Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Just Dance

When I was in fifth grade, my friends started getting toe shoes. I was slated to get them as well. I'd taken my requisite five years of ballet, was taking two classes a week, and my ballet teacher told my mother I was ready. I couldn't wait. Ever since I was a toddler, whenever anyone asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I always said "a dancer." I loved the feeling of moving in the music, loved dance costumes, loved to perform.

But then my mother decided that I was not ready. I had bad feet. I didn't point my toes. I didn't have a dancer's build. I brought to mind the lumbering tutu-clad hippopotamus from Fantasia. I didn't have the talent to be a real dancer. And therefore, the dance lessons were a colossal waste of money. By sixth grade, I wasn't dancing anymore.

I'll spare you the melodrama, but the experience effected me very deeply. I think it was the very first time I wanted to do something and realized that it didn't quite align with my abilities. As crappy a feeling as that was, I also thought it was inherently unfair of my mother. Was it not enough to realize that while I might be dancing, I sucked at it? Did I have to give it up entirely, too?

I didn't dance for a long time after that--not in public anyway--and certainly never ballet.

But while I was in Hungary, I discovered the disco and there was no stopping me anymore. Give me a tribal rhythm and a heavy dose of base and I just can't help but move. I boogied through college, and grad school, and never stopped shaking my groove thing, even when I was hugely pregnant with Sam. I'd turn on the techno music, the rhythm and blues, the Bollywood, direct it straight at my stomach, and I'd dance.

So it shouldn't surprise me that Sam is a dancer.

It started simply enough. Me, feeling blah on the morning preschool drop off. Barry Manilow. The Copacabana. A witness in his car seat.

Next thing I know, I'm looking in the rear view mirror at a little blond head bopping along. He bobbed when I bobbed. Weaved when I weaved. Wiggled when I wiggled. Jazz handed when I jazz handed. The pick up line was long that day. I taught him the Congo, the Hitchhiker, the Pony, the Saturday Night Fever. He can Hula. He can Mash Potato. He can Twist. Every morning, when school is in sight, we dance our goodbyes.

I got bad news yesterday. A second CT scan revealed that my thymus is still enlarged. For treatment's sake, all enlarged thymi? thymuses? are considered thymoma--a type of thymic cancer. As scary as the "C" word is, I have no reason to think my thymus is anything more than a benign, over sized lump at this point. But nonetheless, I have an appointment with an oncologist who specializes in thoracic surgery on Monday, and based on what my GP said back in December after my first CT scan, I'm pretty sure he'll want to remove it as quickly as possible. It'll involve going through the sternum and weeks of recovery.

Now that I'm a mother, I don't handle this sort of news well. I think about things like dying on the operating table, never coming out of anesthesia, finding out I have the really bad kind of cancer instead of the just-precautionary kind. All my senses sharpen and that fight or flight mechanism kicks in and I want to outrun the news, somehow shake it off myself.

There's a dance movie I love--Center Stage--about a girl who wants to be a ballerina, but doesn't have good "turn out." Her dreams of dancing are nearly shattered, until she starts dancing for the love of it again. There's a final dance number (of course) where she redeems herself on stage. And while she's dancing, since this is Hollywood, a song is playing that perfectly sums up her state of mind.

Jamiroquai's Canned Heat

Dance, nothing left for me to do but dance,
All these bad times I'm going through just dance
Got canned heat in my heels tonight

While I'm panicking and worrying about what's next, this song keeps playing in the back of my head. Until I go to the doctor on Monday, until know what I'm in for, you know where to find me.
I'll be dancing.


  1. Anonymous1:14 PM

    Oh that's so awful the dancing and the thymus (sp?) My daughter is in dance now and loves the tap dance portion of the lessons. It makes me want to get tap shoes too and get rid of our carpet. Dance your cares away till you find out that you're ok Monday! Blessings, amy

  2. wow, you are in my thoughts. Although I keep seeing you in that scene on Grey's Anatomy where they have had the worst days ever and are "dancing it out". Cheaper than therapy!

  3. you are in my prayers, my dear. my livvie is a dancer too. just give her some music and she goes wild. sarah's the singer. keep dancing!

  4. Brit, is there any way they can biopsy it with out cutting you open like that?

  5. They don't typically biopsy thymoma until it's removed because they are usually non-invasive/encapsulated and there's a fear that puncturing it would cause it to become invasive.

    The first line of defense for early stage thymoma is just to remove it and ask questions later because once it's invasive, it's much harder to remove and can quickly spread to vital organs.

    I won't know til Monday what the thoracic oncologist will want to do, but I think there's a good chance he'll want to remove it--why else would I have gotten an appointment with him so quickly?

    I've been doing my research though and the foremost expert in thymoma is in Indianapolis and is willing to consult on thymoma cases. This is a very rare occurence and many doctors never see more than a couple cases in their careers, whereas he sees dozens a month, so I will definetely try to consult with him before I do anything.

  6. Lots and lots of good thoughts!

  7. this is a beautiful piece, brittany.

    i had a similiar childhood story re: dance, but i pulled myself out at 13 when i realized i wasn't improving like some others around me. six days a week was quite painful on my bent legs and offset joints, too, which wasn't helped by being put en pointe as a miniscule nine yo. i still have those point shoes, they are tiny. thank goodness they stopped doing that so early. my niece didn't til she was about 15.

    again, so sorry about what you have to go through coming up, and the worry that goes along with it. i really do have a good feeling about this, regardless of how inconvenient have surgery while you have little kids will be. i went through a big scare and abdominal surgery when the boys were pretty young, and s was still in diapers.


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