‘Medicine And Joy’; Dancer Olivia Hutcherson Inspires Students With Her Optimism After Breast Cancer Diagnosis – CBS New York
NEW JERSEY (CBS New York) — A bright, young dancer fights her way back to health after a devastating cancer diagnosis.
Now she inspires young students with her optimism and talent, reported CBS2’s Jessica Layton.
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“It’s a low, followed by another high, and I’m just grateful to be here, honestly,” said Olivia Hutcherson.
After years of dancing with the hottest celebrities, Hutcherson now works with little stars.
“The day I shaved my head, they kissed my head. Yes, it’s medicine,” Hutcherson said.
They are the brightest part of her day. A shady diagnosis six years ago on her 26th birthday could have destroyed her mind.
“The first time I heard Stage Four, I felt like I couldn’t breathe and I just remember feeling, God, I don’t want to die,” said Hutcherson.
Hutcherson, 32, swore she would survive. But breast cancer sidelined her promising professional dance career.
“I remember laying in bed thinking if I’m not my hair and I’m not my body and I’m not my title because I couldn’t dance, I remember thinking, ‘What am I?'” said Hutcherson.
Finding that out wasn’t easy for the Ridgefield, New Jersey native. It took a lot of soul-searching to smile again.
We went with Hutcherson to her 25th chemotherapy treatment at the John Theuer Cancer Center in Hackensack.
“I realized there was a ghost inside of me and it was a time where I needed to pause and nurture that side of myself and I’d never done that before in my life,” Hutcherson said.
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“Olivia has stage four breast cancer, but she’s alive. She follows her religious life. She is following her professional life and nothing is stopping her from enjoying her life, nothing,” said Dr. Stan Waintraub, chief of hematology at John Theurer Cancer Center.
“What are the things you used to want that don’t seem so important anymore?” Layton asked Hutcherson.
“I used to want to dance for celebrities and I used to want to tour all over the world,” she said.
Now Hutcherson is committed to beating the disease and finding joy in teaching children to dance. A holiday recital was a special moment of hope.
“Oh my God, I love working in this studio. The kids are just incredible. They are the greatest source of medicine and joy,” Hutcherson said.
She has been an inspiration to her students, of course because of her talent, but more so because of the way she has taught them to move on with life’s challenges.
Gabriela Rodriguez is one of Hutcherson’s oldest students.
“I’m in constant awe of her,” Rodriguez said. “I can’t believe she has not only so much physical strength, but so much internal strength.”
One of Hutcherson’s youngest students is 9-year-old Camila Izaguirre, who opened the show and is also battling cancer.
“I also have short hair and we’re both the same,” Camila said. “We were both beautiful as flowers.”
In a life that Hutcherson learned is so fragile, these are her biggest fans. The podium may be a little smaller now, but Hutcherson knows it’s right where she needs to be.
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Jessica Layton of CBS2 contributed to this report.