Holy Sit: Dancing with Cancer

Dancing with Cancer

On that Wednesday in October of 2011 when I got the initial cancer call from my doctor, I was in shock. Minutes after the call, I had a chance encounter with an angel as previously written. Even after that divine intervention, I still had 24 long hours to wait for my official doctor’s appointment. What would I do? I decided to go where it was safe to process this wellspring of emotions. I went to dance.

After moving to California’s Bay Area, the conscious dance community became my saving grace. I was having a hard time adjusting. I couldn't find my “home.” I was frequently fatigued, evidently suffering from adrenal burnout proudly earned from a history of intense work projects. I didn’t know I was also brewing cancer, which would obviously account for some of my imbalance and exhaustion. As a former athlete, tri-athlete, and generally social person, not having energy made me feel like a shiny toy without any batteries. Away from anything familiar, in a new city, new job and not able to work-out, I was diving into depression. Then, I found dance and the amazing community that went with it. After my cancer diagnosis, I believe this community saved my life or at the very least, helped me regain my life. It started that first night after I got the call and needed a place to process this life-changing information...

Before I stepped onto the floor that night, I was approached by a couple of my new friends who I had met on a river trip the previous month. Seeing that I was in distress, they asked what was wrong. I repeated the same words I used when I spoke with Maria, the angel, “I’m having a cancer scare.” My new friend Emilie (she’s French, so we will call her French-Emilie for clarity) said, “Do you want me to come with you to your appointment tomorrow?” I didn’t realize that I’d been holding my breath.

When she so graciously offered, I exhaled deeply, realizing one of my greatest fears. I would have to face this health scare without my posse of family and friends back in Seattle who had known me for decades. When my new friend, “French-Emilie” offered to join me, it was an act of compassion that reassured me that I would never be alone on this frightening journey. French-Emilie and several other new dance friends guided me back to the dance floor again and again over the next several critical months.

When I first started dancing, I learned Gabriel Roth’s 5Rythms dance. This free form style of dance is meditation in motion. It helps me get out of my head and into my heart and body. Using his/her choice of music, the dance facilitator starts out slowly and progresses the music sequence to emulate the waves of life:
1) Flow – a slower-paced flow of music to help warm-up the body and prepare for the next inevitable wave of movement.
2) Staccato – my friend and 5 Rhythms dance teacher, Stacey Butcher, helped me equate staccato to creating and checking off my to-do list. Staccato inspires me to get moving, pick up the pace. Only here there isn’t a computer or email in sight! Thank gawd!
3) Chaos – when the to-do list is 20 pages long and life is overwhelming, there is nothing like the dance of chaos to express the pandemonium in my head and dance it out through my body.
4) Lyrical – when I realize the “to do” list doesn’t actually matter as much as the “to be” list, I’m fully able to release and let go during lyrical.
5) Stillness – finally, like the quiet kiss of sleep after a rigorous day, the dance of stillness is so welcome!

Over time, I also healed through the conscious dance practice of Soul Motion. But that first night of my cancer scare, I danced 5Rythms. I also retreated to a corner and cried. Strangers comforted me. I got back up and danced. I hid my tear-stained face behind my long, curly blonde hair, my adult version of "I can't see you, you can't see me." That’s when deep fear of the unknown gripped me. After brushing the initial surface of the pain, fear, uncertainty and grief through the music and movement, the logical Capricorn in me finally emerged to ask cancer the most critical question of all, “What are you here to teach me?” I thought that if I uncovered the answer to that question, I would change my life forever.

Cancer responded the first of many times in two words that even I could understand in my compromised state, “Slow down!

I knew immediately that this message was dead right. In my dance of life, I’d nearly neglected the warm up and slow down phases inherent in between the twenty-foot waves that comprised most of my life. In my quest to make a big impact in the world through raising millions of dollars for charities and orchestrating large-scale social movements, I’d lived a good portion of my existence in staccato and chaos. In fact, I might go so far as to say I was addicted to  chaos and felt I actually thrived in chaos. What I now know is that this is disastrous to the human body. We can’t live indefinitely in staccato and chaos; we are only meant to pass through those phases and then rest, be still, recuperate and reflect. Only then can we begin again in a healthy way. Yet many people I worked with in the high tech, political or nonprofit arenas were a lot like me. We were revved up, amped up, running high on (natural and manufactured) adrenaline, getting s*it done, and "saving the world." Many of us were glossing over the warm up and rest periods necessary to stay healthy. The question is why? That answer came much later.

For now, the only thing I needed to know was I had just started my dance with cancer and had uncovered one critical ingredient in the recipe for recovery, slow down!

And now I know. I can’t not know this anymore.

To read how an innocent quest for birth control lead to a dreaded cancer diagnosis, click here.

In peace,
Emily Hine


Note: This Holy Sit blog is one in a series of blog posts that tell the story of my journey healing from cancer without surgery, radiation or chemotherapy. It's also about spiritual awakening and finding inner peace in a chaotic world. If you want to read the full story, check out the chapter titles on the Holy Sit home page & start with this one.  Cheers to your health!