How Surviving Breast Cancer Changed My Life and My Dance Studio

More than likely, you know someone who has been diagnosed with breast cancer at some point. According to the American Cancer Society, it is one of the two most common cancers found in women in the United States, with 1 in every 8 women being diagnosed with the disease. I was that 1 of 8 just 14 years ago.

How I survived my breast cancer diagnosis

At the time my daughter, Natalie, was only 8 years old and this was all happening very quickly. I found the initial cancer site myself and after spending the month of September at numerous appointments and biopsies, I was worried. But, I knew nothing mattered more than making really good decisions that would help ensure a great outcome.

I was officially diagnosed during breast cancer awareness month, October 2007 – there were 4 different types when it was all said and done.

Preparing for treatment

The life-changing call came on October 9th, a date I will never forget. My first reaction was to leave town, take care of it, and return to business as usual. That just never works out, so I decided to use this as a chance to preach early detection and make the network I had through Miller Street aware of how important it is.

As I prepared for my bi-lateral mastectomy (removal of both breasts) I had to keep all my little dance people from being afraid and making it as positive as possible. Communication and transparency with families at the studio were a large part of this effort. With brows up and a big smile, it worked!

Life after treatment

On October 30th, I was cancer-free after a very long and intense surgery. I have never been so excited and at that moment, I knew how it felt to win the lottery! As I prayed hard for this moment to become reality, I promised God that I would shout early detection from every rooftop and help as many people as possible. And since my diagnosis and treatment, that is exactly what I have done!

Heading into my 14th year of good health, I have been blessed to meet and encourage many people around the nation. Not everyone I met along the way was as lucky as I was. In fact, this past year, we lost our beloved Ballet teacher, Miss Denise to the same disease. Nothing is more painful than experiencing the loss of a close one from this unfortunately common disease. And it is my mission to continue to help as many people as I can through awareness.

What Breast Cancer Awareness Month means to me

My wish in 2007 was to watch my daughter grow up and my beautiful sister, Alyson, start her family. Natalie is now a senior at Alabama and Alyson has a beautiful three-year-old daughter – Bridgette Michelle. Life is good and we can ensure more happy stories with early detection!

How can you help me spread the word?

With October being Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I encourage you to think of my story. Any one of us can be that 1 out of 8. Make that appointment for a mammogram and I also challenge you to call, email, or drop a handwritten note in the mail to five women you love. Challenge them to do it too. I promise you that someone reading this will save a life if we all do this.

Each year, we have a Think Pink week at the studio to celebrate Breast Cancer Awareness month in a fun way. Every dancer and teacher wear as much pink as possible, photos are taken, contest winners are picked – it’s a fun time for all but the most important thing is the awareness we are bringing to our community. It’s a great way to bring people together – try having a Think Pink day or week at your studio in the month of October!

How Miller Street Dance Academy has helped me make an impact

Every October,  more than any other month, I can’t help but reflect on the work the Miller Street families have done for the cancer effort.

Dancers Against Cancer

Dancers Against Cancer (DAC) is an organization that gifts money to dancers, dance teachers, choreographers, and dance moms/dads who are battling all types of cancer. The money gifted can be used for anything that the patient needs – chemo, food, power bills. DAC doesn’t ask, they just provide. 

At Miller Street Dance Academy, a lot of our fundraising efforts benefit Dancers Against Cancer.

Baubles and Bowties Gala

One of the many annual events we host is the Baubles and Bowties gala. Complete with a plated dinner, this fun event also includes a lot of dancing (of course), a live and silent auction, fun photo ops, and more!

This event was held in its inaugural year at the Ballantyne clubhouse in 2016 and raised around $25,000. In the 2nd year, we moved to a bigger venue and raised just under $70,000. In the 3rd year, we brought in over $95,000. And in 2019, our total amount raised almost broke $100,000. What an amazing event and for such a great cause! As the restrictions from COVID-19 lift, we look forward to the next gala!

The Denise Britz Dance Foundation

After supporting Miss Denise in her battle with breast and lung cancer this past year, we transitioned our efforts to a foundation in her name. Everyone who knew her knew how amazing and special she was and through this foundation, her legacy will live on. The funds from this foundation will ensure that dancers are able to continue their dance education, no matter their financial circumstances. 

Unfortunately, many of us are too familiar with knowing someone who has been diagnosed with cancer. It’s far more common than we would like it to be. But, you CAN make a difference. Every dollar counts when you are contributing to an amazing organization like Dancers Against Cancer!

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