Set Goals to Survive Breast Cancer

Phyllis Johnson Health Guide
  • I have two left feet; my son Channing is a fantastic dancer.  So what could be more terrifying than having almost a hundred people watching us dance? 


    Not dancing.


    When I was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer in April 1998, Channing was seventeen, and our daughter Sara was twenty.  My husband and I developed a kind of mantra.  “To dance at our children’s weddings” became short hand for beating cancer.  In October 2006, we danced joyfully at Sara’s wedding on a crowded dance floor.


    This April Channing married Brooke.  After Brooke and her father danced alone, all eyes were on Channing and me as we did the very slow steps we had practiced to “You Are My Child.” 

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    “I’m remembering when you were a baby,” I said.  I told him how proud I am of him and how happy I am to see him marrying such a fine woman.  Channing’s eyes glistened with unshed tears.  Near the end of the song, we decided to add a twirl we hadn’t practiced, and it went just fine.


    When I sat back down, my husband said, “You danced at both their weddings,” and I knew exactly what he meant.  Later my friend Jan, a cancer survivor herself, told me that Carl gripped her shoulder during the dance and whispered to her that this dance was a hope born in the dark days of my cancer treatments.


    Sara said the only time she cried during the wedding was during that dance.  Several more people who knew about my cancer history spoke of how touched they were.  Apparently, I was the only dry-eyed person in the place!  I was too happy to cry!


    What will get you through cancer treatments?  I remember one fall when things looked bleak, the hope of seeing the bulbs I planted bloom the next spring got me through the winter.  My other short-term goal was seeing my children graduate in May 1999 from high school and college.  My hair was still “just-finished-chemo” short while I watched them walk across the stage.


    The card I chose for Brooke and Channing had a photograph of a bride and groom dancing with the text, “Enjoy the dance for the rest of your lives.”  At time I selected it from all the others because our son is a photographer, and I thought he would like the picture.  Now I realize that the metaphor of the dance was just as important.  Folks who have been touched by cancer know how to savor each moment of life’s dance.


    What dances keep you going?  Where do you want to dance?  Even if you have two left feet, enjoy the dance for the rest of your life.  


Published On: April 27, 2009