Embrace: Dancing with Cancer

February 15, 2024

So you think you can dance?
Written by: Melissa Weaver, LCSW

I grew up thinking that I was a good dancer. Not “Dancing with the Stars” good, but I could hold my own on a Friday night, especially if the lighting was low. But no dance was as difficult as my dance the “red devil.”

My cancer treatment included a chemotherapy medication called Adriamycin nicknamed the “red devil.” Apparently this grand title due to its red tint and unforgiving side effects. In case you are wondering, it holds up to its name in every way. Once I had experienced the side effects firsthand, I would become anxious and fearful in the days leading up to treatment. Like someone who has naïvely gone onto a dance floor and walked away, realizing they did not know the steps and would surely fall.

That is the thing about cancer, that even when you try to prepare, which is typically not possible, you still have no concept what you are really facing. I had no idea how cancer would impact my life or that I would still be talking about it ten years later.

Cancer has a way of working itself into each crevice of your life and the lives of those that care for us. Like learning a new way to dance, it often does not come with instructions, and even when it does, the instructions are vague and confusing at best. Like dancing, effects of cancer change, at times with subtle movements and then with wild discord. Similar to how each person stepping onto the dance floor brings their own story and movement, so do those who face a cancer diagnosis.

I recently participated in what is called a silent disco. During this other world experience, you wear headphones and select between two songs, which change every few minutes. Those around you also participating in this isolated yet socially integrated activity by moving to the rhythm of music - alone and together. I danced during this experience with reckless abandon, and since no one could hear me sing, I yelled out to the universe so that it knew I was there.

This dance is what cancer feels like to me - a fluid world of unpredictability and chaotic movements. A world that we face both alone and together. As we move to ever changing and uncertain music, we realize that with each step and every stumble on the dance floor, we are holding one another up.



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