Cancer survivor fundraises through ballroom dancing

  • Robin Schwarz of St. Charles dances with her partner, Evgenii Grytsak, at the Chicago Open, a Fred Astaire Dance Studios of Illinois regional competition in June of 2016. Schwarz, a breast cancer survivor, will participate in the fourth annual Dancing with the Survivors gala Oct. 22 at the Itasca Country Club.

    Robin Schwarz of St. Charles dances with her partner, Evgenii Grytsak, at the Chicago Open, a Fred Astaire Dance Studios of Illinois regional competition in June of 2016. Schwarz, a breast cancer survivor, will participate in the fourth annual Dancing with the Survivors gala Oct. 22 at the Itasca Country Club. COURTESY OF 919 MARKETING

 
 
Posted10/2/2016 6:00 AM

Ballroom dancing can't take any credit for getting Robin Schwarz through an intense breast cancer regimen six years ago when the St. Charles mother of two endured a double mastectomy, chemotherapy and 28 rounds of radiation.

But there is no denying that Schwarz, now cancer free and healthy at age 42, is finding the dance floor to be an uplifting "happy place," one that gives her a sense of purpose and beauty that cancer survivors often lack.

 

To that end, she is preparing to participate in the fourth annual Dancing with the Survivors gala Oct. 22 at the Itasca Country Club, where she will perform a fox trot with a pro from Fred Astaire dance studios.

It's all to raise money for The Pink Fund, which provides those undergoing breast cancer treatments with up to 90 days of financial assistance to cover nonmedical expenses.

"I had no real dance experience before getting sick," said Schwarz, who has been taking lessons at Fred Astaire studios for about four years, now spending a fair amount of time at the new St. Charles studio.

"It was exciting that they are doing this event, because it is my two passions now in helping breast cancer patients and I love dancing," she added. "It has really redefined me and been one of the most healing things for me in the aftermath of my cancer."

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While her family, friends and doctors were always encouraging her during the fight against cancer, it was nonetheless "a terrifying diagnosis," Schwarz said.

"You always hear the horror stories that it comes back, or the chemo won't work," she added. "But I had good support and a positive attitude."

Then the idea to pursue dancing, something she always wanted to try, ended up being the perfect recovery tonic. It hasn't hurt at all that her daughter has also taken up ballroom dancing, allowing them to enjoy the activity together.

Plus, the Fred Astaire studios are active in these types of fundraisers and have also given Schwarz a platform for participating in dance competitions at her skill level.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"It's a very difficult thing to make peace with your body after mastectomies and reconstruction," Schwarz said. "You look at yourself as being mutilated, like it tried to kill me."

Ultimately, it was dancing that made it OK, she said. "I can still feel beautiful, and dancing was more healing than anything else in that regard."

That darn poison:

As we had feared, the poison ivy in area forest preserves has been pretty bad this year.

And Valerie Blaine, nature programs manager for the Forest Preserve District of Kane County and a Daily Herald columnist, confirmed my comments from a few months ago. At that time, I said it was hard for me to always tell, but it seemed like a lot more poison ivy was showing up along the biking and walking trails in the forest preserves.

"Yes, poison ivy is bigger and badder than ever," Valerie wrote in an email. She is planning to write an update about this, so keep your eyes open for that.

A family affair:

Not sure how something like this happens, but my guess is that when ladies get talking about clothes and fashion shows, if they find themselves in the right place at the right time, they might be asked to be in the show.

At least that's how it worked out for my wife, who was asked by the Flair on Third owners in Geneva to participate in an upcoming fashion show. She's done this type of thing in the past for charitable organizations, so she said yes.

But she also pulled her sister and future daughter-in-law into the fray.

They'll be modeling clothes at the Batavia Woman's Club Luncheon and Fashion Show from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Nov. 5 at the Q Center in St. Charles.

The show benefits the Elderday Center in Batavia and ticket information is available at BataviaWomansClub.org.

The models will wear fashions from Geneva clothing store Flair on Third, and evening wear and bridal garment designer C. Rinella Designs.

Major craft show:

In the science of creating great craft shows, I certainly have no expertise. But, when attending area events with my wife over the years, I know a good one when I see it.

That was my take on what was then the Geneva Mother's Club annual holiday craft show at Geneva High School years ago.

Now called the Geneva Women's Club Holiday Craft Show, this 42nd annual event from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Nov. 12 at the high school promises to be just as good. It will cost $5 to get in, but children younger than 12 can attend for free.

Organizers say more than 2,000 people attended last year, and that doesn't surprise me. A few of our friends have always pointed to this event as a keeper, so it certainly passes the holiday craft show science test.

dheun@sbcglobal.net

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