Today is my anniversary. Six months ago (on 3/29/13), I had selective dorsal rhizotomy (SDR) surgery. It’s 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! Read on to see what happened when I started dancing again.
Exercising with SDR
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!
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.
And Then THIS Happened!
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, tight heel cords and tight hip flexors. The wonderful news is that my gait is dramatically different, plus I balance better on my right leg. And, for the first time EVER, I can walk up and down stairs without holding on — something I would never attempt before SDR. I even tried rock climbing for the first time. Wow, is that hard!
Dancing with SDR
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. However, I still have problems with balance and turning around. Dancing is so much fun! My instructor, William, is the best!
Dancing for Dr. Park
I asked William if he’d film a couple of short videos for my six month anniversary. 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. Meanwhile, (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!
“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
I dance because I love it. I dance because I CAN. Sitting on the sidelines of life for many years, I rarely got asked to dance. Now, I’m going to dance like EVERYBODY is watching! If I mess up – “SO WHAT, WHO CARES!” Thanks to Dr. Park, SDR, and William, 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!
What’s Next After SDR?
Learning how to ride a bike (click on the link to watch my progress) is on my bucket list. I always thought — and was told, in one form or another) — that it was impossible. Contrary to popular belief, people with cerebral palsy who have not had SDR, can ride a two wheel bike.
In conclusion, 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. Life is too short. If you get the chance to sit it out or dance – I hope you dance! Interested in learning more about SDR surgery? Check out my FAQS.