Monday, 30 July 2012

Day 86 - from floor to frame

Monday seems to be floor day. I say that because today not only marked the beginning of my third week of RADA but it also brought me another opportunity to revel in Physical Performance - and 'revel' isn't simply a Shakespearean/Elizabethan word for party or triumph. It also appears in the word 'revelation' and, whilst I'm not certain that there's an etymological connection between the two words, it was definitely a day for more of the latter. I lay on both sides again - and the left was almost more comfortable than the right! 'Shock' doesn't even begin to cover it. Then, having rolled around for quite some time, I was extremely relaxed getting back into my chair - and just as desperate for the loo - after all the movement. So, because mum was there for the floor work, she could take me - and when we got there I stood up and swivelled with minimal support! Woop.

Strange as it may seem, though, that's not the main point of this post. This evening, when I got home, my physio brought a walking frame to try. It was the one I'd mentioned vaguely, a while back, but I hadn't elaborated, mainly because I wasn't sure exactly what it would involve, and didn't want to count chickens. Now, however, I can inform you that it's sort of like a zimmer frame with wheels. Pics will be forthcoming when I get my own, which will be slightly smaller than the one she brought, because although I'm tall we have to account for my slightly bent knees...for now. After that, though, bring on the free walking!

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Day 81 - nothing to fear but fear itself

I didn't think I'd have either the time or the energy to write tonight - yet the very thing which has drained my energy necessitates that I do, as it has done so in an extremely positive manner. One of today's classes was in voice and, whilst it's always something of a transformative experience, this session was particularly so. For, having been brave enough to lie on the floor on Monday, I did it again. Then, in order that I might fully appreciate the feeling of the vibrations of my voice through the floor, our tutor suggested that I lie on my left side for a while as well as spending time on my right. Well, I'm normally too scared to try it, because it's caused me considerable discomfort in the past. This, though, proved to be the fallacy of inductive reasoning - just because something's hurt before it doesn't mean it will again. More than that I learnt that my fear of the pain is precisely what causes it. So today I spent ten, maybe even fifteen, very comfortable minutes on my left side. Then I cried with contentment because all my coursemates clapped. They're awesome.

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Day 80 - the girl who doesn't cry in public...

...did so yesterday. She would've blogged about it yesterday, too, but Shakespeare got in the way - or at least his Complete Works did. No, really, I'm not reading them from cover to cover - though I'd very much like to. I haven't had the time or the head space to attain that level of geekiness, yet, just as I've not had the time to blog. I am, however, currently immersed in the Shakespeare Summer School at RADA (the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, if you're not a Brit or particularly well-versed - pun intended, sorry! - in all things thespian). We're now just six days in, and I can quite honestly say it's already been the most amazing experience of my life, I've learnt and grown so much. We've had absolutely everything thrown at us, some things I've practised before and others I've not, ranging from vocal studies and historical dance to the Alexander Technique and Colour Therapy - all with the aim of enhancing our theatrical presence and ability.

I've taken something from each of these classes - I could wax lyrical about the delight I felt when our Stage Fighting instructor not only let me handle a sword but actively encouraged me to use it - but today's post is focused specifically on a single class and the tears it provoked, albeit ones which were shed in a similarly happy fashion, as I went down Gower Street at 5.15 last night. This class is called Physical Performance and it allows us to explore movement in order that we may get truly comfortable with our physicality and thereby (literally) embody our characters. So, yesterday, our wonderful tutor had everyone on the floor pretending to be an octopus (which I want to pluralise, but I think I shall be called a pedant if I use 'octopodes'...).

Anyway, I hadn't been sure about getting on the floor, and especially lying on my back. Those of you who know me as more than just the words on this page will be aware that, over the last few years, even my leaving chair to do physio (and, when it got really bad, to sleep) was considered an achievement. This, then, is a Public Service Announcement to inform you that the lie of the land has most definitely shifted.

