the saga of the spine, ad nauseum

Many of you have been asking me how exactly my spine has been, how I am, and how the recovery is going. Well, so here goes. It's now been almost 6 months since it happened. There was 8 weeks of absolute bed rest, which was mortifying, horrifying, really an awful time. We set up a healing station in the living room so I could lay there all day, only to shift to the bedroom for sleep at night. Awful.

Then, around October, I started slowly but surely gaining momentum in healing. I started being able to walk around and do gentle things, I even supervised our house move. I managed to go to the studio for the first time in a couple of months, and driving myself the short distance to physiotherapy. I managed to judge a competition or 2, albeit with a lot of painkillers, having to lie down backstage every 2 hours, and lots of love and support and help from those around me.

By November, I was having alternate days of good and bad - so one day with no activity at all, then the next day I could indulge in some moderate activity. It was still really disheartening, oscillating between can and cannot, and I had to (and still do) be  extremely alert to the vagaries of my body - as soon as I felt any twinges, I knew I had to retreat home from whatever I was at. Even so, being able to do ANYTHING was a relief. I managed to fly home to Singapore, teach a workshop, and even be passably friendly and have catchups. Through all this, I'd need at least 12 hours of sleep each night - to repair my back after each day of trying to do the most basic of things. If I tried to get out of bed before 12 hours was up, I'd pay for it all day.

In December, lots evolved. I was able to do about 6-7 hours out of the house at a time (as long as I was all painkillered up) and even had energy to get a bit presentable for outings. I was able to lead rehearsals and even do some light footwork stuff. By mid-december, I was feeling pretty good - tired all the time, but manageable pain most times. Suffering was mostly at night, at the end of an outing or rehearsal or event, where I'd been standing for a few hours - i'd go home and pay the price, pain-wise. There were maybe 3 days in 3 weeks where i had to lay down for extended periods, and I still took it pretty easy outing and activity wise, but it was pretty good.

At the end of December, something changed in my body. Sometime around Christmas Eve, I noticed that the pain stopped debilitating me, and I decided, no more painkillers. And it was ok - for the next 3 weeks, my clarity was incredible - no longer was I living in a haze of drugs and pain. The pain was there, but it never got horrible enough for me to want painkillers, except twice. I started dancing. Wobbly, and sore, but no sharp pains most times.

Starting to dance again was the most mixed emotion. I don't know what I was expecting - to just magically be as good despite 6 months of muscle atrophy and lack of practice perhaps - but of course that wasn't the case. I had no muscles in my legs, no turn out, no flexibility (and I'm not allowed to do many stretches yet), can't squat, can't jump, so it was pretty hilarious. I'd lost the core strength as well as my feet! They didn't do what I wanted them to! Despite all these setbacks - I was THRILLED to be dancing. Oh my goodness, to hear that music and actually be able to move to it? Bliss.

Come January, and I was still off the painkillers. Started training in high heels once a week. Started doing a few gentle drills, which was the most humbling experience. Being unable to execute cleanly even the most basic of steps was anger-inducing. I was still achey and sore most hours of the day, and some days still debilitated, but nothing like before. Generally I was able to manage rehearsals and then walk out, still somewhat coherent, and not pleading for painkillers. I was also needing less sleep, going down to needing just 8-9 hours before feeling good enough to get out of bed and start the day, and as long as I had a hot water bottle on my back for an hour or so each night, the pain has been managed without drugs.

I've been ecstatic - starting to remember what it's like to spin, to fly around the room in someone's arms (somewhat less gracefully and swiftly than I used to be), to teach with full energy, and to be sore, but not in so much pain that the cloud of weariness just stayed in my tortured mind every minute of the day. I even managed to wear heels to a friend's engagement party, and yes, I was in pain after, but hey! What an improvement!

Until last night.

In training last night, something pulled and all those awful pains came back again, for the first time in just over a month. I once again needed help getting up, found the bumpy car ride unbearable, and was catatonic from pain. What a devastating feeling, to go from flying through the air, eye firmly on the goal, feeling like after 6 months, I was getting back just some of what I had, to being felled, doubled over in pain, in front of all your students and team. I limped home and wept. It was too unfair.

Why me? Why now? Why still?

So to answer all the questions, about how I am, I guess the only appropriate one is I don't know. I'm generally feeling a lot better. My friends and students see it. I no longer have to lie down 4 times a day like clockwork. I no longer plan everything thinking that I may just have to cancel. I feel I am able to teach, able to dance as long as its choreographed, able to do most mild activities around. I drive myself around, am able to cook, converse, and even rehearse (albeit lightly).

But events like last nights leave me wondering, how long this is going to impact my life for, and what it really means for my dancing, and if I'll ever be back, if I'll ever be as good as I was, if I'll ever enjoy it as much.

I can't dwell on it, shan't dwell on it, and will keep focussing on rest, recovery, training, and getting my butt ready to perform. At least I know this much is clear - it's a lot better. A lot. I'd forgotten what it was like to be this lucid, happy and simply put, able-bodied. And for that I am thankful, grateful, and pleased. The rest is out of my hands, I can only continue to get stronger in mind and heart, try to get back some of that muscle strength and flexibility through physio, pilates, exercise, and just see how I go. Day by day, step by step.

So the answer to the question, How am I?

Mostly better, kind of, I guess.