Tuesday, March 7, 2017

One Year

One year ago today, I had my last cancer treatment. The culmination of nine long months of IV poison, surgeries, and radiation burns. Nine months of scans, blood tests, and palpations. Nine months of warnings, advice, commiseration, sympathy. Nine months of losing all my strength and energy while everything I went toward fighting this thing. Nine months of gaining weight because there was nothing I could do to stop it. Nine months of fear, determination, and hope.

Nine months of my life gone.

Often, when I think of things I did before cancer, I forget just how long ago it was, because it really was like losing a year. Now, it's been so long that I've been out of it, it feels like a dream. If it weren't for the wreck my body was left in, I could almost forget it even happened. Of course, there's some emotional baggage that stayed with me, too. Some of it is good, and some of it is bad: I am grateful to be alive and I'm driven like never before to live the life I want and do the things I want to do. But I have more anxiety and nervousness than before. It's even harder to control my emotions and my temper. I blow things out of proportion and am more easily injured.

Overall, though, I'm good. I'm crazy in love with a man who keeps me grounded. I'm happy, I'm having fun, and every day I get a little stronger. I still get wiped out a little too easily so I have to plan how much physical activity I do in a day, but there are worse things to have to deal with. One year ago, I could barely walk a quarter mile without feeling exhausted. Now, I can run/walk 2-3 miles, swim half a mile, do weights for an hour, and even be in a three-hour-long musical. Just not all in one day!

Life is good, and what's nine months in the grand scheme of things?

Friday, February 24, 2017

There's no business like show business!

Hello, blog! I haven't seen you in a while...there's hasn't been much to report on, but reading my last post from October, I guess there are a few updates. Plus I'm having some thinky-thoughts that are somewhat cancer-related...or at least, cancer-adjacent. So, bear with me.

First the quick updates: 

  • I will probably not get my reconstruction done until next year. I have a consultation in April for the interstitial tears in my shoulders (basically, the ligament that attaches under the blade of the shoulder has torn away--probably from years of dance and exacerbated by the cancer treatments for various reasons). They will probably need surgery, and that needs to be done before reconstruction. And who knows how long it will take to recover from that, and I don't know if they'll do it in two surgeries or one. 
  • Michael and I have been waiting for certain factors to fall into place before setting a wedding date, but we're tentatively looking at August 6. It will be a simple, intimate affair at our home. 
  • We're going on a cruise to Alaska at the end of May, and we're very excited! We're going on Celebrity with some swing dance friends. Given that we haven't done any swing dancing in quite a while, I think we really need to start practicing again!
  • Just in case I forget, which I might, I finished cancer treatments on March 7 of 2016. That's a couple weeks away. So...I haven't even been out of it a year yet.

But the thing that has been occupying most of my time and all my thoughts lately is my show! Most of you know that I'm in the ensemble of "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying" at Davis Musical Theatre Company. It opens tonight, and I'm feeling particularly thoughtful today about what this means and thought I'd share.

What made me decide to do this?

When I was younger, I did a lot of backstage work in the Nevada City theatre community, but I never got to be on stage although I would have liked to. I was doing horses at the time, I had to work, I didn't think I could sing, excuse excuse excuse. Then life took me in a different direction. I started ballroom dancing and did a lot of performances for events at our studio or at random parties for churches, in front of a choir, etc., participated in variety shows. We danced on the Garbeau's stage and at the State Fair. It was really a lot of fun, and it was a great way to get my performance fix.

However, that bug to return to the theatre never really left me. Teaching dance made it difficult because that always happens at night, when rehearsals are. I was too busy for many years, and there was still the issue of not being able to sing if I wanted to do musicals (which I did).

Then a few things happened. A few years ago, someone got me into karaoke, and I started feeling more comfortable about singing in public. Then, I met my awesome friend Andee, who is an amazing singer and actress, and going to see her in shows rekindled my love of theatre. I started thinking about maybe doing it...but I was still worried about singing, and I was still busy with work. Then I met Michael, who pledged to take care of me if I didn't want to work so much, but it was too early in our relationship to contemplate that.

Then the whole cancer thing happened and turned my world upside-down. My priorities changed. I was literally unable to work as much as I had before. I faced the fact that I could have died, in my early 40s, having not done so many things I want to do. I discovered that I can let someone take care of me.

I set the goal over a year ago to do a musical, but I kept it quiet. First I had to finish up the cancer thing. Then I had to recover and learn how to do some solo, stage-type dancing since I only knew ballroom. So, I started with tap because there was a convenient class near me (yay Dance 10!). At first, it was a struggle to get through class, but I kept at it and got better. I knew a musical would be physically taxing, so I was going to the gym and running/biking/swimming/doing weights as well. While I worked on the physical aspect, I worked on my voice as much as I could on my own, using some exercises Andee gave me.

I finally decided around November or so that I might be fit enough, so I started looking for audition opportunities. The timing of How to Succeed was good (coming up soon, but enough time to prepare), it's not a super dance-heavy show especially for the women, and I've seen a lot of shows at DMTC so I felt comfortable there. I auditioned and got in.

How's it going?

Although I was excited, there was a lot of anxiety at the beginning. Not because I would have to perform in front of people (that part is easy), but because I was worried about carrying my own weight. Was I singing the right notes? Would I be able to do the choreography and keep my energy up through a 2:40 show? I had a little emotional break down (thank you to those who listened to all my whingeing), and then I got some help. The musical director worked with me one-on-one one night before rehearsal, and then I started taking voice lessons with Carrie Hennessey, a local opera singer. She's freaking amazing. So, that gave me more confidence with the singing, and it turned out the dancing was easy. I settled down and just enjoyed the process.

It's been a lot of hard work, but it's been super fun. The cast is like a big family, and I honestly like everyone in it. I think I somehow simultaneously under- and over-estimated how much work it would be. Things I thought would be hard weren't, but then the long hours got  to me--particularly on set construction days. There were several days I spent about 6 hours working on the sets, and I'd go home so exhausted it was literally painful and I was barely safe to drive. In fact, there was one day I had to just skip because we  had rehearsal that night and I knew I couldn't do both in a day. I felt guilty, but what else could I do?

The last couple of weeks have been the toughest, and I cannot wait until Monday when I get a rest. My legs are sore and my feet are crying for mercy (why, oh why, did I insist on 3" heels??). During the show itself I do get a chance to rest between numbers, but I also have a lot of running around to do backstage, changing sets and clothes. I'm holding up better than I'd thought I would, even though I'm tired. I'm pretty useless during the day right now!

I am SO excited to open tonight and share all our hard work with an audience. It feels like the past few weeks have flown by leading up to this moment, and although this culmination of our work will last for several weeks, I feel like it's wrapping up and almost over. I don't want it to end; I'm  having the time of my life. And hopefully there will be more shows in my future.

So, I'll just have to make sure I enjoy the hell out of every moment in every single performance. And that is definitely something cancer taught me: enjoy every moment you have, and everything you do, because you never know when it will all be over. If you want to do something, do it now, before it's too late. Be grateful for the things you can do, because someone else wishes they could, but can't.

In the group photo, I'm in the back row, third from the left.