Dancing Through Cancer

Dance instructor Victor Golubkov, owner of VGdance studio, and Captain Jenn Jackson move through their Rumba routine to “Fight Song” by Rachel Platten. The dance was performed at the Pacifica Ball in April 2016 in Victoria.

Dance instructor Victor Golubkov, owner of VGdance studio, and Captain Jenn Jackson move through their Rumba routine to “Fight Song” by Rachel Platten. The dance was performed at the Pacifica Ball in April 2016 in Victoria.

Capt Jenn Jackson, Contributor ~

A cancer diagnosis is not necessarily a death sentence.

In fact, I am living, breathing proof that with determination, perseverance and support, life doesn’t even have to stop for cancer treatments.

In November 2014, I was diagnosed with an aggressive form of Stage II Invasive Ductal Carcinoma and Ductal Carcinoma In-Situ, two different types of breast cancer.

I was 35, active, otherwise healthy, and had no family history of the disease. There was nothing to indicate that I was more likely than anyone else to be diagnosed, but yet there I was. I was the CFB Esquimalt Public Affairs Officer and I was also a competitive ballroom dancer.

I can’t speak for the experience of others, but when I received my diagnosis it just seemed unreal. I didn’t feel sick. In fact, I had competed in dance just two weeks prior and won top pro/am student. I had just organized the Remembrance Week Speaker’s program for the Formation.

But whether it felt real or not, reality in the form of six months of chemotherapy, six weeks of radiation, and multiple surgeries was rapidly coming my way. More than 18 months of my life was spent eradicating the cancer and reducing as much as possible the chance of it reoccurring.

I realized early on that if I was going to make it through so many months of treatment, feeling sick, being off work, and unable to do many of the things I wanted, that I needed to find one thing as an ‘anchor’ to keep me grounded, positive, and looking ahead to the future. I needed to know there would be something in my life to give me joy. It quickly became obvious that dance was that one thing, and all of my health care professionals agreed.

And so it was that I began the remarkable journey of dancing my way through cancer.

When I look back, part of me still cannot believe how much dance contributed to my overall health and well-being while I was going through treatments. Even though I had lost all my hair, felt weak, nauseous, and fatigued, I was able to stay positive and optimistic. I fully believe that dance helped to counter all of the negative side effects to keep me active, moving, and motivated.

If I wasn’t dancing, I have no doubt my journey would have been harder and perhaps even less successful.

That’s not to say the journey was easy. I had good days, and I had very bad days. I had days where I fell immediately into bed after my lesson or practice. I had days my body just didn’t want to work, and I had days when I didn’t want to do anything.

But dance gave me a reason to get out of the house. It gave me a reason to be active. It gave me something to look forward to that allowed me to forget I was sick. And no matter how bad I felt before dance, I knew that I would leave the studio feeling better and glad I went. It gave me hope, and it gave me joy even on my darkest days.

I danced an average of three to four hours a week, through all my treatments, with the support of my instructor, friends, work colleagues, and the local dance community. I performed three showcases and competed twice.

I did more than survive. I continued to live my life through dance.

In December 2015, I received the news that I am cancer-free, and in August 2016 I returned to full duties. I haven’t looked back once, and I am now happily and healthily dancing into the future. That’s what being a dancer did for me. What could dance do for you?

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Take five minutes and check your breasts. It could save your life as it did mine.

To read more about Capt Jackson’s journey balancing life, the military, dance and cancer recovery go to her Blog www.bcballroomdancer.wordpress.com.

Captain Jenn Jackson

Captain Jenn Jackson

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  1. Dance isn’t just dance, it’s magical! Dancing could be a hobby or a career, but who could have thought that dancing can help you get through cancer. This amazing experience can inspire others to just go with the rhythm of life.

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