Ovarian Cancer Research Alliance Community Partner

Searching For “Normal”

Hi Everyone,

One of the things I struggle with as I strive not to let my Cancer define me, is feeling a sense of normalcy. I try to make my Cancer take a back seat to the business of living, in an effort to feel like the person I was before my diagnosis. That person often gets lost in the many treatments, and ins and outs of living with Cancer.

I recently began taking a Line Dancing course at our local Community Center. A close friend recommended it, and I thought, “Why not push myself? Might be fun.” I was concerned about making the commitment to a schedule, as I never know from day to day how I will feel, and I do not like to make a commitment and not be able to fulfill it. But my friend assured me I could feel comfortable in going whenever I could, and not to worry about it when I couldn’t.

What started out as merely a distraction, has turned into a pathway to feeling like my old self, if even for an hour. I was very nervous at first, thinking I would make a fool of myself, not even considering the benefits I would receive in terms of my perception of myself. As I began to dance, under the directorship of the most amazing instructor, I realized I was focusing on the steps, the music, and the gentle, encouraging tones of our teacher’s voice. I was not even thinking about my Cancer, or my limitations because of it. I had checked my meds, my surgeries, my chemo treatments, and my loneliness for my old self at the door, and was transported to a place of feeling oh so normal, surrounded by students sharing the same experience, regardless of what baggage they too had checked at the door, led by a caring, supportive teacher who creates a sense of community and acceptance for all who participate.

I cannot go to every class. There are days when I am too nauseous, or too fatigued. But on those days when I am able to go, I find a glimmer of my true self, and am given a break from the roller coaster of emotions that is Cancer. I will be forever grateful to my dear friend Clare, who encouraged me to join, to our instructor extraordinaire Karen from Cape Sands Ballroom, who creates an atmosphere of trust and joy, and to my fellow students, who get caught up with me in the elation of dancing together.

On the days when you feel good and are able to venture out to an activity where you can check your illness at the door, I encourage you to do so. Taking Line Dancing has prompted me to seek out other ways I can find myself, while minimizing my Cancer, and keeping it in check. Taking a swim, going to the library, attending a performance, getting an ice cream, connecting with family and friends, reaching out in general to all that is open to me, all the while staying in the moment as much as I can, while I travel this road with my husband, Saint Ken, my ever-present cheerleader. So, go out and find yourself, in the small simple things that surround us each and every day.

‘Til Next Time,
MJ Keenan