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Dance therapy boosts mood, quickens recovery

September 24, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
When actress Valerie Harper announced she had terminal brain cancer, her fans were stunned. Even more people were surprised when she said she would compete on "Dancing With The Stars." Harper's courageous story is inspiring many patients to take to the dance floor.

When Harper made her "Dancing With The Stars" debut, Carol Williams of Pacific Palisades was watching every step.

She's really courageous to be able to do that," said Williams.

Williams also loves ballroom dancing. And two years ago, she says her weekly lessons helped her bounce back from a brain tumor. It started with mood changes then problems with speech and balance.

"I fell, I hit my head and I couldn't get up. I had really a hard time balancing to get up," said Williams.

Carol was diagnosed with an extremely large meningioma, a common brain tumor, but it was the size of an egg. It grew to the point where it was affecting her memory, her mood, her personality and her motor skills.

"I felt like I was 90. I felt really, really old," she said.

The tumor had been slowly growing in her brain for more than a decade.

"They sit there for a long time, cause no problems until they become a critical mass and the brain starts to malfunction and then it becomes very apparent that something is wrong," said Dr. Daniel Kelly with St. John's Health Center.

Williams' tumor was non cancerous. Kelly and his colleagues at St. John's Brain Tumor Center performed surgery.

"I went into the hospital feeling 90, and I woke up five hours later feeling 35," Williams said.

Carol's primary goal was to get back to dancing.

"Learning new moves especially and moving to the music with a partner is difficult and challenging," she said.

"I think its absolutely a positive activity that should be done if one is able," said Dr. Kelly.

Seeing Valerie Harper on the show reminds Carol healing can happen one step at a time.

"Dancing is fun," said Williams. "It releases endorphines and you feel really happy after you dance, and that alone enhances your health."

Doctors say dancing therapy can help with a patient's mental outlook as well. It can boost their mood, keep them feeling more positive overall and quicken recovery and recuperation.


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