Hello, all! Just thought I’d share a quick update on the status of my back injury…
This morning my mom and I drove up to Waltham, MA to see Dr. Lyle Micheli, whom we’ve heard more than a few wonderful things about. Just as I’d been informed, Dr. Micheli knew all about how difficult finding my new arabesque will be, and how tiring it is to (attempt to) do port de bras without core strength. A doctor who knows dancers- dream come true, no?!
So there’s good news and bad news. The doc said this is one of those injuries that, at my age (a ripe 21 years), it is unlikely that this fracture will ever heal. The good news? It’s totally safe for me to continue progressively working my way back into the studio full-time! Apparently my injury (and dancing with it) isn’t quite as rare and scary as I thought it was…did any of you know that Peter Martins sustained a similar spinal fracture during his dancing days? And guess what, he still has it!
So there was a lovely bit of hope on this first Monday morning of autumn. Feeling good. :)
Yesterday was the big day. Back to Rhode Island Hospital for my cat scan. My mom and I are starting to get pretty familiar with that parking lot and the sky bridge to Dudley Street. Now if only we could navigate those confusing hallways into the radiology department…luckily, we’ve made our chronically confused hospital navigation into a bit of a joke. Wait, if we’re already on level ‘G’, why are we taking the elevator? Take a left at CVS… Over the small bridge- never the long one! Don’t stray too far from the path!
When we finally located the radiology office, I registered, and not too long after that it was time for my “close up” (see what I did there?). To my surprise, I was actually allowed to keep all my clothes on (after stripping down and donning a johnny a few times a week for several months at acupuncture, remaining fully-clothed at the hospital seemed a bit like wearing sneakers in the pool). As I laid there on the stiff, shifting bed, letting my body be fed in and out of the big round camera-donut feet first, I reminisced on all of the fun times I’ve had while having my bones photographed. There have been countless rounds of x-rays, a non-descript MRI, and a full body bone scan. Oddly enough, none of that prepared me for how quickly this cat scan would go by. I laid there staring at two little happy face icons as a strange voice commanded me to “breathe in, breathe out, stop breathing”. Say cheeeeese. Two practice rounds and one long, drawn-out, holding-of-the-breath later and I was all done. Ready to hop down, shoes never removed, and be on my way.
I think it took us longer to find our way through the hospital than the actual cat scan itself. But I bet it takes triple our hallway trudging time to get the results…cross your fingers for me!
I’m sitting onstage, barefoot, rolling imaginary cigars on my tightless thighs to the firey score of Carmen. I look out into the rows and rows of plush red seats that I know are there but can’t see because they’re draped in that familiar black opening night blanket. Absently, I contemplate the misguiding apparent endlessness of the house. So much space. The dancer next to me springs up off her stool, flinging her lycra skirt up with her, subsequently hitting me in the face and reminding me to listen for my cue. These next few counts of eight have not yet worked their way into the overstuffed suitcase of my muscle memory. This next sequence of beautifully obscure movements requires that I focus on nothing else but this. When I finally hear my golden note, it doesn’t come as a surprise; I’ve listened for this cue every day for weeks. Concentrate. I toss my invisible half-rolled cigar behind me and jump to my feet. Running towards Kristina, my partner in this little pas de deux, I notice she looks different. Then, in an instant, she comes closer, and I see it’s not Kristina rushing my way, it’s me. Slightly confused, I continue towards center stage, this is the professional approach briefly floods my mind. Now I’m on the center X, face to face with me, partnering myself and making my own mirror. Before I have the chance to catch my own gaze, I assume the vision of the immense audience and I’m starting to realize this is not real. I am not here.
I wake myself up. I’m lying in bed. It doesn’t take long for my harsh reality to set in: I am not in the midst of performing Plotnikov’s Carmen. I have not danced in over 3 months. I have a stress fracture in my spine. My heart drops past the broken bone into my hips. It’s strange how some dreams only become nightmares after you wake up.
These dance withdrawals get worse with every passing day outside the studio. Today I was surprised with the less-than-spectacular news that I may have multiple fractures in my back. Yippee. My optimism is waning. I just want to dance. I’m clinging to any and all hope I can. Some dancers spend years recovering from their injuries, I tell myself. But this just suggests these few months may only be the tip of the iceberg. How do I put an end to the ghosts of performances past haunting my sleep? I guess I could stop watching so many dance-related videos before bed. But they do help fill that big empty dance gap! So what’s a girl to do?
Welp, after months of lower back pain and no real “cause” (I actually started to think I might be fabricating the whole injury), I have finally received a diagnosis. And the verdict? I have a stress fracture between the first and second vertebrae of my spine. Read: There is an itty bitty crack in my lower back that’s causing a whooooole lot of trouble.
With only 2 weeks left in the season, this diagnosis has actually come at a pretty perfect time (if there is such a thing). Since the only way to treat a stress fracture is with rest and physical therapy, I’ll be able to take time away from ballet without stressing over being 100% healthy before the next show. I have the entire summer to get back into tip top shape for next season!
The only hold up? My plans to travel to Paris in June for the Ailey/POB summer intensive. Might be kind of hard to do an intensive with a bad back…eeeeeek. :(
Have any of you ever had a stress fracture? What was your experience like?