An Uncertain Road Ahead

It was the summer of 1990.  I just finished my freshman year at University of Michigan.  I moved back into my parent’s house and started my journey towards becoming a professional dancer.  I dreamed of being a part of a Chicago dance company that I had grown up watching on the big stages of the city.  I loved their choreography, the dancers, the vibe of the company.  I auditioned to become a summer student apprentice to train with the members and observe their rehearsals.  What an opportunity!!!

I was accepted!  I was officially on the path I wanted in order to attain the success I yearned for as a dancer.  I knew I would work extra hard to prove my worthiness and suck in all the training I could before I headed back to my sophomore year at U of M.  I anticipated long days, sweaty rehearsals, challenging steps and demanding teachers.  What I did not anticipate was an injury that would forever blemish my dance career and everyday life beyond as well.

There I was, securing a spot in the front of the room, ready to perform the dance combination we had been working on for the last 30 minutes.  A complicated series of steps that would take me from lying on the floor to standing and jumping in mere seconds.  The dance was fun and I was living every move to its fullest.  I was over halfway through the dance when I felt the scariest and strangest sensation in my shoulder that prompted me to drop to a seated position and grab my joint.  What just happened?  It felt like my shoulder came out of the socket?!  Is that possible?  I looked around, and the other dancers had continued dancing unaware that I stopped.  The instructor glared at me as if I was lazy and I didn’t know the steps!  What do I do?  Tell them what I felt?  Explain myself?  Get up and move on?  At 19 years old and eager to please, I didn’t know the answer.  I just knew I had to get up off the floor.  So I did.

We moved on to the end of the class and were leaping across the floor one at a time.  I got in line.  As my turn approached I could feel my heart beating out of my chest.  I was not scared to dance well, I was scared I was hurt.  I was right.  As I zealously leaped into the air with my arms outstretched, I landed ungracefully because my shoulder also flew out of the socket and wasn’t going back in place.  Pain, embarrassment, fear, sadness, anxiety, confusion….these emotions existed one at a time and then all at once.  Then….now what?  POP!  Back in the socket.  But I knew I was severely injured.

When I got home, I explained to my father what I felt and he revealed to me that he too suffered this injury as a young athlete and it had plagued him ever since.  Not what I wanted to hear, but glad he was able to sympathize and help me through this.

He was my biggest supporter to persevere and not let it destroy my dream.  He too had a big dream as a college student.  He wanted to be a professional baseball player.  He did everything he could to make this happen.  On his call up to the Major Leagues, he blew out his knee and ended his career.  I think his history propelled him to want to help me rise above and succeed despite this setback.  He took me to multiple surgeons and specialists all over the country and all of them suggested surgery was NOT the best option.  I should simply be diligent in strengthening the muscles surrounding the socket to hold the joint in place.  They all described me as having naturally “lax” joints and that surgery would not tighten up the tissue and make a difference.

So here I am….27 years later….strengthening and pushing through.  Over the course of the years I had suffered 8 more dislocations doing random activities and motions.  Each time, working extra hard to rehab and learning how to protect it from recurring.  Unfortunately,  this protection created compensation injuries that effect my range of motion in other areas of my body.  I was always thankful that it never happened during one of my exercise classes where I instruct 30-60 people, guiding them in a myriad  of moves that condition all areas of our bodies.

That was until last Friday… I went to demonstrate a position in front of my students and BOOM…it slipped out of the socket and I fell to the floor.  It all flooded back to me… pain, embarrassment, fear, sadness, anxiety, confusion and ANGER.

I’m now 46 years old and live with a shoulder that just won’t cooperate anymore.  I have decided to give surgery a try.  The discomfort and unsteadiness of the joint is overwhelming, impacting the simplest of motions in my every day life.  I feel it is time to try another tactic other than just “dealing” with it.

Yes, I’m scared.  But mostly I’m hopeful that I will feel better.  Anything should be better than the way I feel now.

It’s scary when I am a woman who likes to be in complete control of her body and mind and put my faith in someone else’s hands.  I’ve always been told that surgery won’t work, and now I’m going under the knife.

I thought it would be helpful to me and anyone in the position to document my journey.   I have so many feelings and worries and responsibilities.  I am fearful of how I will navigate through this experience…..but here I go….

In this blog, I will bring my strength, perseverance and a positive attitude to the table as I always do, and I will be sharing with you my journey of highs and lows as they come.  Climb aboard.