Cha Cha Cha
It has taken me almost 9 months to get up the courage to tell you all about something that I did. Something that was so out of my comfort zone. Something that could have ended not well at all. However, it was something that I felt I needed to do to help raise money for Virtua's cancer program. I agreed (reluctantly at first) to take part in something called "Survivors in Step." Think "Dancing with the Stars." Yes, I wore a ball gown. Yes, I danced with a pro. Yes, I did the salsa. No, I did not fall on my face or butt. No, I did not win (GRRRR), but I will get to all of this.
One year ago, my awesome nurse navigator called. I figured she was calling to check in to see how I was doing. Nope, she wanted to let me know that my name was being thrown around as a possible contestant in a fundraiser, "Survivors in Step." At first, I laughed and told her I'd think about it. When I was approached for an answer, I agreed to do it. I was told to call Arthur Murray Dance Studio and set up an appointment to meet my pro.
Since I was still recovering from my reconstructive surgery, my friend, Linda, drove me to the dance studio. I met my partner, Franddy (not Randy, not Frannie, FRANDDY.) He was adorable and very welcoming. Soon I was going to Arthur Murray Dance Studio 2-3 times per week for dance lessons. Franddy convinced me to do a salsa. He said I was the youngest contestant so I'd be able to keep up with the fast pace of the dance. I spent 3 months practicing! Ballroom dancing is not easy at all. Franddy was extremely patient with me and eventually I did learn the dance. (He was not thrilled that I took a week off to go to Marco Island for Spring Break a week before the event, but I promised to practice extra hard when I got back.)
The ballroom at Arthur Murray can fit 500 people. The tickets to attend the dance event were $50 per person. I reached out to my family & closest friends and asked if they'd like to watch me embarrass myself and raise money for Virtua at the same time. Almost every single person I invited attended! I had the biggest support system of any of the dancers there and for that, I am extremely grateful and proud.
There were 6 contestants- 4 survivors and 2 doctors. There were 5 judges, including Gervase from Survivor. (Braeden was thrilled as he is the biggest Survivor fan!) So....... I did my super fast salsa with Franddy to some song I've never heard before to the best of my ability. I didn't fall or forget any moves. Despite nerves, all of the dancers performed a super dance. It was a very moving night. They called all 6 of us to the floor with our dance partners to announce the first runner-up and the winner. I'm slightly embarrassed to share that I was first runner-up. The winner was this lovely woman named Argean. She was sassy and funny. She deserved to win based on that alone, but her dance was really good too.
After the winner was announced:-( (OK, maybe I am still a little bitter), the DJ had written a song that he sang to the 4 survivors in the middle of the dance floor. Here are the words from the song:
We all came here tonight to honor four cancer survivors. Their stories talk of strength, a trait that's made them so much wiser. They share a common thread, a special place that made them all well- That wondrous saving grace called, "Virtua Hotel." Argean, 2015, found out at work yet she kept goin'. Esther, who was Stage 3, her tumor shrunk, it's just barely showin'. Kristin, who was Stage 2, she made the news on that ABC station. Bob Wright, he breezed right through as Doctor B's patient. Inevitably, their will to live and keep focus on the positive has given each one another chance and has opened the door to learn how to dance. The final report of Love, Care and Support- that's Virtua Hotel. Sometimes through tragedy, ironically, life becomes better. The hope that you receive, that special card, phone call or letter from friends and family, community helped them feel gifted. The Lord spread out his hand and all weights were lifted. Survivors in Step, competing tonight; they've already won one hell of a fight. So, let's celebrate life and family. Thanks to Virtua, they're all cancer free. So, everyone, stand, let's give them a hand- FOUR CANCER SURVIVORS!
The entire night was amazing! All of my supporters made this night so unbelievably special for me. Some were quite angry that I didn't win (K-Scheetz & Sean L) and I love them even more for this. People from the audience who I did not know were also very supportive. A lovely couple from out of town won the Phillies basket in the raffle, complete with Phillies tickets and Phillies gear. They made a big fuss over our family and gave the basket to Braeden! All together, $21,355 was raised for Virtua! It was an emotional night for sure!
The week after the event, I got a package in the mail. It was from RCCA, my oncology group. It was a frame, signed by everyone in the office and an award- "Certificate of Awesomeness proudly presented to Kristin Hurley in recognition of Superior Dancing at Survivors in Step," along with a beautiful note and ornament that says "amazing awesome wonderful beautiful dancer." I know I have written about needing closure from chemo. Well, let me just tell you that this package completely gave me that closure!
Bringing Hope Home is a non-profit organization that provides unexpected amazingness to local families with cancer through financial and emotional support. Through their Light of Hope Family Grant, they offer a one-time grant to pay essential household bills for families with cancer. When my medical bills started rolling in, my nurse navigator suggested I apply for a few grants. We were lucky enough to be given grants to pay a few household bills for one month. Besides Bringing Hope Home, Help Now and Stomp the Monster gave us grants to pay 1/3 of one month's mortgage, an electric & gas bill, and our cable bill. Bringing Hope Home has really peaked my interest. Their story is one of love, loyalty, family, & strength. Please visit their website at www.bringinghopehome.org. Besides donations, they hold free fun family events. Braeden and I attended their luncheon and Phillies game last year. Unfortunately, it was a very emotional day for Braeden, as it brought back memories of having a mom with cancer. Bringing Hope Home has also helped my sister, Meg, and I, on our mission to create a nationally-recognized "Chemo Clap-out." They were able to take a survey and give us great suggestions on what to do next in our mission to make closure for chemo a thing for every patient.
To continue with my 15 minutes of fame, Marianne Aleardi from SJ Magazine, reached out to me and invited me to take part in a Cancer Round Table at Capital Grille. It was a wonderful evening filled with men and women who have either been touched by cancer or assist those with cancer. There was a 5 page spread in SJ magazine from the event.
Physically, I am doing well. I am 2 years and 3 months cancer-free. I have early-onset osteoporosis in my upper back. Arimidex, the chemo med that I am on, is known to cause bone issues, so I am not surprised. Weekly, I go to a wonderful chiropractor, Dr. N, to help me control this issue. Last week, I tripped over a pair of Uggs in the garage and broke my ankle and foot. I was twisted around while talking to Brynn and landed hard on the concrete floor. Several people have asked if my bones are not as strong after chemo or from the chemo pill which is why I have my first (2) broken bones??? Great question! I am not sure of the answer, but I have it on list for my next four month check-up with Dr. C.
I have completely finished my reconstruction. I will not go into details, but I chose 3-D nipple tattoos, as opposed to more skin surgery. In order to have this completed, it took two trips to the tattoo artist in my reconstruction doctor's office. The first time I did not take any pain or anxiety meds. BIG MISTAKE! The second time, my friend, Alexis, drove me so that I could take several Ativans which made the second round so much more tolerable. I must say that I'm thoroughly impressed by the finish product!
Finally, because I love you all and want to thank you for your continued support, I will (reluctantly) add the video of my salsa dance below. VIEW AT YOUR OWN RISK!
PS Please say an extra prayer for friends who have been diagnosed or are experiencing a recurrence. Let's storm the heavens with prayers for healing, comfort, love, and hope!!!
My video is live at: https://youtu.be/kDpX0On3LBE