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The Story of DanceBack

DanceBack was conceived during the long summer months of 2002, after a 25 year battle with chronic back problems that had not only halted my dancing career, but left me immobile to the point that I could hardly walk. I lay motionless in my bed (that had by this time been brought down to the dining room as I could no longer get up the stairs) and daydreamed, as my mind was the only place that I could still move freely.

They were very hard days as every breath I took was painful, I couldn't sit down or walk more than a few steps. I had taken three opinions from top neuro and orthopaedic specialists and been told the same thing, "The only way you will ever be able to walk properly again will be to have major spinal surgery". This in itself carried a high risk of permanent nerve damage and no guarantee that I would be out of pain. Having exhausted many types of therapy over the years I had no options left.

At the same time my dearest companion, my dog Holly, collapsed after fifteen years and was given two weeks to live. I decided that I couldn't leave my old friend in her last days to go and have surgery, so we went home to Suffolk to be two old crocks together. That way she could be in the place she loved most for her final days. We would lay together with the French windows open onto my lovely garden and support each other!

One of the ways I passed the time was to dissolve myself in music and dance around the garden in my mind- it kept my spirit alive and freed me from the pain prison I was living in. In my heart and head I never stopped dancing.

Two weeks passed and Holly seemed stable and content so I stalled the idea of surgery a little longer thinking that any day she would be on her way to doggy heaven. One day having danced my way around the garden in my head, I made a crazy promise to life. I promised that if I was ever well enough to dance again I would dance around the world, raise money for spinal care and somehow give people hope that they could get better. At this point it was unlikely but it was a great daydream. I have always believed that life carries within it amazing healing possibilities and the first and the most important step is never to stop trying.

At this stage I was very frightened. I could stick pins in my toes and not feel them, parts of my legs were numb and the bits that I could feel were fizzy and painful. In desperation I phoned yet another practitioner; if I could just get a tiny bit if relief whilst waiting for surgery it would be something. Believing it would be a wasted journey; I lay in the back of my friend's car and went for yet another opinion. The doctor was a calm and gentle man and the opinion was that I was in a bad way. Again the risks of the surgery were discussed and he said he could offer no guarantees but was willing to do his best. He said it would be a year before I could really assess things properly. I didn't think I could cope with the pain for another year but decided to keep going until Holly went on her way.

The year that followed is a story in itself, but Holly lived for eighteen months rather than the expected two weeks and during that time I slowly began to recover. By the time she did go on her way I was so much better, although I was still in pain I could walk and wanted to be the best I could be without surgery. I set myself walking goals, aiming for the next tree along the road each week. There were times when I would make it to the next tree and have to call a friend to pick me up as I couldn't make it back home! I worked hard at my rehabilitation approaching it from many ways. Five years on I still work daily to keep my back as healthy as it can be and I continue to get stronger and stronger. I think of my recovery as a parting gift from Holly, if she had died earlier I would have gone for surgery!

In May 2007 I was in Riga, as my husband was attending a conference there and I was wandering around the old town sightseeing. I could hear music in the distance and followed my ears until I turned into the square and there was a wonderful sight. People of all ages, grandmas and grandpas, toddlers and teenagers, all dancing and singing in their May celebrations. Before I had time to think I was in the circle dancing. I danced my heart out that day and as I walked exhausted but happy along the river back to my hotel, I remembered the promise I had made to life as I lay in my bed in Suffolk and realized that against all the odds I was dancing again - a big smile spread across my heart!

So this is how DanceBack started, a promise is a promise.