Chiari Malformation, Writer's Blog

Help to Share the Friday Feeling

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I sent my husband a Whats App message during the morning, mentioning I felt tired and needed a walk in the sunshine. He offered to meet me for a coffee at lunchtime and duly arrived, meeting me with bare arms in the warmth of early Spring sunshine.

We wandered to the Cathedral Refectory, conveniently located a short distance away, both it and my place of work being located in the grounds of Norwich Cathedral. We enjoyed a drink and each chose a slice of home-baked cake which we hungrily devoured. Feeling stifled, I suggested a walk in the Cathedral Close. The infinite blue sky offered a vibrant backdrop for the cathedral, resplendent in its majesty. We are humbled to be afforded the enjoyment of witnessing such beauty during our midday break.

I was reminded of a story one of my friends from dancing had drawn my attention to while we were at Ceroc last night. The local news yesterday evening had shared the story of a young lady who is very sick and needs help to raise over £300,000 just to give her the chance of surgery to relieve and, indeed, save her. One of the conditions she is seeking help with, is a condition my own son suffered with and had subsequent surgery for, just four years ago. The condition is known as Chiari Malformation which is neurological disorder whereby the lower part of the brain is pushed down from the skull and interferes with the spinal cord. In short, it gets in the way of fluids needing to make their way past and the pressure on the base of the brain results in a number of painful and debilitating neurological problems.

The surgery required is called decompression and is normally available, as it was to my own son, on the NHS in hospitals such as Addenbrookes. The lady, Sarah Jackson, has other related conditions which prevent even the experts in the UK from attempting the surgeries she requires and she has to see one of the top specialists in the world who is based in America. He can operate and give her the best chance of a normal life but she needs to raise around £300,000 for that and the other costs such as flights, scans, etc. This all has to be raised within two months which will not be easy.

I found her ‘gofundme’ page online and on Facebook and researched her story further. If only I could win the lottery – this lady would be high on my list of those I would wish to help. So far, just over £14,000 of the £300,000 has been raised and I felt I would dedicate today’s blog post to sharing her cause in the hope that those who have a few spare pounds could click on the link and donate whatever they can.

If you can help by donating or even if you could just share this blog post or the relevant links below, you could just be helping to give this young lady her life back. A life she cannot remember as normal. Surly she deserves the chance to walk out at midday and see similar sights to those I have had the privilege of seeing today?

Sarah’s ‘Go Fund Me’ page can be found here:  https://www.gofundme.com/slsnbs

Sarah’s Twitter page can be found here: https://twitter.com/LifeForSarah

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Daily Life, Poem, Writer's Blog

Will this be your last?

As the new day arrives make good use of your eyes, 

Notice the trees standing tall ‘gainst the skies, 

Take note of the sound of the spoon in your tea, 

Enjoy, now, your porridge, so smooth and creamy. 

*** 

Jump at the prickling hot water jet streams, 

As they make your skin tingle forgetting your dreams, 

Savour the roughness of fresh, laundered towels, 

Laugh at the drain as it gurgles and growls. 

 ***

Note how the pins click as the lock falls in place, 

Securing your world and protecting your space, 

Hear the grumble of pistons as your ride starts to purr, 

Creaking leather as you move, your handbag to transfer. 

***

Be sure to listen when a friend needs to moan, 

They’ve something to tell you, could be more than a drone, 

It could be by listening, you will improve their well-being, 

Five minutes of talking, from their problems they’re fleeing. 

*** 

Be sure to be kind, to even those who are not, 

It may not be much, but to some means a lot, 

Watch as moods change as sunlight bathes the room. 

Follow the shadows as they’re chased from the gloom. 

 ***

Laugh at the radio, lame jokes from work friends, 

Share in the joy and the fun never ends, 

Make others happy, just once in a while, 

Not always easy, but share often your smile. 

***

Remember, for many, life is far from easy, 

It’s a grind at its best, far from bright and breezy, 

Try hard not to dwell on the pains of your past, 

Make today count as this could be your last. 

***

Writer's Blog

Hospital Birthday

Clatter of mugs as the trolley comes by,

Coffee or tea as you open your eyes,

Buzzers and bleeps sound, as help is much sought,

Breakfast is served and drugs and pills brought.

