I Hope You Dance #InternationalDanceDay
I hope you dance on #InternationalDanceDay! This is a story of two friends, both breast cancer survivors who are connected by one song and a passion for dance. This story is long overdue!
My friend Susan and I met as young mothers. She had three sweet and charming daughters. I had two amazing and delightful sons. We spent many hours watching our youngest children play together. Time passed and Susan and I parted ways geographically but to this day we remain close friends.
I received a dreaded phone call in November of 2000 that I never expected to get. Susan called from across the country to tell me she had breast cancer. I began to cry on the phone. I just wanted to be there to hug her. I remember her words exactly. She said, “Terri, I didn’t call to make you cry.” That statement was and remains a testament to her positive outlook. In true fashion, Susan carried on with grace and strength through her double mastectomy, chemotherapy, radiation and breast reconstruction.
The Legacy of the Dancers
I was angry though. Her daughters were only 11, 12, and 13 at the age of her diagnosis. Sometimes life just doesn’t seem fair. Those sweet and charming girls were all dancers. Susan told me this about her girls as we discussed the content of this blog.
They are extra-ordinary dancers – early students of ballet, jazz, and tap. They all danced in the Nutcracker and two were on their high school dance team. One took so many ballet classes in college that the professor just said that she didn’t ever need to register again for the next semester.
Susan herself had a longtime interest in dance as a very early student of ballet, jazz, and tap lessons from the same teacher as actor, Chris Sarandon. She proceeded to take elective dance classes in college. Even into adulthood she took tap lessons and exercise dance attendance in Zumba and Salsa classes. When I asked her why she danced she said?
Music and dance speak to my heart and permits my self-expression of emotion.
During six rounds of chemotherapy she quickly learned that she could do anything she wanted at full-speed for the first two days after getting her treatment. She told me that if you would have been peering into her window for those two days after each treatment, you would have seen her waltzing, tapping, and doing modern dance moves while catching up on family laundry and cooking before she crashed for five days when the chemo took a hold.
The Unthinkable Happened Again
I knew that Susan would fight through her breast cancer given her strength and positive attitude. I knew she was going to be OK. What I never imagined is that two years later, in 2002, I would be making the same phone call to Susan telling her I had breast cancer. Here begins the story of “our song”.
I Hope You Dance
She sent me a package soon after I called to tell her about my diagnosis. It was a small book with the CD of the song, “I Hope You Dance” by Lee Ann Womack. I opened the package, played the CD, and immediately felt my spirits lifted. I felt connected to Susan. I danced! The song has since become our true connection and you can read an interview that Susan did about it here.
The story doesn’t end. There have been uncanny, unexplained, and random times when Susan and I have heard this song. Let me be clear, uncanny, and completely unexplained! The very day I went in for my last chemotherapy treatment at MD Anderson, I was sitting in the chair to receive my last infusion and I would soon be disconnected forever from chemotherapy. The music playing on the intercom system in the infusion therapy room was our song, I Hope You Dance! Tears came into my eyes. I really couldn’t believe it. This was a sign of hope! If I wasn’t hooked up to that machine I would have got up and danced.
Susan delayed her reconstruction until January of 2003 to gain her strength back and to monitor what was for her, a higher risk for localized re-occurrence. She preferred to be watchful for a longer length of time. Susan and her husband lived in a neighborhood that was a bit mountainous and had lots of obstruction for radio signal until they would drive out of their neighborhood. That didn’t seem to matter the day they got in the car on that dark, early, morning to drive to the hospital for her breast reconstruction. Her husband turned on the radio even before they got out of the obstructed area for a radio signal. Obstruction or not, our song, I Hope You Dance, started playing clearly on the radio. Uncanny, random, and unexplained! Susan told me her husband almost felt he needed to pull over to the side of the road just to finish listening to the song.
We have and forever will be connected by this song and the quote, “I Hope You Dance”. There have been countless times over the past years that Susan and I have heard the song. When we do, we simply text each other with the dance emoji and type the letters, IHYD, short for, “I Hope You Dance”. I received one of those texts just a few days ago from Susan. I responded with IHYD, the dance emoji in the fiery red dress, and typed:
This is the week I will finally be writing our story Susan. Saturday, April 29, 2017 is #InternationalDanceDay IHYD!
I had a recurrence of breast cancer in 2014. After a double mastectomy, like Susan, I also had breast reconstruction. Susan was updated frequently via texts about my progress during my surgery and hospital stay. I made it through the arduous and long surgery for phase 1. Four months after phase 1, I returned to San Antonio to have phase two of my breast reconstruction. This was the easier phase and I knew a much quicker surgery and recovery.
I Had to Dance!
I will forever be grateful to my plastic surgeon and celebrate the day that he honored my request to dance before surgery. I had to stay on the gurney for my own safety but I had the time of my life! I showed all my surgical team how to make the sign for “I Love You”. Susan watched this video and told me my plastic surgeon had some great moves! I laughed and told her, “He’s Greek! Of course, he does!” I’m glad he made the choice not to sit it out that day. Thanks Dr. C! This is what happened:
Susan, you are and will forever be the truest of friends. To anyone reading this blog on #InternationalDanceDay, like the words that Lee Ann Womack so beautifully sings in the song:
When you get the choice to sit it out or dance…
IHYD! I Hope You Dance!