Each year leading up to the marathon, we ask DanceBlue Committee students to write and reflect on their DanceBlue experience. Libby Headman, Corporate Chair, shared about her DanceBlue experience below.
People always ask me to describe DanceBlue. Whether it is a sponsor asking about DanceBlue, or trying to explain the organization to an incoming freshman, one of the most common questions I get is “What is DanceBlue?” There is a formal response, there is a quick response, but truly describing what DanceBlue is beyond the facts is harder than it seems. For those that know me, they know DanceBlue and fighting pediatric cancer has become my biggest passion while at the University of Kentucky. I didn’t come into college with the idea that I wanted to spend the next four years fighting pediatric cancer. I didn’t come to college with a passion for fighting cancer at all. My passion quickly developed in the fall of my sophomore year when I got the phone call that my mom was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer.
Stage 4 cancer pretty much sounds like a death sentence. Colon cancer is very treatable, but the process of someone being diagnosed with cancer and the treatment that follows is horrible. Those six months, while my mom went through chemotherapy, were the hardest months of my life, but DanceBlue saved me. I could not take the cancer away from my mom, I could not fix the problem. I wasn’t there to hold her hand through chemotherapy, I wasn’t there to tell her that things were going to be ok, and that feeling of not being there is the hardest feeling to experience during something like this. In those moments, where all I wanted was to be able to help my mom, I turned to DanceBlue. By devoting all my time and energy to this organization I quickly felt that feeling of helplessness go away. I started to see that I could help my mom at a distance through fighting pediatric cancer.
This realization turned into my passion and one of the most important things in my life. Not only did I devote myself to DanceBlue, but I took an internship at St Jude Children’s Research Hospital and devoted myself and my life to fighting pediatric cancer. The two years since my mom was diagnosed with cancer have had several ups and downs. Scares of relapse, symptoms still affecting her everyday life and the emotional scars that cancer leaves behind. For the time being, my mom is healthy, and my family continues with their lives like we did before cancer. While our chapter with cancer has hopefully ended, cancer is a chapter for millions of people currently, and some of those chapters will end in more heartbreak than anyone deserves to experience. Being touched so closely with cancer shows you how awful this disease truly is and how negatively it can impact a family. In my story, my mom was the one with cancer, but take my story and insert a five-year-old girl, or a 13-year-old boy.
Take my story and insert any one of the hundreds of kids in our DanceBlue clinic, or any of the thousands of kids diagnosed with cancer. That story, is tragic. In a story like that, it is hard to find hope, happiness, love, comfort or anything positive. DanceBlue brings back all those things that have been lost in the lives of these kids and their families. The impact that DanceBlue has had on the kids of our clinic is beyond description. We funded a million-dollar project to build them a new clinic. A clinic that is more than four times bigger than the old one, has more private and age appropriate rooms. A clinic that gives our doctors more working space to accurately treat our kids. DanceBlue give kids 24 hours of fun and stardom at the marathon. College kids cheering on the talent show, getting autographs and feeling love from over 1500 strangers who have devoted their entire weekend to standing to show their support. DanceBlue is more than 24 hours. It is more than 365 days of fundraising, mini marathons, corporate partners. It is more than a student organization. DanceBlue is something so big, you really cannot answer what it is.
As I approach my final marathon as a student, I have been trying to answer this question more and more. Trying to find those words to describe the thing in my life that means so much. Trying to describe why this means so much to me, and I can’t. I cannot tell you what DanceBlue is. I can tell you the facts, I can tell you the operational things we do all year long, and I can tell you what I love about it. But I don’t think I will ever be able to accurately put into words what DanceBlue is. The only way you can get the answer to that question is for you to experience DanceBlue itself. So how do I answer the questions “What is DanceBlue?” I tell people it is a 365-day fundraising effort put on by the students at the University of Kentucky that raises money for the DanceBlue Kentucky Children’s Hospital Hematology/Oncology Clinic.
But I think, as students, we all know and can see that DanceBlue is much more than that.