FINDING JOY IN ZUMBA
Posted on October 22 2020
laughter, co-ordination (or lack thereof), a ‘religion’ (sorry darling I can’t see your 1st game of cricket this weekend), a collective group of women (and that one man) of all ages, shapes, sizes, life-experience, religion, socio - economic group who all NEED Zumba. They NEED to know that their brain and body CAN function , they NEED to know that the women (and that one man) will move with them, they NEED to know that it’s ok to make a mistake and to laugh at each other trying to shimmy or shake that ‘booty’.
I heard through the ‘grapevine’ that I would love Zumba. I knew that I would too but when and how could I get there? My 3 young daughters need me, my husband needs me, my parents need me, my siblings need me, my cousins need me, my friends need me , my in laws (both parents and siblings) need me, my nieces and nephews need me, my boss needs me, HIS boss needs me, my staff need me, my school P&C needs me, my bank needs me. I already walk at 7am most days around the local suburb because at that time – at the expense of my own sleep - nobody needs me. I do Pilates late at night when the children are in bed and the washing-up is done, the dishwasher is on, the next meal is prepped, the lunchboxes are packed, the uniforms are washed, the diorama is glued together (barely), the early morning meeting notes are summarised for my boss - for his boss, that Powerpoint presentation is checked and saved and my husband is asleep.
So I do Pilates then. When the laptop is off and the house is asleep.
I still do that But now I know – that I in fact NEED Zumba.
I need the music, the sweat, the outlet, the motion of us all sweeping across the room together, the grapevine, the salsa and the shimmy. Oh the Shimmy. Do I tell the sex-bomb-of-a-teacher at this point that I can’t shimmy. My breasts don’t move. My chest muscles and shoulder joints don’t move well. My arms don’t move like they used to, my brain isn’t co-ordinated as it’s lost so much of it’s memory, my arthritis is aching, my reflection in the mirror doesn’t look like me, my confidence is lost, my heart skips out-of-beat, my soul doesn’t trust my physical body anymore to not trip over, or vomit, or wet my pants (or worse), or to run into my fellow Zumba class member who – mental note - looks so stunning in her new activewear so perfectly co-ordinated.
All this running through my head because the next 8 counts of music are a “shimmy”
The definition of shimmy is when a woman with big enough breasts shakes her torso along with her breasts and shoulders from side to side causing her breasts to shake in erotic motion. The word shimmy was a word most used during the 1920s when shimmying was more popular.
Thanks to my Breast Cancer and the ‘gift’ of reconstructive surgery that means these boobs don’t move with the “shimmy”. Thankfully I laugh to myself - that everything else around these boobs does move! So I DO still shimmy and with joy - because my once toned arms (no longer toned thanks to no estragen to support muscle strength) shake around these stuck-on & nippleless lumps. Yes correct No nipples. Just like Barbie! (not)… actually yes just like Barbie with that bite-mark in her breasts that so many kids seem to do when we were little…..
Breast cancer. Just like my Zumba class hit me (of course) when I didn’t have the time for it. I was 41 with my 3 young daughters and a husband and a family (and all those people previously mentioned people needing me) and I needed my fulltime job because of a large mortgage… And yet there I was sitting in front of an oncologist telling my husband and I that breast cancer is not (despite what so many think) “curable”.
“We will however do our best to keep you alive for as long as possible” she said “We will have to just wait and see how you go”.
WTF!? At this point I became pissed off (hostile according to my husband) as through my life to this point I had followed all the ‘rules’ in that…I ate well, I exercised my entire life, I didn’t ever smoke, do drugs, I loved no more than 2 or 3 glasses of sauvy blanc in a week; I got back into semi-shape after the birth of each of my 3 children.
Why me?! I have of course made mistakes through my life that I regret – was this my punishment? I did not breastfeed my 3rd baby as I had 2 others under 3 years and couldn’t physically cope with it? Was this my ‘punishment’ I did have stress and excessive financial worry & too much of the heavy mental load. Was this my punishment?
So Yes I did decide to go and see the Geneticist– the ‘best in Australia’ - to try and get some answers.
“Nope” the geneticist concluded “the results are in and the likelihood that your breast cancer being genetic is much less than 3% and together with your ‘type’ of Breast cancer we conclude you wouldn’t have the BRCA gene so no…no need for further blood tests”
Mmm so what now ? ‘why me?’ still haunted me as I left the geneticists office and the overwhelming burden of ‘relief’ waves over me that my 3 daughters most likely won’t have the BRCA gene either. And phew! No parking fine - in Surry Hills (of all places). How can my mind produce 2 such thoughts at opposing ends of the ‘worry spectrum’ as I walk back to my car?!