***

Head to the bathroom to freshen your face,

No matter who’s first, it isn’t a race,

Just one small task, leaves your energy sapped,

Your lungs, badly damaged, in your body are trapped.

***

Back on your bed, as you rest for a while,

Catching your breath, with a taste left so vile,

Coughing so hard, your head feels it will split,

Not knowing how much longer you can deal with it.

***

Drugs they are trying to help relieve you,

To slow down this nightmare that you’re living through,

Surgery offered, they’ll try one more time,

At least they’re still trying, this mountain you’ll climb.

***

So, this special day that you’re now going through,

Discomfort and fear may leave you feeling blue,

When gifts, cards and balloons are bedecking your bed,

All that remains, all that needs so be said…

***

Is that this place is wrong, its not where you should be,

No way to celebrate your longevity,

But with loved ones who drop in to visit with you,

To wish, in a strange way, Happy Birthday To You

Xxx

Bronchiecstasis, Daily Life, Lung condition, Norfolk and Norwich Hospital, Writer's Blog

Thankful for another year?

As we begin a day of low-level celebration for my mum’s 76th birthday, so begins a time of reflection.

A little over two years ago, and following a particularly traumatic hospital stay, mum was told, in no uncertain terms, there was little more that could be done to relieve her of the constant hemopsysis (coughing up large amounts of blood from her lungs) and persistent and painful coughing and breathlessness. A doctor came to the bedside and explained there would be no more Bronchial Arterial Embolisations (BAEs) and the best outcome she could hope for was for them to make her comfortable.

Two years, many antibiotics and approximately ten further BAEs later, the rest of the Respiratory Team have thankfully over-ruled the one who gave up on her and she is, today, celebrating (albeit very loosely speaking) her birthday on Earsham Ward of the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital.

It has not been the best two years of her life and ‘life’ is not the best word to describe what has become an existence, but she is still with us and, at times, driving us mad to the point of walking away.

But that’s my mum. She is quite openly judgemental and easily irritated and expects the world to run in the same regimented fashion as her own life, with much displeasure and disappointment on display should, as is most often, that not be the case.

Mum has always expected one hundred percent punctuality and woe betide you should you be late. She will stare pointedly at the clock if you arrive a second later than arranged. Unless you are willing to acknowledge your tardiness, the conversation will not flow until the error of your timing has been pointed out. I know this is where my phobia (oh yes) of being late has stemmed from. I arrive unfashionably early for everything, my fear of beration for being late so deep-seated that I would rather not arrive at all than enter to find a room filled with people who have been willing to arrive at least on time. I can’t even be late for a Sunday morning breakfast date with my own daughter. I would rather, to the amusement of all concerned, arrive and sit in the car park for ten (ok, often more) minutes than suffer the anguish of making them wait for me. I know why I am like it, but I have no way of changing it. It’s simply not worth the panic.

So, as you can likely imagine, if the nurses are late bringing my mum her medication, or the doctors don’t see her right on time, her mood plummets and we have to bear the brunt of her gloom. Being in an NHS hospital, where staffing is tight and wards are full to overflowing, you can imagine it’s not easy to be punctual and if the nurses are chatting at their desk, which unfortunately for them is right outside my mum’s room, she will stare at them pointedly until she gets the attention- her voice clipped and irritated – and they will be blissfully unaware of their crime, if there even was one.

Mum’s condition, Bronchiecstasis, has left her permanently breathless, coughing violently at the slightest movement resulting in further breathlessness and, at the first sign of infection, which is more often than not, coughing up blood. Imagine waking up to a metallic taste in the morning, gingerly sitting forwards and, before you have even taken a step, you open your mouth and without even a cough, a large amount of blood spews forth. At times, there has been up to 400ml of blood which is more than the volume of a can of your favourite fizzy drink. According to the NHS guidelines, anything more than 100ml of blood in a 24-hour period is considered a massive hemoptysis and a medical emergency. Mum has the good sense to know that normal, for her, is anything over 250ml because if she didn’t change the criteria, she would be calling for an ambulance most days. It’s terrifying.

