“For women who can’t afford the bills, cancer adds injury to insult,” Carol says. This recent breast cancer survivor went way past her comfort zone to help.
A year ago, Carol felt a small lump on one side when palpating herself. (Smart lady.) She decided to have both breasts removed. Over the last few months, she went through reconstruction. She also became a ballroom dancer.
Carol’s younger sister Laura Segal (also a b.c. survivor) asked Carol to join her taking ballroom dancing lessons. Carol declined. “I felt too bad—out of shape, bald and ugly.” Laura persisted. The lessons would be good for Carol. Plus they were part of a program called Dancing with the Survivors, sponsored by the Pink Fund, a group helps financially challenged cancer patients.
The latter argument won Carol over.
The sisters partnered with professional dancers Sergio Sanchez and Donald Westphal at Fred Astaire Dance Studio, Bloomfield Hills, MI. They practiced for 5 months before debuting a lively 60s dance routine, wearing shiny white boots and mini skirts, at the Silver Garden Event Center in Southfield, MI. The dinner was attended by 400.
“I’m not a performer,” Carol says. “But when the time came, I had fun. The support from friends and family buoyed me up. I never before had my Dad hand me flowers on stage.”
BRCA testing proved positive. Carol has a gene that made her susceptible to female cancers. So advised, she also had her ovaries removed. About her decision to dance, this gutsy mother of 3 says, “After they took out all my female parts, dancing helped me to feel feminine again.”
Carol lives in Bloomfield Hills, MI, with husband Mike, who’s in real estate. Carol worked for 20 years as head of corporate communications for the public insurance company her father founded.
Carol’s become an advocate for BRCA testing and for cancer research and education. Although Laura tested negative for BRCA, Carol later learned several of her father’s female relatives had died of breast or ovarian cancer. Earlier in her life, Carol “didn’t understand the link between family history and BRCA.” Receiving the results of her BRCA test the day before her mastectomy, she says, “I felt validated.”
Godsigns have helped Carol through the last challenging year. After feeling a lump, Carol underwent a biopsy-guided ultrasound exam. “The lights in the room kept flicking on and off, on and off. I was told that was unusual. I felt the presence of my mom.” Carol was close to mother Beverly Segal. They designed and created jewelry together. Beverly died of liver cancer 1 and ½ years before.
On the day Carol received her diagnosis, she and Laura were hosting a luncheon to raise money for Beaumont Hospital, Royal Oak, MI, to install tomosynthesis machines. Tomosynthesis is a 3D approach to mammograms. (Conventional digital mammograms are 2D.) Drs. Murray Rebner and Nayana Dekhne, who spoke at the luncheon, broke the news to Carol about the results of her mammogram. She was treated by Dr. Jeffrey Margolis at Beaumont.
Carol is not only grateful to doctors for healing her body. She’s grateful to her dance instructor for healing her spirit. “Sergio literally got me back on my feet.”
Carol hoped to continue lessons with Sergio but was disappointed to learn he had left to work elsewhere. When she later got in touch with him, he apologized for not letting her know, saying he couldn’t bring himself to do so. Eventually Carol came to terms with his departure. “I realized he was a sort of Mary Poppins. She came into people’s lives to fix them and then moved on without saying goodbye.”
Husband Mike has since agreed to take dancing lessons with Carol. This brave warrior will dance on.
Thanks, Carol, for sharing your story. And for all you do to help other women.
CLICK ON THE VIDEO SCREEN, BELOW, TO WATCH LAURA AND CAROL