Her words re-play in my head….
“We don’t know what causes it sadly” she states…."we only know that something in your environment, your food, your hormones, your biology has meant you got this”.
Suddenly the word ‘future’ is frightening, dark, a myth.
“Mummy, are you going to die?” Hannah asks me early on in the stage of diagnosis and - as the other 2 kids watch and listen eagerly for the reply with such innocent intent - “I don’t know my darling” (Tearful sobs from all 3).
“OMG you didn’t say no!” she says. (She is 6.5 at this point)…
“I said I would always tell you the truth” I reply “and I don’t know but I do know that I will do everything that the doctors tell me to stay alive for a very long time because I LOVE you so much it hurts (literally). I need to help you to be good people, to learn to swim, to cross the road safely, to ride a bike, to stand up for yourself to those pesky ‘friends’, to talk about periods, and sex, and love and hurt, to drive a car (because dad has no patience), to not take yourself too seriously and to teach you to surround yourself with the things that bring you JOY.
And then there it was the other day - 3 years later…. “Mum is Breast Cancer genetic?” my eldest daughter Olivia asked me. “Yes some types of Breast Cancer ARE genetic “ I replied “but the type that I had is not genetic. I looked into that straight away 3 years ago when was 1st diagnosed because I wanted answers and I was worried for you girls.” Tears welled up in her eyes. “Are you ok my darling”, I asked “Oh mumma” she sobbed and hugged me (which is rare) “I can’t believe when you were so scared for yourself that you were only thinking about us girls.”
“Of course my darling that’s what we mums do!”
And there it was. A moment, an understanding at 11 years of age. A compassion, a self-awareness so great that so many humans don’t ever possess, an enlightenment from an 11 year old child. A moment so precious. That I was alive to see and to be a part of with her. My eldest beauty. And then she went back to join the debate argument with her 2 younger sisters about how many people could fit in a Rebel Store!
You can see why I need Zumba.
We ALL need October too as it has become Breast Cancer Awareness Month and for the reminder that… This disease is NOT curable.
It is however, (and thanks to research and clever Marketing in October to remind people to please donate to research) treatable. It is a lifelong ‘chronic’ illness so for most diagnosed with it, it is no longer the death sentence it once was. In saying this though please also be aware for the precious humans going through Breast Cancer who are diagnosed with some types and stages that it is difficult to treat Breast Cancer. So For all readers – be aware of this - don’t ever say ‘you’ll be ok, you’ll beat this’ to anyone with any type of cancer because the reality is - no one ever really knows.
For me it became a chance to finally STOP. (sort of I still had to be a mum, a wife, a sibling, an inlaw, a friend, an employee, a mortgagee) but it forced me to STOP and to say YES to that Zumba class. To move with the music for an hour and to try and STOP each day and to find those moments of JOI. This has become the only way to forget the daily pain, the physical and mental struggle, the gripping fear of recurrence that lingers - always. Like the eclectic mix of us who are brought together by a Zumba class each week, there are thousands brought together today sadly by Breast Cancer. It’s not going away so we have to keep fighting it. We have to be the advocates of our own health. We women in particular seem to have the intrinsic ability to know when something doesn’t feel quite right. We have to be ok with not being ok because no one is perfect. We have to do our best to keep well, to really ask our friends - have you checked your boobs or under your arm or asked for a mammogram? To remind our friends to stay as well as possible with an Active lifestyle because at that moment (that I hope never comes for you) when they tell you that that they will be poisoning every cell in your body with chemotherapy and lifelong daily tablets…. The dedication to an active lifestyle for the 41 years prior to diagnosis… means that you have given your organs the best chance possible to ‘handle’ the poison. The poison will kill the cancer – for now – and the ongoing dedication to research will mean medical science can discover new ways to kill the cancer in the future. Hopefully for good.
October Breast Cancer Awareness month has once again come and gone. Our health - both physical and mental - will come and go.
So Just keep moving for every month of the year.
Keep finding ways to prioritise You. Keep Jumping on In. Keep finding JOY and the days that you can’t, that that’s ok too. We will still start the Zumba class anyway and we will love and laugh with you - however you turn up. The fear of not knowing the next Zumba move doesn’t matter. We will laugh through it anyway, and make mistakes and new friends both young and old. And when we finish we will know that for that 1 hour - for our body’s – for our minds – for our ‘future – for our family’ – we tried our best. Shimmy or no shimmy.