As she celebrates her 76th birthday on Earsham Ward and into her second week of this stay, the fifth in the past six weeks, she is waiting to find out if the radiologists are prepared to carry out one more BAE and attempt to reach the bleeding vessels they have, in the past, been unable to access. If they agree, she may spend many hours lying flat on her back with a tube in her groin through which the necessary equipment is passed and finds its way up into her severely damaged lungs, to cleverly seal the bleeding areas. At times, she has spent over six hours having the procedure, throughout which she must remain awake and cough as little as possible, which is ironic because of the condition being treated.

The rollercoaster of damaged lungs, built up mucous, swelling vessels, infected, splitting and, thus, bleeding vessels is ongoing and there is no cure as she is far too frail to undergo the removal of the most damaged part of the lung. Removing the damage would, at the very least, alleviate the bleeding, resulting in less coughing and breathlessness but her body won’t take it, so the team struggles on.

I don’t want her to spend her birthday, when we are close to it possibly being her last one on this earth, lying on a table undergoing an unpleasant procedure, but if it gives us a few more months with her, then so be it.

I wonder if I am selfish for hoping for more time with her, when her life has become a mere existence and every day is a constant struggle. But the alternative is one neither of us wishes to face right now and, selfish or not, we take one day at a time and hope she is with us for the next.

Dancing, Writer's Blog

Lava – Ceroc Fusion’s hot new freestyle

It’s always a gamble to try something new, but unless something new is offered, nobody will ever know if taking a chance is going to pay off. Ceroc Fusion have been running themed freestyles for many years now, often focusing on older eras such as 60’s vs 70’s or 80’s vs 90’s and Motown and film-themed nights, but there has not yet been a freestyle catering for those who enjoy music from the most recent decade. That is, not until the idea of Lava was born.

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Making the most of the most recent, active, addition to Ceroc Fusion’s venue list, Acle Recreation Hall was booked and the planning of the newest freestyle theme began. Steve was the DJ for this event and his playlist combining a mix of funky and upbeat to smooth and flowing tunes of the most recent era was soon in full flow.

Anna made plans for a buffet table and, with the kitchen facilities perfect for such an event, also made provision for teas and coffees to be available. The event followed a closed staff workshop so there were plenty of Ceroc Fusion staff on hand to assist with the setting out of chairs and tables before the freestyle began.

Dancers started to arrive before the advertised start time of four o clock, eager to check out this new event, and seats were soon filling up, additional chairs squeezed in to allow dancers a resting spot when needed. The first hour soon passed and it was time to brew teas and coffees and prepare the buffet table, which became full to bursting with savoury treats including a variety of sandwiches, crisps, cheese straws and sausage rolls to name a few, with mini muffins and brownies, Victoria sponge cakes and chocolate fingers among the sweet treats at the other end of the generous table.

With so many buffet choices on offer, it was great to see so many people enjoying Steve’s top tunes, there certainly being an excess of calories to burn off after indulging in the gorgeous refreshments.

Despite the extensive buffet, the floor remained continuously full throughout the three hour event, the funky tunes were clearly a great success. I was pleased to have the opportunity to dance with some partners I have never had the pleasure of dancing with before, even though I was helping with the refreshments and buffet.

Steve’s on-point playlist consisted of possibly the most supreme mix of explosively funky and silky smooth tunes from recent years and dancers enjoyed the diversity and mixture of fast tempo flowing seamlessly into smoother, more soulful tunes.

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The event finished at seven, after three hours of solid dancing for many, with lots of dancers taking the time to compliment Steve for his awesome music and Anna for her well-received buffet and refreshments. This gamble most certainly paid off, with more than seventy dancers leaving the venue on a Sunday evening with smiles, many asking if Ceroc Fusion would be running a similar event in the future. I am confident they will take a chance on another later in the year!

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Credit to Dennis Briggs photography for the buffet pictures and the picture of me dancing with Clive at the end of the evening.

Daily Life, Writer's Blog

Rock Bottom

Her life had never been easy but, then, who’s was? Recently, though, it felt as though it was becoming increasingly difficult when, at fifty, it should have been starting to settle down a little.

Throughout her childhood she had been surrounded by school friends and much time was spent playing on the streets and at parks with the local kids. Sunday trips to visit older family  members entailed getting dressed up in pretty dresses and woolly tights and eating homemade lemon cake by a roaring fire while the adults put the world to rights. Christmases and birthdays had always been filled with treats, gifts piled high and she had enjoyed birthday parties and days out the same as any other child of the seventies. In short, she’d had a normal and fun childhood.

