Dance has always found its way into my life. It followed me to, of all places, the halls of MD Anderson Cancer Center. After my dad was diagnosed with Stage IV melanoma, my family rallied around him in Houston as he refused to admit defeat. To keep in shape and stay alert, my dad danced up and down the halls with me, chemo pole in tow. We danced around, we kick-ball-changed. At night, long after he had fallen asleep, my mom and I danced through the halls of the hospital. We got lost in the routines, our minds free to wander from the terrible situation that had become our lives when treatment after treatment yielded little results.
But our biggest reprieve was Dancing With The Stars. Since my father could not leave his floor, we all circled around the tiny television in his hospital room to watch the show. My grandmother, a dance teacher for 50 years, would call to check on us. Dancing With The Stars gave us a common language. It calmed the worries. It settled racing hearts. It quelled the sadness, even if just for a few hours.
My dad insisted I drive them eight hours to buy puppies for my mom so she wouldn’t feel so alone. It wasn’t hard to come up with names for the two new brothers in our family: Maks and Val.
Since then, my grandmother passed away. Then one year and a few hours later, my father lost his battle to cancer. But we’ve continued to watch Dancing With The Stars. For those brief moments, it gave my mom and me a break from the sadness—a chance to connect with those who were no longer with us.
Holidays have been brutal. These past few years, I’ve learned to stop saying out loud, “It can’t get worse than this” – because it can. Yet, there’s one thing that’s always there — the cha-cha with Val Chmerkovskiy. To cheer up my mom, I’ve made surprise trips from New York City to drive her all over Texas to see Dancing With The Stars Live.
And so, I present the moment I got picked out of the audience at Dancing With The Stars Live. Three years after giving up performing to take care of my family, it was my first time back on stage. It was the first time I danced since my dad passed away. The time I got paired with my family’s favorite dancer (okay I won’t lie… my favorite dancer, too). The time I started to hope again—to believe again.
Dancing with the Stars Live
Jaselyn Blanchard and Val Chmerkovskiy
Houston, TX December 2015