I always envied people who could dance. But I was the person sitting awkwardly on the sidelines at every party, feeling miserable. I wished I could be like the other people who could get up and move to the music without being embarrassed that everyone else was watching. Like millions of others, I have watched “Dancing With The Stars” and have been incredulous that in a few short weeks, complete rookies could become accomplished ballroom dancers, but alas that could never be me. I was far too old.
Encounters With Cancer
When my husband, Herman got brain cancer, we were at a Bar Mitzvah. There was dancing after dinner, I was painfully aware that this might be the last time that I might dance with him in public. So I shuffled around the dance floor with him a couple of times, weeping quietly into his chest and hoped nobody noticed. I was a basket case and could not wait to leave and go home.
In the following months, I had been drawing up a bucket list of experiences I wanted my husband to have one last time before he died. I sadly realized that because of my lack of skill, we had never learned to dance together. I enrolled us in some introductory lessons at Fred Astaire. The whole project was pretty much a disaster. My husband already had one seizure and his balance was terrible. With the instructor propping him up under his elbow counting out aloud ” left foot, right foot” we lurched around the dance floor. Herman wore hiking boots in an effort to keep his balance. After 2 lessons, Herman had a second seizure and his balance was shot to pieces. Dancing was out of the question. We were on that slow march to his death in 2011.
Shortly afterward, I too got cancer. During 2015, I was still making a slow recovery from breast cancer. I could still hardly walk across the room, but I bought a Fitbit, turned on the music on Pandora and paced the length of my house. Strangely enough, I found my walking was far more enjoyable if I boogied a bit to the music, and at least no one else was watching. I enjoyed moving to the music even though chemotherapy had left me with neuropathy in my feet, and they felt like two blocks of wood. By December of 2016, I was gaining in strength but I still wobbled as I walked, looking like a very old woman.
Remembering My Dream
One night, as I listening to my music while walking, I remembered that an unfulfilled dream had been to dance with my husband, and I lifted up my arms as if to simulate dancing with a ghost. I immediately felt his presence and tears rolled down my face, as I heard his voice whispering from heaven that I should go and learn to dance.
I contacted Fred Astaire who told me that my previous unused lessons had not expired and I was entitled to 4 free lessons! I was thrilled but understandably very nervous before I had my first lesson. I had a whole lifetime of thinking I had no dancing potential. Sometime during my first lesson, my instructor asked if I was sure that I had never danced before because I was a complete natural. I do not quite know what happened, but I was enjoying myself. I was amazed! Afterward, I walked towards my car with tears in my eyes and I heard my husband’s voice saying ” Merry Christmas, Honey. This is my gift to you”.
Much To My Surprise
The rest you could say is history. I found much to my surprise, that indeed I was a natural on the dance floor. Dancing was that outward physical expression of all the emotions I could feel inside when I listened to music. Dancing improved my balance, my walking and miraculously cured my neuropathy. I explored different dance types to find my favorites. In December 2017, after just one year of dancing, I danced a choreographed Paso Doble where I depicted my battle with breast cancer and my partner danced as my doctor. The purpose behind my dance was to show others that you can come back from a life-threatening illness, and learn something completely new that can bring you great joy. Amaze yourself and step out of your comfort zone. You just might find as I did that even at my age, you are never too old to learn.