Dancing Helped Me Rediscover Myself After Breast Cancer

Famous Croatian author and therapist Bruno Simlesa once said that illness makes us quarrel with our bodies, that it alienates us from our bodies. That's something I can personally attest to be true. When I started attending a dance workshop through NGO Everything for Her (Sve za nju), these workshops helped us befriend our bodies again, make our bodies ours again, actually to feel the ownership of our bodies even more than we had before cancer!

Everything for Her was founded in 2009 by a group of women with breast cancer and their friends. It has grown into one of the most active NGOs in Croatia by providing support to women with cancer and their family members. It also organizes lectures by medical doctors on various topics pertaining to cancer – from the latest cancer treatment therapies to chronic pain management. There are also various workshops they support; one of the most popular (and one that started my own journey to self-discovery) is a dance workshop performed under the guidance by Petra Mavar, choreographer from the Dance Center Alldance.

The Dance Workshops by Petra are so much more than just a dance. It is more like a guided meditation in movement. It is all about discovering emotions lying deep down within us, traumas that we did not let to go out, and building a path of discovery to our true selves and our true nature.

I was present when a particular young woman joined the dance workshop. She came as a woman bent under the invisible burden of recent surgery and worries of what the future might bring. After an hour and a half of movement exploration under the warm guidance by Petra, she came in touch with the lost joy of life, that essence of life energy. She left that day with a spark in her eyes. It was pure magic.

During these few months of dance workshops a beautiful friendship was forged. We are a group of women between 40 and 67 years old and we grew so fond of each other.

I know exact moment when I fell in love with my dance group. Once, when Petra was not available, I was asked to watch and correct them. One lady all the time went in the opposite direction, few were frowning and counting steps. But at some point I suddenly realized why Petra was so taken by our group. Behind faces frowned in concentration and untrained movements, I saw much more. I saw courage, I saw determination, and I saw readiness to leave their comfort zone, to go into unexplored. None of them had any stage experience, one even never danced in public. But they were determined to be a part of the show. I was overwhelmed by their potential.

I trust when one acts courageously, even when it is a small act like this one, we change the entire universe.

This past October, the traditional month of breast cancer awareness, we decided to do a flash mob on one of the main Zagreb squares to remind of the primary and secondary breast cancer awareness in an unusual way. We performed the flash mob on October 15th together with our friends and supporters. Reactions were extremely positive and we were particularly proud when we learnt that a group of cancer survivors from Portugal plans to copy us and throw a flash mob in their country.

You can view our beautiful, ridiculous, crazy, joyous dance moves in this video.

I believe that deep down, dancing is the expression of life joy in all of us. Once we grow, we start to believe that we do not know how to dance properly or that we look ridiculous or just and "un- cool." So we give it up. I dance in my kitchen, in the bathroom, but never in public. It took me four battles with cancer to be courageous enough to dance in public and to spread the joy of life dancing with my friends, and I know a joy now that I've never known before.

What milestones have you achieved (or are working toward) in your life after cancer? Share in the comments below or sign up here.

Although the site is currently under construction, you can contact Sve za Nju at their site. Photo courtesy of the author.