She didn’t just survive a crazy 2020. She overcame cancer and COVID-19 for good measure while at it. Angelique, a mum, university lecturer, trained dancer and founder of D-Style Dance, began the year with a breast cancer diagnosis, ended it with Coronavirus and danced her way right into 2021. Inspiring us all along the way.
I was introduced to Angelique as part of the Stories of Resilience campaign. A campaign that takes the negativity out of the year gone by and focuses instead on what it presented – the ultimate setting for a renaissance like never before.
I wasn’t told what her story was by the people who introduced us and neither did she. Instead, Angelique shared a link from a Facebook post that went up on her Dance Studio page earlier this year. I was floored to put it mildly.
An inspirational story of absolute resilience if there ever was one. The epitome of why the campaign was launched to begin with.
This trained dancer (Kathak, Bollywood and street dance), teacher, performer and choreographer is also a qualified fitness instructor (ETM and Zumba). Dance is her passion. She teaches all age groups from kids to older adults and also promotes fitness through dance at D-Style Dance.
How I found my strength in the midst of Cancer.
It was the 11th of December 2019 when we went to the doctor’s clinic at the hospital to get my test results. It was a rainy grey day. I had found a lump under my armpit in October and after several tests, I was called in for the results.
We waited anxiously outside the office till we were summoned. We took a seat. The doctor looked serious. I can’t remember if he greeted me or not but what came next I wasn’t prepared for in my wildest dreams. “Sorry to inform you but it is cancer.” “We didn’t expect it but tests confirm it is early-stage breast cancer”.
I remember being in a daze and numb. My husband was shocked and upset but I told him it’s ok it’s just a lump. I was shocked but calm as the words hadn’t sunk in yet. We left the hospital like zombies after discussing dates for surgery and procedures with technical terms none of which we took in.. why do doctors think we know this stuff? .. the next few days I spent in a daze of fear, anxiety, and shock. How could this happen to me?
The brewing storm
The years before the diagnosis was the perfect brewing storm. I run a dance and fitness business, am a university lecturer, and a mum to two wonderful boys now in their teens. My life was busy with school runs, managing multiple jobs, and a business with all its marketing and administration needs, running my classes, and ensuring my home was in order. I was running around like a headless chicken. But I thought I was healthy. I was a fitness instructor and ate right and even helped others get healthy so I was fine right?
So, emotionally and mentally I was exhausted. I didn’t have time to relax my mind or body. I didn’t sleep enough, there was always more to do and new issues to deal with. Plus, I had been experiencing terrible hormonal imbalances for the two years before that and no matter how much I told my doctor, I was told it was natural for women. I knew this was not natural but what can you say?
I reached out to an alternative therapist to help me but it was too late. My hormones were out of sync and my chronic stress levels made it worse, which in turn affected my stress again. It was a losing battle but I just soldered on burning the candle from all ends, I should have known better.. but when you are in the middle of a brewing storm you just keep getting pulled further in..
The turmoil inside me was getting stronger and stronger, add that to a genetic predisposition to cancer, the hormone imbalance and chronic stress and you have the perfect storm.
The eye of the storm
Back to the present, I was whirling around in the eye of the storm, lost, confused, scared, and anxious. I was so scared I couldn’t be left alone for the first three days after my diagnosis. I begged my GP the next morning for anxiety medicines to help me cope. I felt trapped in this body and this situation and this didn’t feel like my life.
I kept hoping I would wake up from this nightmare. I had to find my strength and deal with this if nothing else, for the sake of my children. I had to tell them soon. But first I had to come to terms with it myself. I had to find my way out of this storm. This was the hardest challenge of my life it was a massive storm to calm.
I had my wonderful husband and kids, parents, sisters, and good friends who stood by me every single day. I had to call on God to get me through this, to help me find my centre. I started praying, doing breathing exercises, meditation, and visualizations. I had to dig deep and find my strength to remain calm through it all. It felt like a never-ending storm. I had to find a way to keep my head above water.
There were a ton of appointments, tests, scans, and even the dreaded MRI which I’d dreaded all my life but that day I conquered it. However there was not much relief as the next stage, the next news was always around the corner, and each stage, each test was harder than the last and revealed a little more of the journey. My cancer was very strongly hormonal we discovered.. no surprise there, with what I had been experiencing before.
How I wish the doctors had picked up on it earlier.
Each stage was a mini storm that I could write a chapter on. I had every side effect described in the post-operation booklet and many more for the radiotherapy and the hormone treatment too. So the eye of the storm just kept turning but I just kept dealing with one wave, one day, one issue at a time with prayer, faith and my family’s support.
God came through for me and helped me calm my storms and gave me the strength of mind to deal with it all. I vowed to look after myself in body and mind from now on. Health is too precious of a thing to take for granted. No more compromises and no more self-neglect. I was last in line and I had to put myself first in line now. I had to change many things to move forward
The calm after the storm
Finally, things were getting better not fully healed not over the side effects, but better. Then Covid hits us and we are all forced to be home. For me, this C was nothing when I had dealt with the big C for the last 3 months! I was grateful my operations were done and that I could still have my radiotherapy during this time.
When I saw people worried and anxious with Covid all around me I knew I had to help them find their strength and calm, like I had found mine earlier. I had conquered my fears and could help others now.
I danced my way out of my pain and fears
Two weeks after my first operation I was back in my classes and even did a show! No I’m not crazy, I was left without a choice and wow am I proud I managed it. I paused a bit for my second operation and jumped back into teaching again although this time from home during the lockdown.
I kept my dance family going with virtual classes. I even choreographed my class dances while distracting myself at my radiotherapy sessions!
My girls say I got them through the lockdown but they gave me a reason to get up and dance week after week. I forgot my pain and danced together with them motivated by their smiling faces. My doctors were amazed at how quickly I was healing due to my healthy and active lifestyle. Dance once again was my medicine.
Today as I continue to heal and grow in strength and face a new future, I am so grateful. I am grateful for a second chance at life, which I will not waste. I’m blessed to have family, sisters, and friends who stood by me, day after day during my darkest and most challenging days. Those who left, don’t matter as they made me stronger and opened my eyes.
I am going to focus on the good and surround myself with love and positivity. I will focus on me and my healing and keep myself strong in mind and body with God’s grace. In gratitude, I will use my experiences and blessings to give back and help others who might be lost in their own storms. I had no one to call on that had been in my situation in my early days so I hope I can be there for someone who needs reassurance.
Finally, the storm is clearing I can see a glimmer of sunshine ahead. It’s been a life-changing year for me and I take these lessons with me into the future. Life will never the same again but it is already better.
Two years on from when I first found the lump, I’m so grateful for my life and the lessons learnt. It was a hard two years with so much to deal with from appointments, tests, procedures, treatments, side effects and all the stress that it brings. I’m grateful for my family and friends that stood by me, especially my husband who was by my side through every appointment and hardship, I couldn’t have made it without his help and my precious sons who have been there for me and made me so proud during my hardest year.
I want to remind everyone to check themselves regularly as early detection saves lives. And don’t take your life for granted. Look after yourself in body and mind; exercise, eat right and make it your goal to be happy and peaceful every day. Forget the small stuff, distance yourself from negativity and focus on your life and those who really matter. Make the most of this beautiful life.
And as they say, “when you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.” (Haruki Murakam)