Professional Dancer Faces Cancer With ‘Show Must Go On’ Mentality
June 29, 2022
In 2015, Olivia Hutcherson was living her dream as a professional dancer in New York City, working with world-renowned artists such as Madonna and Jennifer Lopez.
Then, on her 26th birthday, she noticed blood coming from her left nipple. She immediately went to her doctor and requested a mammogram and further testing, which revealed ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) breast cancer over 87 percent of her left breast and an invasive tumor on her right.
“Everything changed in a moment's notice,” says Olivia. “I didn't have too much time to grieve. It was just, ‘Put your gloves on and fight.’”
‘Oh No, Not Again’
For Olivia, that fight started with a double mastectomy and four rounds of chemotherapy. After finishing treatment, Olivia moved home to Ridgefield, New Jersey, to continue her recovery and be with her family. That’s when she started seeing Stanley Waintraub, M.D., chief of breast oncology at John Theurer Cancer Center at Hackensack University Medical Center.
Dr. Waintraub closely followed Olivia for any signs of her cancer returning and recommended anti-estrogen therapy as a preventative treatment. “For four years, I was completely in the clear,” says Olivia. “I felt pretty good, and I was working and dancing and teaching.”
She even published a poetry book about her cancer experience called “The Show Must Go On” in 2019. A few days after the release of her book, Olivia felt a lump in her left armpit, immediately raising alarm bells for her. “I remember thinking, ‘Oh no, not again,’” she says.
Olivia’s cancer had returned, and this time it had spread: stage 4 metastatic breast cancer to her bones and lymph nodes. Although cancer of this type isn’t curable, treatment can help control its spread. Olivia started chemotherapy again and also received 20 rounds of radiation to target the tumors on her bones.
Dancing Through It
Despite the pain and fatigue her cancer causes, Olivia continues to dance and teach dance to local children. “We do everything we can to maintain Olivia’s dancing career while dealing with her cancer,” Dr. Waintraub says. “It is impossible to not be impressed with this young lady. She is a 32-year-old hero who has stage four cancer and does not say, ‘Why me?’ She doesn’t let cancer stop her.”
The admiration is mutual. “One of the things I appreciate the most about Dr. Waintraub is that he is so straightforward and matter-of-fact, but at the same time he has such a big heart,” Olivia says.
Finding the right care team and support network to help you through cancer diagnosis and treatment is crucial, says Olivia. “You don't need to fight alone,” she says. “The four biggest things that keep me going are my family, my faith, my friends and the dance floor. It's so important to have support and also to have your passion because you need a reason to get up in the morning and to just keep moving forward and keep going.”
‘I got great news! The best I’ve had in seven years’
After seven years of fighting relentlessly, Olivia’s recent scans are stable. “This is quite a miracle because I had stage four cancer and it had spread to my bones,” says Olivia.
“Early detection can be life saving especially for young women. Olivia lived an active lifestyle, didn’t smoke, and had no family history of breast cancer, but it still happened to her,” says Dr. Waintraub.
Dr. Waintraub advises women who suspect anything unusual - don’t wait and get it checked.
Next Steps & Resources:
- Learn about cancer care services at John Theurer Cancer Center
- Meet our source: Stanley Waintraub, M.D. To make an appointment with an oncologist near you, call 800-822-8905 or visit our website.
- Facing cancer with a positive attitude
- 3 misconceptions about breast cancer, debunked
The material provided through HealthU is intended to be used as general information only and should not replace the advice of your physician. Always consult your physician for individual care.
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