High school brought its own problems to the party with the beginning of four years of name-calling and what was considered back then to be minor bullying. Her confidence was knocked for six and she retreated into an invisible protective shell, with an externally visible loud and outspoken attitude among her close friends.

As a teenager she ran into the usual angst with boys and relationships, but it passed by normally with no more ups and downs than any other teenager. Her relationship with her parents was fraught with arguments and moods, the relationship with her mother a particularly contentious one. Often, minor disputes led to days of non-communication between the two of them after tempers had boiled over. The lock-down from the bullying had left her unable to put into words how she was feeling, and she struggled to communicate with her mum at times of high emotion. During one such episode, she took the first of many overdoses, resulting in being rushed into hospital to have her stomach pumped. An unpleasant experience indeed.

More ups and downs and failed relationships later, she met and married the man she thought was her soulmate. Children soon followed and, although he spent a lot of the time at the pub, life chugged along and was mostly ok. Until the drinking at the pub started to spill over into her husband’s home life. He had been a heavy drinker when they first met but, despite having a good job and a loving family, his drinking habits worsened over the years until he was coming home every evening with cans of strong lager, drinking them all and then acting bizarrely and often violently.

From finding him peeing in the kid’s wardrobes and discovering similar puddles on the kitchen floor in the morning to, worse still, punching her and locking her in the cupboard under the stairs, especially if she suggested he might have drunk too much, the drinking was fast becoming quite scary. She knew the problem was out of control when he punched her full in the stomach when she was  carrying their twin babies.

Life became unbelievably unbearable and with the children growing fast, she was fearful for their safety. Working at weekends she often returned to find them playing in the garden with the back gate unlocked and him sprawled comatose on the sofa surrounded by empty cans. She feared for their safety and, indeed, her own, the violence increasing week by week. She tried talking to his mother, herself a semi-recovered alcoholic but was pushed away and told she was fussing over nothing. He was so pleasant and friendly around others that even her closest friends would not believe her so, after a few failed attempts at cries for help, she gave up trying.

Eventually, after a particularly nasty argument, she knew she could take no more and she grabbed what she could, packed the car up and left with their young children.

The divorce became messy but for the wrong reasons. He wasn’t bothered about custody or arranging to see his children, he was more concerned about material things, insisting he get custody of the new Dyson vacuum cleaner, for example. If it wasn’t so sad it would have truly been laughable.

The split had left her with debts totaling over £15,000 because somehow, even though her husband had been in a good job as a Financial Adviser, he had not been meeting targets, resulting in debts to his company while, all the while, he had been spending on lavish items for his top of the range sound system, for example. Unbeknownst to her, and in her young naivety she had allowed him to control their finances, they had missed payments on their mortgage and had all kinds of money troubles, all of which had to be addressed when the house eventually sold, leaving a huge deficit. He never had time for the children and didn’t pay one penny towards their upkeep, wonderful as the newly-instated Child Support Agency were in the nineties.

Life moved on and with two more failed relationships, including one with a woman, she eventually met and married the man who turned out to be her true soulmate. They had to move into rented accommodation because money was tight and with five teenage children between them they knew the purse strings would need firm control. Debts from her former marriage were spiralling and she eventually had to declare herself bankrupt. A dreadfully worrying time, coming from a family who only borrowed on mortgages and saved hard for every other purchase they had ever made.

Slowly, over the years that followed, the children left school and started on the path to college and employment and life plodded along, with a semblance of normality on the horizon.

One of the children was starting to go off the rails, experimenting with drugs and hanging out with the wrong crowd. Her husband and she spent hours trying to talk sense into him, refusing to drive him anywhere and helping him to find work when he suddenly quit college. However she and her husband tried, they could not get him to see sense and he continued to argue, take drugs and a spiral of messing up jobs had begun.

Eventually, she could take no more and, after a huge argument, her son packed his bags and left home. This closely followed the sad loss of her father, who died very soon after discovering he was riddled with cancer and her son made wild claims on social media, accusing her publicly of stealing his Grandad’s savings while he was on his deathbed. This was far from the truth when, in fact, the money had been a loan from her parents to again help with the debts from their former life which she had (and eventually did) fully intended to pay back, not knowing at the time her father was so ill.

