The One Thing That Made Me Feel Like Myself While Battling Cancer

“In 2011, I started at the University of Dublin as an adult, to further my education. There, I encountered Zumba classes as a way to get some exercise in between lectures.

I had never danced so hard in my life and even though I was exhausted by the end of each class, I was hooked. I could feel my energy levels increase, see my body tone up, and I could wear smaller sized clothes.

But life has its own rhythms, seasons, twists and turns and mine underwent a huge change at the beginning of 2016 when I was diagnosed with cancer. My overlying worry apart from the obvious was that I would become a lesser version of myself, someone who would be unable to take joy in the things in life that were part of who I am. My fantastic medical team advised me to keep my routine as much as I could so I continued my Zumba classes.

I went to class as often as I was able to, between hospital appointments, hair loss, wig fittings, surgery, and debilitating sick days. The encouragement and support from my husband and kids and my Zumba instructors, Nina and Louis, and my classmates reminded me that I was still the person who loved dancing, music, and meeting friends. Putting on my dancing gear, even though it now included a buff to cover my bald head, was putting on my previous self and reminding me that I was still lucky enough to be alive, dancing and singing along to the music.

My doctors and nurses credited Zumba classes with my return to health. They remarked how it benefitted me both physically and mentally and they praised my positive attitude. Zumba classes have been so good to me and they mean so much. What’s not to like? Good music, lively exercise, tireless supplies of support, and my fabulous teachers Nina and Louis!”

– Dierdre O’Driscoll, fierce Zumba student and cancer survivor

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