‘I just had chemo a few days before … I didn’t feel the best, but I still was able to push myself and be there and tap. I never let cancer stop me from doing what I love.’
“Being diagnosed has never stopped me from wanting to dance. It pushed me to continue with something that I love. I’m very passionate about dancing, I’m passionate about expressing myself. I love performing with other women, the camaraderie, just the whole experience.
“I remember in 2017, when I was diagnosed, I just had chemo a few days before and I wasn’t sure if I should go, and I went. I didn’t feel the best, but I still was able to push myself and be there and tap. I never let cancer stop me from doing what I love.
“I thought it was very healthy. I was apprenticing with the Red Hot Mamas, a dance company, but I couldn’t start right away because I had to have my port removed, and I kept on emailing them, saying I would be there, but I had to have surgery. I didn’t want it to stop me from pursuing my Red Hot Mama career, and they welcomed me with open arms when I was able to come back.
“The Red Hot Mamas brought back the memories of performing when I was a child. I used to dance, I used to even teach dance to young children. To be able to perform and be with this wonderful group of women, we lean on each other, we support one another, and it gives me the opportunity to shine. I like shining, I like performing, I like to be the star. It brings me such joy and happiness, to be able to do that in nursing homes and to give back.
“I remember we were in a nursing home and someone came up to us and said, ‘Were you Rockettes? You were so phenomenal.’ He asked for our autograph. To them, we are Broadway stars. I remember my first show when I went back, I was at the Northport library and I invited my whole family to come see me because I was back dancing, I was back performing, I was back to where I was.
“It was very emotional for me; I made a whole bunch of mistakes. It was just being back on stage and putting cancer behind me and shining and doing what I love. It was a very emotional day for me, to be able to dance again and live and celebrate life.”
I never questioned ‘Why me?’ Maybe I was chosen to have cancer so I can help others and guide others through their journey.
“Five years ago, when I was diagnosed, I heard those three horrible words: ‘You have cancer.’ That’s when my world turned upside down. But I never let it push me to a place that I would lose my spirit or my energy or my positivity. I’m a very positive person. There were moments when I cried, and there were moments when I was sad. I never questioned, why me? Maybe I was chosen to have cancer so I can help others and guide others through their journey by mentoring, by listening to other women, providing support, giving an ear to listen to and letting them know they’re not alone.
“You hear so many things about other cancers, but you really don’t hear about ovarian cancer, called the silent killer because it whispers a storm is coming. And it was a storm, but I went through my journey skipping. When I rang that bell signifying the end of my chemotherapy, I skipped through the office, I was jumping up and down, hugging everybody, wearing my teal tutu. I did it.
“The National Ovarian Cancer Coalition [NOCC] is an organization proving care for women and their families and their caregivers. We provide comfort of the mind, comfort of the sou. We give food, we provide financial assistance to women going through chemotherapy, we provide educational awareness.
“My mission in working with women who are newly diagnosed is to give them hope so that they know they are not alone, that there is someone who understands what they’re going through.
“Many people may have a friend who will listen, but they don’t get the neuropathy, they don’t get the extreme fatigue. No one else understands until you’ve been through that journey.
“The newly diagnosed need to hear all that. We discuss all that, the emotional component of it. There are a lot of women who are alone, a lot of women who are single mothers, different women throughout their chapter. Ovarian cancer is not an ‘older women’ disease; we’ve had women in their 20s.
“This is what NOOC does. We continue giving support, we continue giving them an ear to listen to. And knowing they’re not alone and we’re here for them, that’s really key. I want to give them inspiration. I want to let them know that any question they may have, it may be silly to somebody else, but to them it’s important. I want them to know that any question or remark, it’s valued.”
Interviewed by Barbara Schuler