Life took a very downward turn and much nastiness and accusation ensued, resulting in some dark years. Somehow, she and the rest of the family coped and managed to remain strong. The adage ‘life goes on’ took precedence but her heart was torn in two, not knowing where one of her sons was living and unable to help him, coupled with anger at the accusations publicly thrown her way and the discovery of more thefts from family members he was still in contact with. She feared her youngest son had truly hit rock bottom but worse was yet to come.

Two years passed, and her wandering son made contact.  He had been ‘sofa surfing’ – a term she unfamiliar with until that time – and the drug taking had spiralled but now he was in dreadful trouble. He had been sacked for stealing from an employer and the courts had ordered him to pay the money back to avoid a prison sentence. He had no money.  She and her husband helped him out, convinced he was ready to make a new start and, along with huge rent arrears which they paid too, they helped him to find alternative accommodation which, again, cost them even more.

This was just the beginning of a bail-help-recover-repeat cycle which continued over the next few years. Life carried on around them – her other son underwent surgery on his brain, three surgeries in fact – the second two being emergency to sort issues brought about by the first. Her mother’s health deteriorated due to a debilitating and horrendous lung condition, resulting in time in and out of hospital, life becoming more of an existence for her with each passing day.

Her youngest would go AWOL and then return with debt collectors on his tail and even the police at one stage.  She refused to believe he could not turn this around and continued to feel in her heart that the blame lay with her. Fearful he would end up on the streets or worse, she continued to ‘help’ and spent thousands of pounds on payment of the latest debts, never believing that she was, in fact, funding his drug habit in a roundabout way. Stories of thefts from friends and other family members filtered back to her and her hopes for his recovery began to fade. In her heart she knew there was little more she could do to help – he had sought counselling for his drug abuse, spending time at a group suggested by the courts and every time they met he appeared to be moving forwards, spurred on by hitting rock bottom and the fear of returning to the same. He would secure a job and, almost always started to work towards a promotion to supervisor or similar as he worked hard and his attitude was just right. Each time, he would either meet someone and get back into taking drugs or the money he was earning would draw him back towards the same and the next she would hear was he had walked out of yet another good job, never to return. He would go AWOL again and she would try not to worry herself stupid but, as a mother, her heart was heavy with the knowledge he was out there somewhere, slowly killing himself.

Her own mother, by this stage, was terminally ill and, it seemed, was living on borrowed time with more and more time spent in hospital and with much less of a life than ever. Visiting her poorly mother was difficult with work commitments, although work was more than flexible and understanding. She was, at this stage, a manager and she was proud of her role. Somehow, she managed to keep it together and balanced visits to the hospital with working out of hours to keep up, often accruing time off in lieu. That part of her life was not good, but she muddled through, keeping a semblance of normality with the rest of the family.

She next heard from her youngest son when he sent a message to ask how his grandmother was doing. A conversation was had where she tactfully had to tell him he could not visit, her mother’s fearful request, each of his sorrowful replies tearing at her heartstrings.  But worse was yet to come. As always, she asked him what he was doing – she had heard he had given up another decent job recently – and was devastated to discover he had been staying in a shelter but would be living, quite literally, on the streets for the next two nights as he had to prove himself homeless before he could secure a place at a hostel. This was, to her knowledge, the worst-case scenario he had endured thus far. She knew she couldn’t ask him to stay with her – she would awaken to find him gone, along with who knew what else from her home. His messages suggested he had to do this as he needed to turn his life around and stop hiding behind his lies and stealing and drug-taking. He spoke of appointments with the Job Centre, a doctor to help with depression and anxiety, and a housing officer to help with the latest crisis. With each message, her heart became heavier, and she lay in bed listening to the gusting wind and feeling the temperature dropping to below bearable and cried herself to sleep. She didn’t even link the timing of his latest demise with his message asking about her mother, thinking it a pure coincidence.

