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“You would not believe how dance has positively equipped me to conquer difficult challenges in my life”

What challenges?” You might ask. What exactly am I facing that is so intriguing it warrants an article. Well... It is cancer... Forgive me for being so blunt, but allow me to introduce myself.


I am Claire, an alumni of JUMP who previously attended Mayflower Secondary School and then later joined the alumni crew known as JUMP District (JDT) back in 2015.



I was the pioneer batch of JDT which means I witnessed the revolution of how JDT evolved from the very beginning. Back then, I was an extremely apprehensive dancer, super self-conscious, and very doubtful. I never knew my purpose in dance, I just thought hey... JDT is an amazing place to form friendships.



If you had known me you would know I am LOUD. Like really loud. People remember me for my laughter and for being incredibly gregarious but in reality I have a very different personality split as a dancer and that made my dance journey not at all smooth sailing.


 

FIRST JDT PERFORMANCE


Things somewhat changed during my first performance with JDT at RE.define 2015. I recall an indescribable feeling surged through my veins and that energy cyclically encircled throughout the performance, oddly empowering. It was like someone having your back and even if you are scared, they are there with you, to guide you. That feeling became the adrenaline for why I participated in almost every performance, production and competition of JDT thereafter.





JDT became a huge part of my life, turning up for training every Sunday became an integral part of my weekly routine. Dance itself was tough and stressful. I struggled every minute of every training, powering through several challenges, rejections, failures, and setbacks throughout my years there. Yet each time I grew stronger, more determined, resilient, responsible, and disciplined.


My instructors have taught me important life lessons I would not have learnt otherwise. Every scolding every word only motivated me to strive harder and do better. In Shir's words: "Nothing in life worth having ever comes easy." Those challenges became more worthwhile because they were so worthy of enduring through.



 

THEN CANCER HAPPENED...


During my fourth year in JDT, I also entered university. It was the year I wanted to thrive so I joined my university’s dance club, entered the student union and further progressed my part-time tutor career to the next level. On top of that, I was involved in JDT’s production and performance for RE.define 2018.


After awhile I started developing a bad cough which subsequently progressed into obvious swollen lymph nodes in my neck, as well as persistent fever and night sweats.



My hectic schedule prevented me from resting and even though I felt my health deteriorating, I waited for a month after completing most of the tasks at hand before going to the hospital for checkup. My assumption was that I had a terrible flu that could be treated with medication, but I was wrong...


The doctor performed an ultrasound on my neck and found more than a dozen visible swollen lymph nodes, and my white blood count was through the roof.


The doctor was brutally honest and told me right away that I might have lymph node cancer and needed to be admitted immediately. The word “cancer” left me dumbfounded on the hospital bed. A part of me was really inconsolable at the prospect of my life changing completely.


Subsequent biopsy confirmed the diagnosis. I started on chemotherapy almost immediately. As the production date approached, I bawled my eyes out every single day knowing that I would not be able to be a part of the production that I have spent the last two years anticipating. I never fomo’ed so hard in my life. It was difficult to pause something that sparked so much joy and always left me feeling accomplished and complete. As much as I wished to attend the production, I could not due to my compromised immune system at that point of time.


Thankfully, my family brought me to visit the final rehearsal on show day. I remembered the moment I entered the theatre where everyone gathered, the room was filled with cheers and my spirits lifted.


Our dearest instructor Rachel got them to do a full run for me that day. This was something I did not expect and am eternally grateful for. I sat back and immersed myself as my fellow crewmates performed for me.


During the finale, when they shouted my name while executing the piece to the fullest, that intense burst of energy emitted was channelled into me. It’s like I was recharged and ready to face whatever challenges that lay ahead.


 

THE ME AFTER


To date, I have done chemotherapy, immunotherapy, radiation and a stem cell transplant. All of which took a toll on my physical body. The transplant deprived me of solid food for weeks, leaving me so frail that even walking became a challenge.



Despite this, my ability to overcome pain was bolstered by my innate resilience. To regain my physical strength, I began lifting small weights following my transplant. My strong mental state enabled me to stick to a rigorous workout routine with the end goal in mind to dance again.




While it took me a whole year to feel ready, I am glad to announce that I STARTED DANCING again earlier this year. Although regretfully JDT has ceased to exist, the memories, the journey, the laughter, the tears, every irreplaceable moment I have spent with JDT will forever be engraved in me.


 

SO.. MY STORY...


Like several setbacks I encountered in dance, facing cancer is a mind game. Cancer at twenty-one, pessimism could become my personality and nobody would criticize me. But it’s not, I remained optimistic because the truth is cancer made me more loved or rather showed me how blessed I am to be loved by many.


Cancer allowed me to reconnect with myself and put me more in touch with life. I emerged from my constant questioning of life with the knowledge that life is about love and overcoming. When I look back to what I have gone through, what strikes me most is that my experience is not so much about cancer or about my struggles in dance but about life.


For me, dance has been extremely crucial in helping me heal after cancer. Even before cancer, dance helped me cope. It gave me the strength to rise above so many life’s unfortunate circumstances. Dance is the one place I feel out of my comfort zone which continues to push me as a person, giving me so much energy and vitality. Dance has influenced my life in such a positive way words cannot express my gratitude. I became not just a survivor but a conqueror and I will always choose to embrace, persevere and continue to fight.


Thank you for reading my story.


I would like to give special thanks to Jean, Shirlyn, Rachel, Marcus, Ben Chia, Bryan and all of the instructors that I have had the honor to learn under and who taught me many valuable lessons during my years in JDT.



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