Tomorrow afternoon one of my dear friends and fellow dancers is undergoing one the the scariest things a dancer can face — Surgery. Michelle Thompson, like myself, is in her sixth season at Ballet Austin (not counting her two seasons with Ballet Austin II) and is the epitome of the “go-getter”. You can ask her to try anything in that ballet studio and she will, with a smile beaming across her face. I think that relentless enthusiasm is what has made it so hard to watch her trying to dance in so much pain and try to sort out what was going on in her foot.
I approached Michelle just days before her surgery and asked her if she would be willing to do a series of “Diary” style entries tracking her surgery and progress back to the studio and onto the stage. As all of us learned about Michelle’s situation we were astonished at how many dancers have had the same condition and surgery. In fact my brother-in-law (who trains at PNB) had this same surgery on not one, but both feet just last year. Also what was so astonishing was the amount of support and experience sharing that went on as Michelle researched the surgery. She was hearing from ballet companies and dancers around the country who were willing sharing their experiences and offer insights.
I want to point out that we are in no way offering any medical advice. As always, if you have an injury, please see a doctor! We just felt this was a good way to “pay it forward” after all the wonderful support and stories that have been shared with Michelle these past few months.
I’ll share some pictures, but the rest of the story I’ll leave for Michelle to tell….
“Hi, my name is Michelle Thompson and I am a dancer with Ballet Austin. My friend and Winger girl, Anne Marie, has asked me to share with you some very interesting and hopefully informative knowledge about my recent predicament. I would like to invite you to learn about my injury, my surgery, and hopefully my successful and full recovery. I have an injury known as Os Trigonum Syndrome. There are different variations of the injury, but in my case part of the bone on the back of my Talus (I think that is the right name) has broken off. So, there is a piece of dead bone hanging out in the back of my ankle. Also, where the bone has broken off there is a jaged edge. When rising on to pointe the bone becomes lodged and prevents me from getting over my box (think finger in a door jam… the door will not close all the way). So after x-rays, MRI’s, three doctors, a cortisone shot, and performing on pointe in a great deal of pain, I decided that removing the bone with surgery would be my solution. Dancing in pain is one thing, but when a girl is not over her pointe it is also ugly and wrong. Pain+Ugly+Wrong=Bad News and No Fun.
Once I started seeing doctors, talking with dancers, working with physical therapists, and doing research online I realized that this is a very common injury for dancers. This definitely relieved a little bit of my anxiety. People all around me started to share that they had the surgery or their brother or friend had the surgery. These people became an excellent resource for me, and I am very appreciative of their knowledge. I agreed to Anne Marie’s idea mainly because I hope to help other dancers the way all of these resources have helped me.
I was able to perform in our March/April show because it was on flat (I have pain when I am on pointe), but I will miss Cinderella (which Ballet Austin is performing in May). The positive aspect of missing the performances is that I will have that much more time to get better before our season starts in August and I will also be preventing further damage to the area. The research I have found is that recovery is any where from 2 to 4 months. I hope to share my progress with all of you.
I went on a beautiful run today taking in the sunshine and the dirt trail. It will be a little while before I can be active on my feet, and I am trying to get as much fitness and activity in as I can before the surgery. I have only one more day until my surgery. The first 10 days I will be in a hard cast. I will report to you as soon as I am feeling up to it. My choreography is being performed 2 days after my surgery so I am hoping I will be with it enough to enjoy those moments. Wish me luck and if you have any advice or words of encouragement let me know.
Merde tomorrow Michelle!!!