Wednesday, October 28, 2009

My Achilles Heel is a Group of Cysts in My Ankle...

On Mondays I take a 3 hour modern dance class at Naugatuck Valley Community College in Waterbury, CT. I am a 2006 alumni of the dance department there, and they always bring in such great guest teachers, so I am happy to be able to continue my dance education there. However, dancing these days has been a bit of a struggle for me since I had my ankle injury back in early June. I have been able to get it back to a place where I can safely dance on it, but lately it has been starting to act up again.

It is not even really an injury, per se. After an MRI, the doctor was able to tell that I didn't tear a tendon like he had originally thought. Instead, he found a group of cysts that were wedged above my calcaneous (heel bone) that were preventing me from pointing my left foot. My doctor believes that in June when I did a "tombe', pas de bourree'", a very simple ballet combination, I must have popped one of the cysts, which sent synovial fluid all over my ankle, causing my muscles to swell and a whole lot of pain. I was put in an orthopedic boot for about 3 weeks, and after that, my doctor told me my ballet days were over.

Pretty devastated by my doctor's "death sentence," I asked him if Yoga would still be ok. He advised I only do gentle forms of Yoga. He also told me that if I were to have the cysts removed, they would grow back. He also told me the MRI showed I had a small piece of bone just hanging out in my heel, which is most likely the reason why the cysts formed - to cushion this bone piece. The doctor told me if they removed the bone piece, it may cause other problems in my ankle and foot and the best thing to do is just leave it all in there and kiss dancing goodbye.

This was not acceptable to me. I have always danced, even before I knew what dancing was, I was a bouncing, grooving kid! It was something that just came naturally, and it is not something I can just stop. Mind you, this doctor is not a sports medicine doctor, and I think I definitely should get a second opinion, but money is tight right now, so I just have to wait.

In the meantime I listened to my doctor's advice for a while and only did gentle yoga. Over time, my ankle started to feel much better and I started attending Bikram Yoga classes again. The heated room and the stretching felt like it was helping my ankle even more, and that is why I started dance classes again. Unfortunately, as the doctor warned, the dancing has put my ankle under stress and my recovery has been pushed back a bit.

I had spoken to my Monday night dance instructor about my injury and she told me to take it easy. However, I was still planning on performing in the informal dance concert in December, which would mark the end of the classes for the year. I was especially excited to be performing in one particular guest artist's piece. The guest artist's name is Matt Westerby, and his style of modern dance is very familiar to my body and I picked up all the moves immediately, as if I had performed the piece before. I practiced the piece at home as well, because I didn't want to fall behind or not be warmed up enough because of my ankle.

The great disappointment came this past Monday when I showed up to class. My teacher pulled me aside and told me that instead of performing Matt Westerby's piece in the concert, I would be understudying instead. I almost died. Even though I understand she was pulling me out for the safety of my injured ankle, I was just so upset that I wasn't able to do anything about it. I flopped through that class, not really absorbing any more of the choreography because I knew it would be all for nothing.

Toward the end of class I ended up sitting down. I sat out partly because my ankle was in a lot of pain because of the strenuous choreography, and also because I felt like crying. Knowing in my heart that I cannot dance is killing me. I feel like someone is keeping my from breathing.

If any of you can offer me any advice, or if yourself or someone you know has a similar problem, I would love to hear from you. I am planning on taking a real break from dance classes and just focusing on Yoga until I feel much better, but I am worried that because I have cysts in my ankle that won't go away, I will never be fully healed enough to dance again. That just breaks my heart.

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