Right around the time I graduated from college (with my Bachelor's in Psychology) the opportunity came for me to coach a local high school dance team; I immediately jumped at the chance and it didn’t take me long to fall in love with the job. I can't explain the feeling when I see one of my girls land a double pirouette for the first time or the smile that, somehow, always smears it's way across my face when I hear "Shimmy!" (a nickname given to me by the girls) as I walk into the auditorium doors for practice. Before long, we were more than just a coach & a team - we were a family who cherished the hours of dance we were able to share with each other every week.
About a week or so after my diagnosis, I made the decision that I needed to sit down my girls & be completely open & honest with them. On a random Wednesday (which seems to be a strange reoccurring day of important dates during my journey), I drug Chad (for moral support and as a DD for my recent pain pill prescription for tumor pain) up to the high school with me and took a deep breath. Before I could even collect my thoughts, my mouth began speaking and soon enough, in some form, I spit out that I had been diagnosed with Rectal Cancer. At the time, we didn’t know what stage I was at so I couldn’t really go into deep, deep details with them, but I felt like I needed to let them know. Looking back now, I remember trying my best not to make eye contact with them - especially a few that I had grown particularly close to; I just couldn’t and I didn’t want to. How could I put such a heavy burden on teenagers who biggest worry should be about boys or what the latest school gossip was, not whether or not their coach was going to live or die. To this very day, telling my 12 dance team girls about my diagnosis was one of the hardest days of my life and it’s one I will never forget. I’ll never forget sitting on that stage trying to find the words to make what I was saying sound as least serious as possible. In a strange sense, the news of my cancer brought the majority of us closer; I found strength & support in people who knew way to much about cancer at too young of an age and for that, I am forever grateful. I’m slowly but surely making my way back into the dance world with the love and support of my team. I am the coach and survivor I am today because of them.