The Summer I Danced

Either I’m fearless or I’m a crazy woman.

I love to dance.

I’m always the first person on the dance floor, the first to sway my hips, the first person to move my feet in an ever-widening circle when music infuses my soul.

Each summer, Southern California hosts hundreds of outdoor concerts, featuring musicians from big-name performers, to cover bands, to up-and-coming artists hoping to get their big break.

Two summers ago, I was too sick to leave the house, too sick to care about entertainment, too sick to get out of bed for more than a few hours a day.

When I braved the outside world, it was to go to a doctor’s appointment, to go to a nurses’ clinic, or to go to another laboratory where seemingly endless tests were administered.

Tasteful, muted Muzak filled the waiting rooms, its sole purpose to keep patients from sinking further into depression. The ambiance was subdued, generic notes blending into one another and augmenting the wall decor.

Last summer I finished sixteen months of cancer treatment, sixteen months of hell and not knowing if I would make it out on the other side alive. I was tired and weak, but nominally functional. I was in remission.

And I had heart damage, possibly permanent, a left ventricle which didn’t close properly thanks to the side effects of chemotherapy. Heartbeat irregularity exacerbated my exhaustion.

An Echo Cardiogram predicted a 60% chance of heart attack in the next ten years. I had to be careful.

Les and I pored over websites listing music concerts in Orange County and LA. He thought it would help heal me to ease back into life and recreation. We chose ten concerts: ethnic, folk, classic rock, rhythm and blues. We accepted that I might not be well enough to attend all ten, but ten was our goal. We would bring blankets and picnic food. All I had to do was to sit under palm trees and stars, and enjoy the music.

Five minutes into the first concert, I was on my feet. Hips swayed, hands wove patterns through the air, and bare toes etched tattoos in the grass. I was mindful not to exert myself, but I didn’t stop moving until the last notes faded into night air.

Every concert, in a capsule of infinite minutes, I rose as if summoned by forces outside of myself and moved non-stop. I was possessed by a siren song — and for two hours I forgot my illness, I forgot the months of pain, and I forgot my chance of heart attack.

The next day I slept while my body recuperated. After a few days, I was ready to go again.

I understood the risk. I understood the fragility of a weakened heart, and I understood that I would take that risk as long as I was able.

Life has no purpose unless we find our joy.

Either I’m fearless or I’m a crazy woman, but I did not survive cancer twice to sit on my ass and watch the world go by.

When the music plays, I dance.