Still unable to cope with the realisation that her own son, now an adult, had thrown away his twenties for some badly-chosen friends and drugs, and he was out there, on the streets, sleeping rough with nothing to his name, she felt she couldn’t live with herself and something needed to be done. Her husband, seeing her pain, offered to help by meeting her son the following day to ensure he had warm clothes and a supermarket voucher to buy additional food. She gratefully agreed, unable to face her own son in this state, but knowing in that deepest of places in her heart they shouldn’t be doing it, they were once again, on a smaller scale, helping.  But what could she do? She must be the only mother walking this earth who had a good job, a wonderful family life, great friends and the most caring and kind husband, who was sitting by and allowing her youngest son to sleep rough on the cold, scary streets.

She didn’t think she could get through this, couldn’t live with herself knowing he was suffering through this, and despite her family and friends constantly telling her he was an adult and had made his choices, the pain was almost too much to bear. She still felt she had failed him and she could have done more in the past to change his path.

The pain deepened as she held the pills in her hand. Turning them over and over, she tried to imagine how her other children would feel, and her husband – would he cope without her? She knew then that she would only ruin more lives, would maybe send others down a path of self-destruction. She knew she couldn’t do it. Her own pain did not equal the pain she would leave behind. She alone had to bear this heartbreak, had to endure this debilitating crush to her heart. There was nobody else who would share in the blame, her children’s own father having drunk himself into oblivion and died many years before. She had a duty to her family to remain strong. Silently, she poured the pills back into their bottle, screwed on the cap and picked up the phone. Painting the usual smile on her face, she messaged her daughter and son-in-law to see whether they felt like a night out.

 

 

 

 

Ceroc, Dancing, Writer's Blog

My Ceroc Journey: Confidence from Zero to Hero

I wrote this post originally because I planned to enter a Ceroc blogging competition and then decided not to enter but thought I would share it anyway.

As I stepped out onto the stage, under the purple and blue lights of the Carnegie Hall, I knew I could do this. My heart was beating wildly in my chest and although I was only a small-part player I was still a player. I could possibly be one of a number of people who made the difference between a beginner returning the next week and catching the Ceroc bug which I had caught over ten years previously or that same beginner not bothering to return.

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Since High School, I had never been a person to flaunt my talents publicly. One chance meeting had changed me from the young teenager who thought nothing of standing on stage with her cornet playing a duet, with a local brass band, in front of hundreds of people, the young teenager who laughed with her friends and been carefree and happy, to one who kept her head down at all times and hated school as much as she had loved it previously.  I had walked into a lesson with my friends, confident and carefree, and the son of one of the maths teachers, who I had never even met before,  had called me a name across the classroom, a name which highlighted a less-than-attractive part of my features, a name which was muttered to me by numerous bullies who caught on to his jibes, throughout my High School years after that day. I felt unworthy of anything more and kept my life understated and introvert, dreading everything from reading aloud in an English Literature class at school, to introducing myself on a training course as a working adult. My confidence was at zero.

My husband and I met when we were in our late thirties and happened upon a Ceroc busk in a local shopping centre, one drizzly Saturday afternoon. We were mesmerised by the dancers and chatted to one or two who were handing out leaflets and promoting the classes. We took away a leaflet, determined to join our nearest class.

A few weeks later we arrived at a class held at a local research park, both quite nervous and still unsure if this dancing lark was for us. We were given a run through of the class format and, with drinks purchased, we found a corner to wait with nervous anticipation. The class began and our teacher, Gemma, demonstrated the first move, which was, quite aptly, called The First Move. It looked so complicated that, in my complete naivety,  I thought it was the whole routine. Newer members of Ceroc will know a different variation of this beginner move. We watched as she broke the move down into stages and then came the next scary step where we were asked to move along the rows to a new partner. I am not sure if I was destined to face my fears all in one night but I came face-to-face with my ex-boyfriend. I hadn’t even known he danced but we were civil and I coped, in fact it was quite amusing, in hindsight.

The lesson continued, three moves completed and the first of the evening’s practice freestyle sessions began. My husband and I went over those three moves as if our lives depended upon it and by the end of two tracks we felt like Fred and Ginger. We were nervous to leave the dance floor as we were convinced we would forget the moves. The session with the taxi dancers was immensely helpful and, without them, I may have left that night feeling rather overwhelmed. Not enough emphasis can be given to a good taxi dancer.

