My Twitter pal Juliana Joie, a life-loving, super positive young woman, did me the honor of sharing this story for my blog. Dance didn’t just give her natural pain relief. It saved her life.
I don’t think the doctor knew I could hear him, or else he probably wouldn’t have told his student “We need to see how quickly it’s moving and how long she has.” But I did hear him. And I knew the answers. It was moving very quickly, and it was unlikely that I had very long. Yes, it was very likely that I was dying.
Scleroderma, my latest diagnosis, was much more seriously life-threatening because of how pervasive it was inside my body—my digestive tract, my heart, my muscles, and my lungs, which were functioning at 38% of a healthy person’s. Scleroderma is (usually) a progressive disease, which means patients tend to get worse. For me, worse meant saying good-bye to a life that–although I felt pain every day–I loved.
You might think my first reaction would be fear, but it wasn’t. It was twofold—a deep appreciation of all-that-is and an inner certainty. My gratitude was so powerful I thought my heart might explode with joy from the simplest pleasures: a touch, the glossy covers of magazines, the light in the eyes of people waiting in lines with me at grocery stores.
I was also filled with an inner clarity that would not be denied: I am a dancer. If I was going to die, I would die a dancer.
I signed up immediately for an improvisational movement class to honor my body’s intuitive knowing of how it wanted to move, pulled my hair up into a bun, admired my cheekbones, and went to meet Susan, my dance teacher. Through our daily stretches, expressive movements, and closed-eye free-form dance, I felt so alive! Not just alive: Free. Joyous. Happy in my body. Me.
You probably realize that I did not die as I had feared: instead, I live as a dancer. I dance as I chop fruit for smoothies. I dance as I do the dishes. I dance as I wake up in the morning and move through the pain that’s accrued through the night. And I just got in from dancing for Mardi Gras. I dance with migraines when one decides to come into my space, and I dance with lupus or fibromyalgia when they decide to flare. I dance with IBS when it suggests an eating pattern it would appreciate. And, yes, I dance with scleroderma, stretching carefully to keep my skin flexible and moving beautifully and to express my self-love.
Now, I dance into my next project, a documentary called Loving it All that tells the story of my life post-diagnosis, through depression and desperation to acceptance and inner joy and love that cannot be taken from me. On March 15, the fundraising campaign on Kickstarter.com begins with extra-special rewards– beyond being part of making an inspirational movie and having your name in the credits.
Now, I can answer the questions I probably wasn’t supposed to hear: the illness was slowing down to remission, and I have a long, long time to live as a dancer.
Juliana Joie, Lover of the World, is a living miracle. She reversed symptoms of life-threatening autoimmune illness through her love of life and the world and living her mission—to support others in creating lives they love for the highest good of the world. Now she’s a Love-Your-Life Coach, Inspired Learning Facilitator, Inspirational Speaker and Writer who’s here to support you in creating the life you love.