Breast cancer survivors dance for their life

By: Tiffany Esshaki | Birmingham - Bloomfield Eagle | Published May 24, 2013

BLOOMFIELD HILLS  —  For millions of breast cancer survivors, the fight for life goes on long after the disease has been defeated. Many women can have a hard time finding their “rhythm” again.

That’s why local nonprofit The Pink Fund is teaming up with Fred Astaire Dance Studio in Bloomfield Hills to offer special ballroom dancing lessons for breast cancer survivors.

According to Molly MacDonald, founder of The Pink Fund, the classes are just one more way the group is working to help women find themselves after the emotional journey of cancer treatment.

“Everything we do from a nonprofit prospective is designed to not only raise money, but improve survivorship outcomes,” said MacDonald.

She knows firsthand how hard it can be to try to build a normal life after treating the deadly disease. Since her breast cancer diagnosis in 2005, she’s worked to help other women fight their own battles against breast cancer through The Pink Fund. The group raises money to help breast cancer patients with medical and living expenses that might be beyond their means during treatment.

But cancer treatment, she said, is just the beginning of overcoming the disease. The effects of breast cancer can linger for years.

“Many women have body image issues because they’ve lost one or both breasts. Or they’re thrust into menopause really quickly,” said MacDonald, noting that the loss of intimacy with their partner is common for women who’ve survived breast cancer. “We thought (dancing) on a lot of levels was the perfect opportunity to help women and their partners reclaim some of their intimacy by allowing them to go out with their partner, move and have fun.”

The four-class dance courses, aptly named Dancing with the Survivors, will take students through four easy-to-learn dance styles: the rumba, the foxtrot, the waltz and the hustle. According to Evan Mountain, who co-owns Fred Astaire Dance Studio with his wife, Lada, the idea isn’t to make students into all-star dancers, but rather to show them how dance can be an escape from their everyday worries.

“It’s not really about learning how to dance. We’re building a little community for the survivors and the joy they can get out of dancing,” he said. “We want to take them away from the emotional pressures they have. We find that when people are dancing, they’re not thinking about health issues.”

Each class session will consist of 32 survivors, who are welcome to join in with or without a partner. Courses will be held throughout the summer, culminating in a gala event Sept. 26 at the Art Van Furniture store in Warren, where select dancers will perform for guests. If the pilot program for Dancing with the Survivors goes well, Mountain hopes to expand it to each of his more-than 150 studios across the country.

“We’re going to contribute a portion of the money charged for these lessons directly to The Pink Fund. If the classes fill up, that means we could donate $1,000 a month,” said Mountain. “If I can do something good with our studio and help someone feel good, that’s fine by me.”

“The whole intention is to give survivors a good time,” said MacDonald, noting that dancing has been proven to boost endorphins in the brain, effectively helping the immune system to fight off cancer cells. “It’s all about inspiring a survivor to create their new normal, and dancing touches on so many important points of recovery.”

The next course of Dancing with the Survivors starts June 6 at the Fred Astaire Dance Studio Bloomfield Hills location. Courses are $48 per person, and are held in four-week sessions, 6:30-7:45 p.m. Thursdays.  For more information, contact the studio at (248) 454-1715. To learn more about The Pink Fund, visit www.thep

Fred Astaire Dance Studio is located at 2172 Franklin Road in Bloomfield Hills.