“Studies have shown that exercising throughout ovarian cancer treatment can better one’s prognosis,” the doctor says, a few days before I begin chemotherapy. “Do you have an exercise routine you enjoy?”
“Yes!” I blurt, thrilled to learn that something I’m already doing might further improve my outcome. “I do crossfit!” My partner, sitting at my side, opens her mouth to say something, but decides not to. After the appointment she asks, “Baby, why did you tell the doctor you do crossfit?”
“What do you mean? I do it constantly.”
She pauses. Then pauses some more. Finally, she says, “Are you thinking about how you do push ups, and a few sit ups, then get bored and spend the rest of the time dancing to that religious song by Justin Bieber?”
“Oh...yeah….That’s not crossfit.”
Friends, the above conversation woke me to several important facts, the most important being this: I, Andrea Gibson, was born, above anything else, TO DANCE. Give me a song with a beat, any song with a beat, and I turn into a tiny gay Elvis, hips making a graceland of whatever so-called graceless place I might be in. At the DMV––I dance. In line for the port-o'potty––I dance. In the elevator on my way to the gynecological surgeon’s office––I dance. And no one, I mean no one, has moves like me.
“You look like you’re destined for a career in air-traffic control,” my friend said, in response to the dance I broke into while cooking dinner in my kitchen a few weeks ago. “I’ve never...seen anything...quite like it.”
The only bad thing about having moves so good they can’t be copied is my deep reverence for choreographed dance routines. I’d give just about anything for two full days in a dance studio with a room of backup dancers capable of mirroring my body’s instinctual magic. But alas, I’ve yet to meet anyone who can thrust their pelvis while simultaneously windmilling their arms as efficiently as I can. (So efficiently glaciers stop melting when they catch wind of the planet-saving moves my limbs are up to.)
There are an uncountable number of moments in my poetry career that I consider a highlight. But the one that never ceases to flutter my heart into a full-out pirouette was a 2017 collaboration with New York City ballet principal dancer Lauren Lovette. Lauren choreographed a dance to several of my poems and we performed the piece live at the Vail Dance Festival on a gorgeous outdoor stage cradled by 12,000 foot mountain peaks. I wasn’t dancing per se, but my movements were choreographed as Lauren and a number of other incredible ballerinas glided across the stage, twirling each word into the air, leaping each line to life.
A few months ago, Lauren wrote to ask me about collaborating again at a new show of hers. It was going be difficult to fit it into my schedule but I would have colored my calendar in red-eyes to make it happen had I not also had an annoying stomach infection I’d been struggling to heal. A few days later, that stomach infection would prove to be a miracle of a messenger as it led me to the doctor’s appointment that led me to the CT scan that led me to be diagnosed with ovarian cancer much sooner than I would have been otherwise.
So thank goodness for that stomach infection. And thank goodness I don’t do crossfit (I looked up what it is, and, no thank you). And thank goodness for this precious life and my to-do list, on which this is at the top: Write a poem for Lauren to choreograph a dance to, and include in it at least one line for which she will have absolutely no choice but to learn and master my unstoppable, plane-landing, planet-healing, glacier-saving, windmill move.
Love, Andrea 🖤
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❤️ And please don't forget, you are the best thing that has ever happened to you.