Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Power Of Dance

Excerpt from (Northern Ohio):

"Dancing helps woman cope with Multiple Sclerosis"

Thursday, March 25, 2010

By Janet Podolak

Denial followed by depression.

Those were her reactions when Jessica Dwyer of Willoughby was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.

"That's really quite common," said neurologist Dr. Mary Rensel, an MS specialist with Cleveland Clinic's Mellen Center for Multiple Sclerosis Treatment and Research. "It often comes at an active time in people's lives, and it's something that doesn't go away."

Multiple sclerosis is a disease in which the immune system attacks the myelin sheaths around the brain and spinal cord, causing a wide variety of symptoms.

It was early in 2007 when Dwyer was diagnosed. She was 27 and had been seeking answers to a series of strange and seemingly unconnected medical issues for more than a year. She was in the so-called prime of her life.

"When I suddenly lost the vision in my right eye, I saw an ophthalmologist, who ordered an MRI to determine the reason for elevated pressure inside my eye," she recalled.

Within weeks she was sitting in front of a neurologist who had ordered a spinal tap, then told her she had multiple sclerosis.

"The next day I left on vacation and put it out of my mind," she said. "It took a full year for comprehension to set in."

Like many people, she knew very little about the MS that was changing her life but learned it's an unpredictable disease of the central nervous system with no known cause or cure. Its symptoms and progression are different for everyone who has it.

She plunged into depression."I hated myself, my life and everything around me," she said.

The depression was affecting her marriage and making everything worse, so she finally sought counseling.

"When I passed the milestone birthday of 30, I finally learned to accept my diagnosis and move on with my life," she said.

She began treatment, and before long her disease was diagnosed as being stable. After that, dancing was a catalyst toward her current happiness. She'd always dreamed of being a dancer, so when she saw an ad for the Fred Astaire Dance Studio in Willoughby, she went to an open house.

"I quickly discovered that I loved it," she said.

That was a great reaction, Rensel said."Anything that raises your mood and gives you exercise is a good thing for those with MS." The Mellen Center is doing a number of clinical studies that have proved the value of exercise, along with medication.

Although it's fun, dancing has not always been easy for Dwyer because her symptoms include fatigue, a loss of balance and numbness in her feet, she said. But she's been taking lessons and spends about five hours a week at the dance studio.

"My dance instructors work to accommodate me," she said. "Dancing keeps me strong and focused. I feel free when I dance."

She speaks often about the power of dance in her life and how it has transformed her attitude and daily life. She continues to experience numbness and a vibrating feeling in her feet and knows that her multiple sclerosis could worsen — or not.

Rensel is an optimist. "Those who get exercise, control their weight, avoid diabetes and watch their cholesterol can expect good results over the long term," she said.

For Dwyer, happiness has come with an improved attitude. "I know if I dwell on it, MS will run me," Dwyer said. "It's now been a year since I've been at the dance studio and I feel like I've taken back control of my life. It's a wonderful workout for the body, and I'm happy."

Find out if the power of dance works for you with a Friday evening visit to the Fred Astaire Dance Studio, 34601 Ridge Road, Willoughby; 440-516-7837.

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