t reach my goals. That my goals are impossible and I am a fool for trying so hard and having faith for so many years.  I have spent my life taking one step forward and two steps back and doing things people told me I would never be able to do.

I am angry because although my mind refuses to quit, my body refuses to cooperate.  A part of me is almost wondering what obstacle it is going to present me with next as a further roadblock to my goals.

I am angry because I want to stay positive. I want to keep pushing. I want to feel like my goals ARE possible.

And I feel like that is out of my control.

I keep telling myself to be patient. I keep telling myself to remember that I have been through a lot. I keep telling myself that if I keep working, it will all come together. I keep telling myself to have faith and trust and just believe that it will work out.

But how long can I keep telling myself these things before I am living in a fantasy world instead of reality? How long is too patient?

I just don’t know if my expectations are unrealistic for the new reality in which I find myself post cancer.  I feel as though I am constantly making compromises to adjust to the changes that have occurred, but I am also questioning at what point do compromises become giving in?  I am angry because I don’t think I have anything left to compromise on, and the only options left to me is to give in completely.

I am angry with myself because I blame myself. Somewhere I didn’t do enough, didn’t try hard enough, haven’t been strong enough.  I am not able to be the person I want to be anymore and I am grieving for that.  I feel as though reality is telling me it’s time to give up my dreams and find new more reasonable ones. I am angry because I am not even really sure what those dreams were any more.  My past hopes seem so naive in comparison with my current reality.

All of this may also be part of the withdrawal symptoms I am undergoing (anger is one of the symptoms listed), but that doesn’t make it any easier to deal with, and it doesn’t change that I feel like I have been failing myself.

That is the hardest thing to deal with right now–feeling like I am failing.  Every day I am not able to do everything I want to do and have to adjust or compromise I feel like I am failing.  Like I am not giving myself the best chance.

Before I got sick, I was very used to doing things on my own.  Too independent according to some people.  While I was sick I had to learn the hard way to allow myself to depend on others, and as long as I was sick I was able to justify that.  Now, I am no longer sick and in my head I feel as though I should be able to take care of myself again without having to rely on others.  I feel like I should be able to work through things now without having to inconvenience others.  But I am angry because I feel like an inconvenience to those around me.

I am also angry because I feel like too many of my posts lately have been about my health and less about dance.  I am angry with myself because I feel like there has been a lot of negative coming out of me lately.  And one thing I have never been is a negative person.

So, I am giving myself some time to just be angry. Time to acknowledge that I am angry about a great many things–some in my control, some not. I am giving myself a moment to feel bad and wallow a bit in self-pity and grieve all I have lost.

My hope is to be able to find within myself the courage to regroup once again. To know that eventually I will move beyond these withdrawal symptoms and when I do the future will be waiting for me to grab it and push my way towards it.

I just have to hang on a little bit longer.

Please forgive me for expressing my anger.