Zumba helps Ala. woman through cancer treatments

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Heather Holladay refused to let breast cancer take away what she loved — especially her Zumba class.

For four days a week, the 43-year-old taught Zumba classes at the East YMCA in Montgomery when in September 2012 she was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer. Even then, she never let it enter her mind that she couldn’t continue instructing.

“My doctor probably thought I was nuts,” she said. “My main concern was that I wouldn’t be able to continue what I was doing. I didn’t feel sick. After talking to my oncologist, he said if I could physically continue, then to please continue. I kept going as much as I possibly could.”

It is what Holladay said kept her as healthy as possible, and mentally focused. The only classes she missed were the days following Neulasta shots, which are given as a way to reduce the risk of infection in patients receiving strong chemotherapy. The chemo decreases the number of infection-fighting white blood cells.

“They were on every other Saturday,” Holladay said of the shots. “The chemotherapy did not knock me down, but the shots did all day on Saturdays. It made me physically tired.”

Treated at the Cancer Treatment Centers of America in Newnan, Ga. — a medical center Holladay chose because of its well-rounded approach to a patient’s entire well-being — Holladay said she wanted to be cared for in a way that would allow her to remain as active as possible. She knew she couldn’t increase the amount of activity she had been involved in, but maintaining it at the same level was desired.

During treatment, Holladay said every morning she took 19 pills, including supplements for energy, and others that helped with her joints, strengthening her heart and some that helped ward off germs.

“There was no physical pain,” she said of her exercise routine. “After class, I noticed I would be out of breath a little bit more. During chemo, it was a lot more because the chemo drugs were very taxing on the heart and lungs.”

But she didn’t want to stop and only recently has decreased the number of Zumba classes she teaches to only one day (Saturday) so she can focus on finishing her master’s degree through an online Penn State program. Her schedule will ramp up again in January, as she has been hired as an adjunct professor at Faulkner University, teaching Zumba classes to students studying sports management and physical education.

“At that point, I did not want to stop because I didn’t want cancer interrupting my life,” she said of when she was diagnosed. “I wasn’t going to give up. No way. Whether nobody showed up to class, or one person, it didn’t matter to me. It was more an attitude in me. I was determined. I was not stopping. I was determined this was not going to be the end.”

Exercising through treatment helped keep Holladay’s energy high and her attitude and focus where it needed to be.

“You’re talking about your endorphins, your oxygen flow,” she said. “It really was a refocus. When I first found out … I thought life was done. It was a matter of … I’m going to have to quit everything. Why does my life have to stop?

“I was told to not stop because mentally … it keeps you focused.”


Information from: Montgomery Advertiser, http://www.montgomeryadvertiser.com

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