After deliberating during the break, you see, I enlisted the help of my dear, dependable Mama to get down on the floor. Not only that, having stayed on my back for quite some time, with the freedom to move my arms around, I then rolled onto my side and (wait for it) asked her to move and stretch my legs far more than I would normally allow. It really was the most fabulously freeing experience and I'm extremely glad I was brave enough to do it - especially as it didn't just affect me on the floor, but sitting up as well, because when I got back into my chair both my shoulders were in equal contact with the backrest.

It was all rather overwhelming - hence my tears of joy on a London street. I knew that things were changing, and I knew that the achievement of the goal I am documenting here was becoming more conceivable, but this progress and the impact of the RADA course has made me truly believe that I can do it. If I can act, if I can roll on the floor and feel comfortable when I do so, then I can definitely walk to get my degree when I graduate next year. I realise that, before, I thought I could - but now I know I can. The power of Shakespeare, eh?

So thanks, RADA - it really means everything that I'm there.           

Monday, 16 July 2012

Day 72 update - breakthrough

So, after not posting for a week, I'm now going to post twice in one day!

I feel you should know that after resolving to get back on my metaphorical horse and walk, I did the best couple of laps I've done since I started on this pathway. It's like that classic game, 'Breakout' - you just have to chip away at each individual brick, but sometimes you get a bonus and blast through several layers. That's what happened tonight.


Day 72 - the wall

Wow - it seems I haven't blogged for a while. Not because exciting things aren't happening - believe me, they are - but because I've felt a little as though I'm living in a whirlwind this week. It was a week of therapies, as I saw my Feldenkrais teacher, my accupuncturist and my osteopath, as well as my physio. These were all very positive appointments, especially as I was brave enough to show my physio my hoist walking, and she was so impressed that she wants to organise a walking frame for me! (I won't go into details now, because I haven't tried anything out yet, but it is pretty huge!)

Why, then, have I been struggling? (It takes a lot to admit that I have been, particularly online, but I suppose you aren't expecting shiny-happy people all the time...) Maybe it's because mum's not feeling so hot and, in spite of how far I've come, any difficulty she has is a rather forceful reminder of how dependent I still am, and I feel guilty that I'm adding to her struggle. Part of me knows it's not true and that she doesn't view it that way at all, but the other part of me has an empathy so strong with her stress etc. that I tense up because I'm worried. Then I worry more, because I've tightened up - sensible!

I think I might have been experiencing what athletes call 'the wall'. If so, I need to find a way to move on and power through it, to somehow change my thinking. Equally, when one falls off a horse, one doesn't roll around in the mud - however much rain we've had recently. No, you get back up in the saddle and canter off into the sunset. I'm off to do just that - and walk again. I'll catch you folks later!

Monday, 9 July 2012

Day 65 - best seat in the house

I just made my mother cry. Oops. It wasn't deliberate, I promise, and they were happy tears - but here's why. We spent today at the wheelchair clinic in Kentish Town - and when I say 'today' I mean all day. From twelve 'til four I did nothing but get in and out of my chair, but it was more than worth it, because I now have a new seating system.

The one before was pretty standard, I guess, although to anyone not immersed in this world of ours it might not appear to be so. The seat consisted of gel pads which were built upon a firm base and then covered. This was all well and good - except that gel has a tendency to retain a certain shape so, if you're not sitting well you stay stuck in that bad position, which isn't helpful.

The new seat, on the other hand (and it is new, as it has only just been released onto the market), is based in memory foam. This means it bounces back (literally) into its original form every time I get out of it or move around. Plus point number one. Plus point number two: underneath the memory foam rest several bespoke wedges, fashioned out of another type of foam, to be positioned individually to provide the maximum possible support or correction in whichever area this is most needed. In my case, for instance, I have a huge amount of pelvic obliquity (which basically means my pelvis tilts in a funny way) so I got a wedge put under the right side of my bum to combat this.

