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Bad Kitty® Inspiration Series: Meet Alana Grayson

By on November 11, 2016

Here at Bad Kitty®, we take pride in uplifting, celebrating and empowering our diverse group of pole dancers. As a part of this commitment, we have enthusiastically and wholeheartedly embraced sharing your stories about pole. In our Bad Kitty® Inspiration Series, we interview dancers who have faced and overcome extraordinary challenges in their health, and who attribute their well-being to the power of pole dance. This time around we chat with the lovely Alana Grayson who was graciously sent our way by the one and only Sasj Lee, who taught Alana at Evolve Dance Studio. Alana is brave survivor of breast cancer who had a double mastectomy and was also diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.

Bad Kitty: Tell us a bit about your circumstances. What kinds of challenges have you faced with your health?

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The reason I got through chemo was to make it out for my baby girl, Luna!

 

Alana Grayson: I have struggled in life with anxiety my whole life, but nothing had prepared me to fight through my biggest battle yet: cancer. Before February 14, 2014 I had my own apartment with my cat, was working with kids who have special needs, pole dancing 3-4 times a week, and truly loving the life I was able to live. I never knew that it was going to come to an immediate halt on Valentine’s Day of 2014. I had fainted that past December at a concert, but it was linked to most likely being dehydrated and not eating enough for the day. Afterwards I just put the event to the side and went back to life. I ended up feeling something in my left breast a little while later and consulted with one of my physicians about it. We decided to check on it and do a mammogram and ultrasound just to cover all our bases. The results came back and it appeared to simply be a few benign cysts. My physician pushed me a bit more to get a biopsy done on both sides. I fought the entire process. I couldn’t understand why I would need to do more (at 26 years old) since it was deemed fine. I am now so extremely thankful to my doctor because he ended up saving my life in more ways than he ever expected.

I went alone and had a breast biopsy done. You have to lay on a table with your chest in certain sections and then be completely still so that the radiologist can biopsy the correct areas. It turned out I had areas on both breasts that seemed suspicious, but my anxiety was so strong that panic set in and they were only able to check my left side. An anxiety attack can be so debilitating. You lose focus and the hyperventilating takes over your body. Still the mammogram and ultrasound had no obvious markers for concern, so cancer was still not at the forefront of my brain. I went alone again for the results and that’s when my life stopped. I must have told the breast surgeon at least five times that she must be kidding with me, or the results had been switched. I couldn’t believe that for a moment at 26 years old, in the best shape and health I have ever been in, that I had Stage 1 Breast Cancer in both breasts. Panic set in. I called my psychologist, got a hold of my mom, and cried for a week straight. Two weeks later I had to have a lymph node biopsy in my neck because a PET scan showed some suspicious areas as well, and then I found out that I also had Stage 3 Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. I didn’t know what I had done to deserve my body fighting against me. I was terrified about not being able to be independent anymore, giving up pole, and not surviving the battle that I was facing.

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During treatment, right before being admitted to the ER

 

I had to have a double mastectomy with reconstructive expanders on March 27, 2014, debridement of skin surgery, and countless ER visits post surgery and during chemotherapy. Even before any knives touched my skin, I had to sit in a hyperbaric oxygen chamber to make sure I had adequate blood flow moving through my body. I had to sit in these oxygen pods for about 2 hours each session before and after surgery. I am tough and I knew I was physically strong enough to get through the surgeries, but chemotherapy is a whole other ballpark that no one is prepared for.     I had a cocktail of chemotherapies once every two weeks of Adriamycin, Vinblatine, and Brentuximab. I lost all my hair after my second round of chemotherapy. It felt like my beauty was disappearing from the mirror. I didn’t look at myself for months because I could no longer act like I was fine and not sick. Once my long hair disappeared, I felt that I was officially a cancer patient.

BK: Have these challenges impacted your emotional health positively or negatively? How so?
AG: My challenges have impacted my life in so many ways. I was told by one oncologist that I would either die from the amount of chemotherapy I would need, or by the return of my cancers. That was not a good enough answer for me, so I searched for the perfect oncologist and I found  Dr. Daniel Lieber at Saint John’s Medical Center. I was determined to not let that be the course my life took. Cancer has definitely made me a much stronger individual. I know that I can prevail and make it through the darkest of days.

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During Treatment

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First picture I took while being bald where I felt beautiful

 

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Bald and in thigh high boots. Every round of chemo I made it through I bought myself shoes.

BK: When did you discover pole?

AG: I struggled with going to the typical gym for years. It never felt like a safe and supportive space for myself. Every New Year’s I would purchase the gym deals, go for a week, pay for three months, and then fall back into canceling yet another gym membership. I discovered pole dancing in 2011 through a co- worker who happened to have a groupon for Evolve Dance Studio. I had never thought about trying it, but my friend had begged me to go with her since no one else she knew was willing to give it a go. My beginner class was with Emily and she sparked an immediate love for the sport. I remember being able to do a few spins in the first class and then trying the daunting task of climbing! After my groupon classes were done, I immediately bought a package deal and knew that this was going to be my first effective and long term workout routine. It was an instant love of sexiness, strength, and endurance all wrapped up in one.

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BK: What kind of an effect did pole have on you mentally, emotionally, physically, even spiritually?

AG: Pole classes became my sanctuary. Anytime I felt anxious or life just needed to take a break, my pole classes were always there to help strengthen me up enough to go back into the world. The loving support of pole, the teachers, and the students allow for such a special bond to be created.

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BK: What do you consider to be the most healing aspect of pole dancing?
AG: For me, as soon as I enter the studio doors, my stress and fears from the day somehow just slide off of my brain. Pole dancing gives me a sense of unity, strength, goals, and constant learning. I am constantly striving to accomplish new moves and see how far my body will take me. Unfortunately since my mastectomy I have very little feeling on the sides of my chest. I struggle with either not being able to have a firm grip there, or it feels like pins jabbing me. I have to be cautious, but it hasn’t stopped me yet!

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Hawaii: in remission vacation trip from my family

 

BK: What advice do you have for other pole dancers who may be going through a challenging time?
AG: You will make it through!! Use pole as an outlet if you can. Even better, if you’re able to keep going to class through treatment that would be ideal. If pole dancing gives you happiness, then even just going to watch the girls feels empowering. Even through the roughest times of my life, my one of my biggest achievements was getting my body back to where it was in my pre-cancer stage. I think I’ve come a long way and I know my body has taken a beating, but nothing compares to getting those pole kisses (aka pole bruises)!!

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Claire Griffin Sterrett
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Claire Griffin Sterrett

Editor in Chief at Bad Kitty Inc.
Writer, pole dancer, teacher, social worker and editor of this whole awesome thing.You can find out more about me at www.polestory.com.
Claire Griffin Sterrett
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