Inspiring! Cancer Survivor Mum Becomes World Famous Zumba Instructor!

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"Cervical Cancer does NOT come with symptoms unless you are nearly in advanced stages. That’s why it’s so very important to have an annual pap-smear done and to ASK for a cervical check."

Before she was diagnosed, LaRonda Dupuis from Hendersonville, NC (U.S) led a pretty typical, normal everyday life as a wife, and mother of two boys. She used to work as an office manager for a local doctor’s office.

Just like any other working mum, she worked on weekdays and spent time with her family at night and on the weekends. Never once did she suspect that things would change and go horribly wrong.

Symptoms of trouble

“I would say there were several symptoms of “trouble” in the lower abdominal and female organ cavity area”, LaRonda recalls, “I had C-section deliveries with both of my sons (in 2001 and 2005), the first one being an emergency C-section that was very complicated, and required abdominal muscle removal.

From 2005-2008, I had two unexpected miscarriages and eventually, I had to get tubal ligation done.

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Later on, I started having more prominent lower abdominal pain and aches and made an appointment. I was diagnosed with endometriosis. During the treatment my doctor found out that I had large amounts of scar tissue from the C-sections, miscarriages and D&Cs and tubal ligation, and it was believed that was what was causing all the aches. So they did a scar tissue removal procedure then as well.

Things seemed okay and routine, and I next went to to the doctor in 2008, when I thought I had a urinary tract infection. My doctor did a Pap smear and called me early the next day. It had come back with positive cervical cancer cells.

We needed to start the “Leep procedure” treatment immediately and repeatedly, to keep burning the cancer cells down from growing further.

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Coming to terms with the diagnosis

My family had already been supporting me through all of the other diagnosis and procedures. They were surprised to hear that in spite of the amount of visits and procedures I had done, they had never detected the cancer cells.

I want to emphasise here that cervical Cancer does NOT come with symptoms unless you are nearly in the advanced stages. That’s why it’s so very important to have an annual pap-smear done and to ASK for a cervical check.

Life from the moment of diagnosis became super hard. I didn’t have proper medical insurance to help with finances on any of the treatments, medicines, or office visits.

It became so extremely depressing that I couldn’t find a program or scholarship to help me. The U.S health insurance programs puts an “age bracket” on cervical cancer and unless you are 45 years and above, you aren’t eligible for most funding.

I felt completely helpless and frustrated. It was very hard to handle emotionally.

Battle with cancer

In 2009 and 2010, I underwent tons of small surgeries, laser treatments to remove cancer cells, etc. I was so young then that the idea of a total hysterectomy was at the very bottom of my list of solutions.

My abdomen became completely useless. Five major abdominal surgeries were done; the very last one in December 2010 removed all female anatomy and cancer from my body! I finally became cancer free!!!.

cancer survivor mum

“What now holds everything in place and separates any post surgery scar tissue growth from damaging my vitals!”

The downfall? Every abdominal muscle had been cut and removed – yep, I was completely gutted. I couldn’t even sit up by myself. My internal organs were put in place with a netting to keep them put, I wasn’t allowed to do ANY abdominal exercises.

Mind you, I was never into dance or exercise and knew nothing of Zumba. I struggled for 2 years afterwards mentally and physically after my hysterectomy.

Why Zumba

When I had my final operation for the full abdominal hysterectomy, my insides were so badly affected by mass amounts of scar tissue that they had to completely rearrange my organs and protect them with netting.

I was unable to sit up by myself, or do any type of abdominal exercise as most of my abdominal muscles had been cut out and removed.

I was in my 4th month of recovery when a friend of mine recommended Zumba, due to the lack of strenuous elements.

cancer survivor mum

So, after being depressed in my house, recovering for months, I decided to go to a class. I was instantly hooked. The music lifted my spirits and everyone was smiling and connecting. I loved to dance so that was a plus.

I kept going 2 or 3 times a week and within a month I could feel the difference of strength in my abdomen, and in my spirit. I was just hooked and knew that this is what I wanted to do. To be able to create that environment and support through dance; to help someone else as it did for me.

I became licensed as a Zumba® instructor in November 2011, 11 months after my final operation.

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Life has changed now

It has been an amazing journey since becoming a Zumba® Instructor and finding my passion. Going through all that I did physically and emotionally had really put me in a dark place of not knowing where I belonged in my life.

Zumba® changed that for me. Zumba brought me back to life, truly.

However, to this day, I have issues physically from all that happened. My bladder was damaged during the final surgery and I have a bladder stent for the rest of my life.

But overall, when I look back on it, regardless of how empty and helpless I felt then, the whole experience has taught me so much. 

cancer survivor mum

Scar left from the procedures and final surgery to remove all female anatomy affected by cancer

Advice to readers

Just don’t give up, no matter what. It’s natural to feel like you can’t overcome something like this and it’s natural to feel hopeless, but there is light on the other side.

Each struggle put before us gives us an opportunity to become who we are truly meant to be and to experience that growth through the process.

I also recommend reaching out to not only friends and family, but even further for an emotional outlet. That’s something I didn’t do then and I know now that if I had, it would have been a lot less dark during those times for me.

I’m proud of these battle scars and wounds because it will always be a reminder that it may have knocked me down and kicked my ass for a few years, but I turned around and destroyed it in return!!!”

Today, LaRonda Dupuis, 35, is an International Zumba® Fitness presenter, travelling around the world on most weekends, and teaching local Zumba® classes during the week. Here’s wishing her more good health and happiness. May she continue to inspire.

Also READ: The touching story of a Singaporean cancer survivor mum

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Written by

Jaya