What was amazing, though, is how little correction and adjustment was needed for me still to feel comfortable (and more so) whilst sitting in a much better position. This showed me something that I must admit I've known all along - that my bad posture is largely a habit - and it was heartwarming. You see, if I can sit well in spite of a supposedly fixed spinal curvature, that spinal curvature is...well, quite simply, it isn't so fixed. The same goes for my new backrest - because I can tolerate the new lateral supports and the straightening they're doing. I shouldn't be able to...but I can.

Which brings me to why I made my Mama cry. Thanks to this difference in support, my right foot is more grounded than it has been in years - because my pelvis is slowly derotatating - and so I'm even more relaxed. My right foot is ostensibly my better foot, too, so I need it to be well grounded if it is to support my slightly weaker left. This has made us notice a marked difference in my (already good) standing transfers, even in these few short hours - but what neither of us expected was the change it would provoke in my walking.

When I stood up this afternoon, my knees were properly in alignment - something we hadn't thought we'd see again - so it means my left hip must be back in place. Cue tears. Cue awesomeness.        

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Day 64 - from stepping up to sitting up

I could write a ubiquitous post about Wimbledon today, and spend approximately 300 words telling you how inspiring it was to witness (via television) two athletes competing quite literally at the top of their game. I could, but I won't, for the simple reason that I don't feel I have anything to add to the copious commentary already out there. Suffice to say that Federer and Murray treated us to some sublime tennis, which bordered on the ridiculous when they got to that 10th deuce point on one of Murray's service games, and that Federer's win was, in my opinion, wonderful and highly deserved. (Caveat: before my fellow Brits become incensed at my perceived lack of patriotism, remember that my maternal roots are in South Africa, as are Federer's.)

Instead, I'll share my own momentous news, however much it pales in comparison. Those of you who read this blog regularly will be aware that the bulk of my training consists in walking whilst I am supported by my hoist. You'll also know that I've changed my shoes back to Converse and that I've increased the number of lengths that I walk in one go - so that I'm now averaging six, and sometimes reaching ten. I have promised photographic evidence of the footwear, and this you shall duly receive, as soon as I've commandeered the camera for long enough to upload it.

In the meantime, though, I'll regale you with one of the newer additions to my regime. I ought, really, to spend a significant portion of my day lying on my back - as, at least in theory, it allows all my muscles to relax and everything to straighten out. I say 'ought' because, until fairly recently, I didn't do so regularly - for the simple reason that I actually got tighter when I tried. Now, however, my body is sufficiently relaxed that I feel a lot more comfortable on my back - and, thereby, relax even further. This means that I can use my time lying down for a functional purpose rather than just remaining immobile and inert. Huzzah, I hear you cry - and I say indeed so because I've started doing sit ups, to strengthen my core, which in turn will straighten my spine.

This is an extremely important form of exercise for me because, whilst it's all very well to be walking and working my leg muscles (specifically my quads and my hamstrings), it's also vital that I engage my abdomen. As I had my botox done under GA, Mr Pattison was able to inject a previously unreachable muscle, my psoas. This is the muscle that allows us to straighten up, so that we are not continually hunched over, but mine was too tight to do its job effectively. Not so now - and it can be retrained - if I work it. So, believe me, I plan to. Bring on those sit ups. Boom.     

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Day 60 - month two and a visit to Starlight HQ

It feels very apt that the second month of my mission draws to a close on Independence Day. For, whilst we aren't American (as my Canadian grandmother will be quick to assure you!), my family has a funny relationship with the fourth of July. Today is my parents' twenty-fifth wedding anniversary and, although they no longer live together and haven't since I was three, I always hear the story of how the guy who married them had fun (pun?) with the date. They were relinquishing their independence on Independence Day. It was the Women's Singles final at Wimbledon and here was a woman who would no longer be single, etc., etc.

