And then it grew into regularly designing new posters and quotes as I struggled with loss of agency and a growing despair that my life was never going to be the same again. I let myself wallow. Sure, I had accepted the disease and the pain, but I hadn’t yet found a way to let them become simply a foot note. (I might never find that, and I am growing accustomed to it.)
In January, something amazing happened. I had a treatment that not only allowed me to function but to thrive. My pain was at a level that I had previously only dreamed of. I didn’t have to try to convince myself that a day was survivable or have to hide a myriad of emotions from the world.
That five day epidural infusion with a bisphosphonate chaser made me bold. I signed up for ClassPass and took a yoga class (before I saw my doctor because I wasn’t willing to hear that I needed to take it easy).
When I saw him (after 2 yoga classes), I got bold. I had made it through yoga. I had a friend cheering me for every step I took. I was suffering from some major cabin fever. I have a bucket list that isn’t getting any shorter.
At my appointment, I eased in with asking about going to yoga and low-impact cardio (like spin classes) and got an encouraging response. So, I asked.
“Do you think I could start taking Irish dance classes?”
Long pause. Sharp breath in. “Like full-on River Dance?”
“Not quite. It would be what they teach 4 year olds – I’ve always wanted to do it. It’s on my bucket list and I’m not ready to give up on it.”
“Can’t you just do videos from YouTube for 5-10 minutes at a time? Being in a class makes it too easy to push past where you should be.”
“It wouldn’t be the same. Besides, I miss being active. I gained back 80 pounds after my diagnosis because I had to stop running.”
Another long pause.
“Well, what about starting with ballet? Every movement isn’t a jump.”
“I can live with that. But I’m not taking Irish off my bucket list.”
Klutziest 30 year old in the world begins ballet
I took ballet and tap as a wee one. In high school, I took dance instead of PE and tapped after school. But other than 3 years of little kid ballet, I was starting from scratch.
I googled and found gobs of grownups who started ballet later into adulthood. I found myself getting hooked on dance before I even started.
I found a novice ballet class on ClassPass that I could try without committing to more than just one visit, bought a pair of ballet slippers and jumped right in.
Two months later, I take ballet 2-3x per week. I take Zumba (jump-free) and Dance Fitness classes a couple times a week and squeeze in some yoga and strength training when I can. None of my other classes bring me to my happy place the way ballet is.
For 60-90 minutes, the world fades away. I can focus on how to make sure my legs are doing the same things. I can focus on engaging muscles and relaxing my face. I can focus on everything but the pain.
Ballet gives me power over my body. A power that I lost four years ago and was afraid would never return. A power that I had tried to obtain multiple times but never quite got. Ballet gives me what I thought I would get from yoga. After each class I can see an improvement in how my CRPS-affected leg mirrors my good leg. I feel stronger. Every day tasks are getting easier.
That last epidural is wearing off and pointing my toes is growing more painful, but I’m pushing through. Not because I feel like I have something to prove, but because dancing has brought me somewhere I didn’t think I’d ever get again. Because moving is a gift and a responsibility.
I know this isn’t 100% in line with the original concept of this blog, but it is an important part of my journey to be positive despite the CRPS pain and this felt like the most natural venue to share.