Thursday, July 24, 2014


Cancer is an unwelcomed visitor, a thief in the night if you will. It often robs people of their dreams and ambition. It rips through lives like a devastating tornado making the road to recovery long and hard, if recover is possible at all. Yet, there is a force out there that can rival cancer. An entity that helps empower the body and mind to fight back and confront the challenges of cancer head-on. However, like any war, there are never any real winners, only survivors – those who are fortunate enough to have the inner strength, health and luck to walk away from the battlefield and enjoy the dance of another day.
Country-Line dance instructor Denise Hebert came face to face with her own personal tornado and has been on the mend since 2012. Come learn of her battle with a cancerous tumor and how she refused to let the aftermath of it put a permanent halt on her passion for dance.    

For 17 years Ms. Hebert, under the name of D&D Line Dancers, taught a group of enthusiasts the complicated footwork of country line dancing. Her group grew and gained celebrity by performing in parades and local festivals in Twin Cities. They even visited nursing homes during the winter months to perform their Christmas program for residents and staff members. The D&D Line Dancers loved giving back to the community and the community loved their performances. All was perfect in Ms. Hebert’s world. Dancing had helped fill the void that was created when her children embarked into military life. Teaching her group gave her a sense of purpose and eased her empty nest syndrome.
However, that was all about to come to a screeching halt. During one of her regular swim sessions, Ms. Hebert badly injured her right arm. She said she still remembers the sound that her muscle made as it tore from her shoulder bone. She lived in agony for a few months in hopes the pain would subside but it refused to cease, forcing her to seek medical assistance.
An X-ray revealed that her glenoid bone had completely disintegrated due to a rare tumor that attached to her scapula and spread to her collar bone consuming the bones along the way. Her doctors then referred her to Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor to seek additional advice. Ms. Hebert said that after countless tests, scans and a biopsy, the results were still inconclusive. During this trying time she turned to her family and dancing group to help her keep a positive mindset.     
And it was a positive mindset that she brought with her when her team of doctors, led by Dr. Ian Dickey, suggested a surgery that could allow her the opportunity to save a part of her arm by removing the infected bone and inserting a titanium bar in its place. The bar would act as a humorous bone and would connect her collar bone to her elbow. If all was successful, her surgery would render her upper arm immobile, yet there was a strong possibility that she would retain use of her wrist and hand (P.S. Ms. Hebert is right handed.)
“I don’t need an arm to dance,” she said jokingly. And with that enthusiasm, she decided to go ahead with the surgery. There were many stages to the surgery and each step brought along with it a myriad of concerns and promises of hope.
In the end, the doctors successfully removed the tumor which they classified as an osteosarcoma. According to their records it currently holds the record for being the largest recorded case of osteosarcoma in the state of Maine.
The road to recovery was long and involved constant assistance from her daughter, mother and sister in order to help Ms. Hebert become increasingly independent. She was eager to heal and return back to her beloved dancing community, but first she had to learn how to relearn simple tasks like getting dressed, putting on socks with her left hand and peeling a potato for starters. Most take the ability of doing these tasks for granted, but every small feat she achieved was a monumental step forth. On December 5, 2012, two weeks after her last surgery, she returned to her doctor for a post-surgical follow-up in which most of the 94 staples were removed. She asked the doctor when he thought she could start dancing again. He said immediately.
She started dancing the next day and has not stopped to look back since. Despite her battle and the loss of 95 percent of her arm use, she continues to push herself every day while continuing to bring new dance routines to her group. Her spirit remains high and her friends say it would be a challenge to find her without a smile.
"I cannot express enough my heart-felt appreciation and thank you to my family and a treasure of friends for their support, love and prayers," she said. "Never doubt the power of prayer!" She also said she is relearning her skills little by little with her left hand and has learned the importance of asking for help.
Ms. Hebert continues to hold dance sessions every Wednesday with the D&D Line Dancers. Sessions run from 6:30 – 8pm and are held in the gorgeous Central Hall, three stories above Lisbon Street in Lewiston, overlooking the Bates Mill. Their next performance will be on August 15 at the D'Youville Pavilion for its Country Fair Hoe Down.

For more information on their dance group please contact DNA Photography.