Even without their anniversary, however, the date seems significant to me because this is the end of the second month of my quest for complete and utter independence - walking to collect my degree is just the first goal. What better way to mark this day, then, than with a visit to the offices of the charity I am aiming to help, as they have helped me? I hadn't been to Starlight HQ since shortly after my wish, when I went to say a personal thank you for the wonderful experience and the difference they had made, so it was lovely to see everyone again. Bianca, a fellow wish-child, now works there and Jo (from fundraising) and Jodie (my wish-granting fairy) have stayed on. I also (very shyly) met Neil, the CEO, who is great. We were planning on taking a photo of us all, to upload here, but we were clearly too busy catching up. So much has happened in two years! I definitely don't want to leave it that long again - but maybe, next time, I'll run up the stairs?

It certainly seems to be going that way. Yesterday I was so motivated by my results (thank you, Warwick!) that I walked eight lengths of my room in one go, and then planned to walk ten today, but my aunt Lucy told me I should treat it like a runner would and go back to six. So I did - six for day sixty and Starlight - and I'll double that tomorrow, methinks. twelve for 2012 - unless I'm not allowed to use that number, because of the olympics and copyright - in which case I'll just have to do thirteen.

Thanks for a lovely day, a lovely summer and a lovely life, universe - I'm plodding along... and making it count. Meet me at the clock. (Ten points if you know which film that's referencing.)

Monday, 2 July 2012

Day 58 - summer, shoes and a soundtrack

My last post informed you that I had finished my second year at university. Perhaps it should have read slightly differently. I had finished the work for my second year and, contrary to what the 29,000 words I wrote this term would have you believe, that isn't all there is to student life. Thankfully, although I must admit that it took a while for the geeky perfectionist in me to accept this fully, there's so much more - and I don't mean drinking. I mean the hairbrained idea of cobbling together a version of Puccini's La Boheme acceptable enough for an 'open rehearsal' performance in an untickected casual concert - in the space of a week. I was in the chorus so it was great fun and a fitting, fairly relaxed way to end what has been an academic year of ambition. My fellow chorus members have become very close friends over my time at Warwick (as have the whole cast, because we all come back together for each new opera) and it was particularly sad to bid farewell to Lara and Ingvild, who've both just finished Masters, and are heading off into the big wide world. Oli and Lizzie are off to Music College, too, so I'll have to hang on to the other second years (third now!) with all my might. You have been warned, Alice Ford and Charlotte Howes!

So I did that, and caught up with other awesome friends as well, because my social life had done a rather clever vanishing trick for most of term. Now I'm home for the summer - and it is summer. The only proof you ever need of the changing seasons can be found in my footwear - and I'm back to wearing (and walking in) trainers. This makes me incredibly happy because, whilst I'm grateful for the warmth and snuggles that my Uggs offer my poor circulation, I'm really more of a Converse or a DM kind of girl...and my feet need the sturdier soles for support, anyway. You shall have pictures tomorrow, as soon as they're uploaded, especially as today I've already walked six times. Woot. It's good to be home.

Also, I arrived to a very nice welcome - the EP of one of my new favourite singers, Natasha North, called Walking on Water. My Mama met her mum on holiday in Turkey a few weeks back (I don't think I've told her that, though we are tweeting...sorry, Tasha!) and I'm very glad they did, because otherwise I wouldn't have discovered her wonderful talent. Her songs deal with some heavy, but very pertinent issues, and it's nice to hear that someone, at least, isn't afraid to raise them...but I guess that's what folk-inspired music is for. That's why I write songs, at least. Her sister does the backing vocals, and I noticed her name is Jessica as well, which made me smile.

The EP comprises four tracks, which makes it the perfect length to accompany one of my walking sessions, and it's been my soundtrack since it arrived on Friday. I'm so happy I bought it, not only because Tasha has a brilliant voice and style, but because we need to give more support to independent musicians like her - and because I have yet more music to motivate me. Thanks so much.

Here's her youtube video of 'Sticks and Stones', which is heartbreakingly beautiful, as it deals with domestic violence:

Hope you like it, and that the resilience of the young woman whose story it tells motivates you as much as it has me. We all just have to keep plodding.