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Needless to say, as we are still dancing now, we were hooked. We returned week after week, sometimes attending more than one class in the area, but almost always at least one. Before long, we had learned all of the beginner moves, around nineteen of them at the time if I remember correctly. However, neither of us felt confident enough to tackle an intermediate class and we continued with the taxi dancer sessions for at least twelve weeks. To this day, I am a firm believer that beginners need to complete as many taxi sessions as they feel they personally need, before embarking on the intermediates too soon. Those sessions give a dancer such a wonderful grounding of the basics which can be easily forgotten if a beginner moves on too early.

There were times when we didn’t go to Ceroc. I had to miss over three months after surgery when we had only been dancing about six months, and I thought I would never get back to dancing. We had been wandering in the city and we came across another busk in the same location as we had first seen it. A couple of our new friends from Ceroc were taking part in the busk and, while we were chatting about whether my husband and I felt ready to return, my friend whisked me onto the dance floor, still in my bulky winter coat. I knew, then, that I just had to return. It was just the push that I had needed and we returned with renewed excitement the same week.

Over the years, our dancing style changed and improved, and as forty-somethings we were keeping incredibly fit. Ceroc was doing us the world of good. We went to freestyles further afield in places such as Watford, Kettering and Colchester and we found we could dance anywhere, with confidence. It was always exciting to dance at a family party because, more often than not, we would be the only Ceroc dancers there and everyone was impressed. Who doesn’t like to show off their dancing skills, right?

There are currently six different venues in our local Ceroc franchise, Ceroc Fusion, and up until two years ago we had rarely ventured outside of the Norwich venues for a class night, instead sticking with the same one or two each week. We had encouraged some relatives of ours, who lived near the furthest venue in Thetford, to start dancing and we offered to go along for moral support. As with all of our venues, the team were a friendly bunch and the dancers were like a family. We loved it there, finding it well worth the few additional miles on the clock each week.

By chance, on one such dance night, the teacher’s demo was unable to make it and Steve, the dance teacher, grabbed me and asked me to demo at the last minute. I was nervous but he assured me I was a good dancer and I just needed to do what I do on a normal night; be led and style it up as required. I could do that! So, with heart pounding in my chest and a gentle flush seeping into my cheeks, I climbed the steps onto the stage as the class were being called to the floor for the beginners lesson.

Over the few weeks we had been dancing at that venue, we had made so many new friends – that’s the thing with Ceroc, you make many friends, far and wide – that I felt a warm reception from those closest to the stage who I dared to make eye contact with. Most of them had only known me for a few short weeks and so had no idea I hadn’t demoed with the teacher before now. The class began and I soon forgot I was standing on a stage, in front of upwards of sixty dancers, under purple and blue lights. I just danced as I always had previously, following the dance teacher’s lead and enjoying the experience. I didn’t even falter when he was demonstrating how NOT to do a certain part of the move. I just went along with it. I was actually enjoying the experience.

Over time, I covered for the regular demo when she was unable to attend and even covered at some of the other venues, too. It became second nature and I was surprised to find that it didn’t bother me in the slightest. Beginners would come over and ask for a dance or for advice and I was happy to share my experience with them. By this time, my husband was a taxi dancer. He, too, had been asked to cover when the regular taxi dancer was injured and now they cover duties on alternate weeks. We are often stopped as we exit the dance floor, to be questioned about a move they may have seen us doing or for general advice and it is heartwarming when we see those dancers taking the advice on board, to be able to help them progress from beginner to intermediate as we have all done ourselves, over the years.

The previous regular demo is unable to get to the venue on a Wednesday night, due to work commitments, so I have now become the regular demo for Steve when he teaches there, and on occasions I still help out at other venues when needed. Looking back, I could never have done this twenty years ago, my confidence still being at rock-bottom. Learning to dance with Ceroc has been a true game-changer for me. As the years have passed and my dancing has progressed, I have gained so much more than the multitude of friends in my dance family. My flexibility is good, apparently my heart and lungs are thanking me for the increased aerobic activity, my bones are stronger and I am keeping my mind active, thus keeping age-related illnesses at bay.

I am approaching my fiftieth birthday which I will be celebrating at a dance weekender, Swish, this coming February, and I cannot thank Ceroc enough for changing my whole outlook on life. I have a new-found confidence that I never thought I would get back. A confidence to do something I never thought I would be able to do, and to do it well.

I can dance!