FEATURE: I bellydanced my way through chemo!

Lynne Fletcher
Lynne Fletcher
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Lynne Fletcher is a big believer in the healing properties of dance.

For 20 years, bellydancing has seen her through some of the toughest times of her life, helping her recover from broken bones and - more recently - seeing her through a battle with stage three breast cancer.

Lynne Fletcher

Lynne Fletcher

“Even at the height of chemotherapy, I was still performing in a Turkish restaurant on London Road, shaking my stuff on a table,” laughs Lynne.

“The last couple of years have been tough, I had three operations, a double mastectomy and reconstructive surgery, but through it all, I kept dancing and it kept me sane.”

Lynne’s love of bellydancing began in her late twenties after a physiotherapist, who was treating her for a broken back, recommended it as a form of therapy.

“I took a fall on a concrete floor and fractured my L2,” explains Lynne, now aged 48.

Through it all, I kept dancing, kept performing and it meant everything to me to be able to do that

Lynne Fletcher

“It hurt like hell but the physio recommended bellydancing as part of my treatment, as she said all the core work would do wonders for my back. I started going to classes and my back pain quickly started to feel much better.

“I fell in love with bellydancing. It helped me so much health-wise, but I also loved how it made me feel, like a woman, it was sexy and fun.”

Lynne kept on dancing, eventually providing cover for the class’s teacher when she went on holiday, which inspired her to start her own bellydancing troupe.

“I launched the Zubaidah troupe in Sheffield and we now dance and perform all over the city,” says Lynne.

Lynne Fletcher

Lynne Fletcher

“We love playing around with styles - traditional Turkish and Egyptian, but also some African tribal and even gothic rock. I have a lot of rock fans in my troupe and I thought ‘this could work for bellydancing!’

“One day a Turkish restaurant on London Road contacted me to ask me about doing some dancing there on a Friday and Saturday night. Now I, or one of my troupe, performs there most Friday and Saturday nights and it’s wonderful. I love dancing around the tables - and sometimes on them! - and entertaining the diners, which we’ve been doing for about seven years now. I can still feel my back injury some days, but it’s never stopped me from wanting to get up there and shake my stuff.”

But even Lynne’s overwhelming positivity was put to the test two years ago, when she received the shocking news that she had been diagnosed with a serious form of breast cancer.

“They told me it was grade three, four being the worst, so I knew it was serious,” she recalls.

Doctors performed a double lumpectomy on Lynne, to remove the tumours from her breasts, along with a portion of the surrounding tissue.

Lynne, of Waterthorpe, says: “When the results came back, they decided they hadn’t removed a clear enough margin of tissue and they had to go in again. I had three operations in all, including - in the end - a double mastectomy.

“The news that I needed a double mastectomy was difficult on every level, as a woman and as a dancer too.”

Lynne also had to endure a gruelling three-month course of chemotherapy

“I did okay with the chemotherapy,” says Lynne.

“I had my really rubbish days and lost my sense of taste, things like that, but it didn’t make me as poorly as it could have done.

“Through it all, I kept dancing, kept performing and it meant everything to me to be able to do that.

“I’d be sat in chemo sessions planning choreography and jotting down notes, it gave me a distraction and became a lifeline.”

Lynne finished the chemotheraphy in November 2014 and decided to have reconstructive breast surgery two months later. By May 2015, she was back dancing once again.

“The staff at the Hallamshire were fantastic with me and I haven’t felt remotely self conscious since the surgery, I feel great and was quickly back to shaking everything I want to shake.”

Lynne says one thing she’s grateful for is that she didn’t lose her hair during chemotherapy.

“I’m a hairdresser, so it meant a lot to me to be able to keep my hair through everything else,” she reveals.

“I have worked in salons for years but just before Christmas last year, I decided that if the last two years had taught me anything, it was to go for what I wanted, so I bought my own salon.

“I had my own years ago, but had to sell it when I broke my back, so this was my way of looking to the future.”

Lynne now owns and runs Gyzelle hairdressing salon in Mosborough, though she has been unable to spend much time at her new venture since taking it over, as she has been back in hospital once again.

“Not long after I started dancing and teaching again last summer, I started getting some bad pain. It turns out the cancer treatment weakened my bones and led to osteoporosis in my hips, so I’ve just had to undergo a total hip replacement,” she says.

“It’s been painful, but I was bellydancing right up until three weeks before my surgery and will be back as soon as I’m able.”

And Lynne says she is determined that 2016 will be the year she puts the difficult past two years behind her.

“I’m recoving from the hip operation now and looking forward to my bright new future at my new salon,” she smiles.

“In September I will be given my 12 months all-clear from the cancer and then I can really start to move on.

“Of course I’ve had my low days in the past two years, days when I wondered if I was going to die, but mostly I’ve been determined to focus on the positive - I’m a fighter, and I never wanted to just sit at home and fester. I’d rather be out there shaking my stuff and getting on with my life.”