Dancing with SDR!

“When you dance, your purpose is not to get to a certain place on the floor. It’s to enjoy each step along the way.” –Wayne Dyer

Today is my SDR Anniversary. Six months ago, I had Selective Dorsal Rhizotomy (SDR), the only surgical procedure that can permanently remove tightness caused by spastic diplegia, the most common type of cerebral palsy. My four month follow-up visit in St. Louis with Dr. T.S. Park went well. He was thrilled with my results! The tightness in my legs was completely gone, I walked much straighter (no more bent knees) with heel-toe motion (instead of striking the floor with my toes first), no longer leaning heavily to one side and both legs were even (they weren’t pre-SDR) – eliminating the need for ugly shoe orthotics. I was doing so well that I didn’t have to go to physical therapy anymore. WOW!

Dr. Park recommended that I continue to exercise (anything and everything I wanted to do) and most important, stretch for thirty minutes every day. Exercise has always been a part of my life. Stretching has not. I started the Netfit.tv 90 day body transformation program in August. I finally felt strong enough to to do these challenging workouts. They are no joke (I modify when needed) – cardio, core, burpees, planks, push-ups, weights – all in 30 minutes, give or take a few! The best part? They’re FREE if you have a Roku (love it) or Smart tv! If not, you can become a member on-line for a nominal monthly fee. I’ve been exercising six days a week (except Sundays) for the past seven weeks. Week eight starts tomorrow. I could have done these workouts before my operation. The difference is that now, in Dr. Park’s words (what he predicted for me after SDR), I can “do more with less effort.” Most people do not realize that because my CP is mild, I could dance, exercise, jump, run, play golf, play tennis, shoot hoops, and throw a football – all before SDR.

It’s important to understand that the surgery does not cure cerebral palsy. I still have the same challenges I had before: poor balance, range of motion issues, tight hamstrings, heel cords and hip flexors. The wonderful news is that my gait is dramatically different, I can walk up and down stairs without holding on (I would never attempt this before SDR) and I balance better on my right leg. I tried rock climbing for the first time. Wow, is that hard! What’s next? I want to learn how to ride a bike. I always thought (and was told, in one form or another) it was impossible. Contrary to popular belief, people with cerebral palsy who have not had SDR, can ride a two wheel bike. My SDR journey is teaching me to stop believing in limits – those imposed by myself or others. All of us are capable of much more than we imagine.

About a month ago, I decided to go back to ballroom dancing. I was curious about what it would be like with my new legs. It’s the same, yet different because I move better. I’m not so concerned about losing my balance. My legs, due to the lack of tightness, can move more freely. I still have problems with balance and turning around. Dancing is so much fun! Here I am with my instructor, William, at A Step Above Ballroom Dance Studio.

First, I chose to dance the foxtrot in honor of Dr. Park who, in addition to being a world renowned neurosurgeon, is also a competitive ballroom dancer. The foxtrot is one of his favorite dances. It’s also good for my hip flexors. Since SDR, it’s much easier to step back with my left leg, an integral part of this ballroom dance. Second, I chose to dance the salsa, my favorite of all!

Thank you to everyone at A Step Above for warmly welcoming me into the family. A special thank you to William for his charisma and kindness. He’s the reason I signed up for lessons (with him, of course) at the studio. He never lets me sit out of ANY class regardless of whether or not I think I can do it. He believes in my ability. When we dance, William leads me around the dance floor just like he would any other partner. No kid gloves. Just laughter and a great smile. All I have to do is follow his lead, try not to mess up or step on his toes! Or hit him. I feel so bad when that happens! William, thank you for making me feel like a star!

I dance because I love it. I dance because I CAN. I sat on the sidelines of life for many years. I rarely got asked to dance. Now, after my surgery, I’m going to dance like EVERYBODY is watching! If I mess up – “SO WHAT, WHO CARES!” Thanks to A Step Above, Dr. Park and SDR, I’m enjoying each step along the way. In my head, I dance just like the pros on Dancing with the Stars. And, I’m much taller, too!

Life is too short. If you get the chance to sit it out or dance – I hope you dance!

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