Cancer patients find healing power in dance

GLENDALE, Calif. Thelma Salaya, 50, started taking dance classes shortly after three surgeries to remove 19 cancerous lymph nodes.

"It is a breast cancer and I am doing four cycles of chemo," said Salaya.

And she's high stepping her way through treatment at the Glendale Adventist Therapy and Wellness Center.

"It keeps me active which is really necessary for cancer survivors," said Salaya. "We need to be active. We need to be exercising and pumping oxygen."

Julie Narinian was diagnosed with a brain tumor two years ago.

"We have a beautiful teacher," said Narinian. "She is so good at dancing. She gets crazy and we get crazy."

Dance instructor Arlene Vidor says the joy she feels from her students is healing.

"Dance is probably of all the creative arts, it is the most primal," said Vidor. "You just have your body. It's just you, your physical being and your mind."

The point of this class is not just to rebuild strength, range of motion and muscle mass. This class is also for patients to regain inspiration, to be able to take an active role in their recovery and treatment.

And dance helps these patients form deep friendships. Studies show support can heal the mind and spirit in ways modern medicine can't.

"These are survivor friends. They are inspiring. They can understand me more because we are in the same boat," said Salaya.

And the friendships last through thick and thin. When classmates aren't well enough to dance, they come in anyway just to watch and offer support. The free dance sessions are offered through Glendale Adventist Medical Center. The center also offers yoga and fitness classes.

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