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  • Dancing for Life
  • Post author
    Kirstie Tancock

Dancing for Life

Dancing for Life

The first time I stepped into a pole dancing class, I had no preconceived ideas, in fact, I was completely clueless. I was 17 studying Performing Arts and Arts Management at College – I never thought Pole dancing would become such an obsession. 

Humble beginning just 17 and practicing on my first pole at home in my garage

Born with Cystic Fibrosis, a disease that affects all the main organs, especially the lungs, I had enjoyed gymnastics as a kid for years but endless hospital admission killed that passion for me as I found I couldn't keep up with my peers. Mostly I had shyed away from sport through out my life. My lungs were filled with thick, sticky mucus, any exercise would leave me coughing and people would stare. Along with developing Juvenile Chronic Arthritis at the age of 7, exercise felt like hell. 

There was something about pole dancing that, from the first time I spun round the pole, I was hooked. That was 10 years ago this September. My love for pole developed quickly and, by the age of 19, I had started my own business teaching in my home town, Honiton. Pole had benefits that I had never really considered at the time. My lungs fought off infection quicker and I built muscles on my very slim frame. I could never have envisioned just how important those muscles would be and how they would help save my life. Though it wasn't long before teaching became a struggle and I was told that I desperately needed a double lung transplant. In March 2011, I decided that I simply couldn't teach anymore. Every breath was a struggle, even walking was a task let alone trying to demonstrate moves. That month I was accepted on to the waiting list for a double lung transplant. There was no guarantee that a transplant would come as there are too few donors for the amount of organs needed. With this in mind, I never thought I would be back on a pole again and wrote a tearful goodbye to my passion. 

In the following months my decline was rapid and once I gave up my passion I knew it was because I simply didn't have much life left in me. I was rushed in to hospital several times suffering respitory arrest and in June 2011, 3 days after being ambulanced in to resus only to be told I had just days left, I married my fiancé Stuart.




Two weeks later my lungs had simply had enough, ambulanced back to hospital I said I couldn't do it any more. A mask strapped to my face, a mechanical ventilator forcing breath into my lungs. It was now or never. The doctors at Harefield hospital gave me two options; to stay in Exeter hospital and spend my last days with my family, or to be air lifted to Harefield and put on pioneering life support called ECMO (Extra Corporeal Membrane Oxygenation). The only reason I was offered the latter option was because I was still strong. Pole alone had given me the muscle memory that would help me survive this invasive form of life support. I took my chances and I was air lifted to Harefield to try this treatment. The machine took my blood out, re-oxygenated it and took out the carbon dioxide before pumping it back in. For 5 days it acted as my heart and lungs while I remained in a medical coma, too ill to be awake as was originally planned. 

We came to the final day of being able to survive on this Machine, my mum and husband asking if my own organs were still OK for donation to someone else, knowing that my other passion for organ donation meant that my death would not be completely be in vain.

 Then, a miracle.  A match was found and I received a double lung transplant.

I was woken up, not knowing that I had had my transplant. Ventilated still, as my intercostal muscles had become so weak, in fact all of me had. My mum told me I had new lungs. It became apparent just how weak I had become. I moved my head and it flopped down, I wouldn't lift it and had to use momentum to swing it back upright. I couldn't lift my hands or open an envelope. This was why I had to go into this strong – if I wasn't this would have been even worse, I would have been too weak to even work my new lungs.

Over four and a half weeks I re-learnt how to walk and talk. At first unable to even sit up right, but then my muscle memory kicked in. 

The process felt like it lasted forever, whilst in reality it was so quick, though still I couldn't see that I would ever be back to what I loved. How would my body ever fully recover? Finally, a light at the end of the tunnel as I tackled the stairs – the golden sign I was ready to go home. 

 Transplant really opened so many new doors for me. I started the gym, slowly building up the strength I needed to resume pole, though I was only able to lift 0.25kg to begin with – I had a long way to go! A whole year later I was back teaching and cycled 180 miles for charity. I had never known what it was like to pole and not struggle with my breathing, it was something that I just got on with before but now, now I could dance and string my moves in to combos! I began to consider competing and winning! A goal I had always dreamed of before my transplant, now it seemed so tangible.



20 months post-transplant, only just recovered, I started to struggle to breathe I was diagnosed with chronic rejection. I started radiation therapy to hault the rejection, but the decline was so rapid that by the time I finished the treatment it was too late, I was dying. A second transplant was almost unheard of but they said maybe it was a option. On a Wednesday in August 2013, they came to tell me I had a couple of weeks left at most and re-transplant wasn't an option.  

 The following day brought a change of mind and heart – I could be relisted but my chances of getting lungs in time were almost impossible. But the next day a match was found. I waited anxiously that night to find out if it would go ahead, with my breathing constantly deteriorating I thought ‘if this doesn't go ahead then this may very well be my last day’. Then, I was taken down to theatre.

This time my muscles were even stronger and the day I woke I got up and marched on the spot, it wasn't long until I was out of the Intensive Care Unit and in the ward on the exercise bike, building back my strength. It took me a whole year to get back to pole but this time I was more determined than ever. I started to train seriously because I knew if I wanted to win a competition then I couldn't sit around and wait for it to happen. I began training 2-3 times a week with my coach Amy and 2-3 times a week either home studio stretching, on the pole or down the gym. I re-gained my strength and learnt new tricks and combos. I even qualified as a Personal Trainer and as an Aerial Hoop and Silks Instructor. Working hard in the gym and on the pole, it wasn't long before my confidence was high enough to take my first step on to the stage at MPD in the Semi-Pro category. 

Standing on the stage, I felt so many emotions thinking of my two donors, and the immense gratitude to simply be able to stand there and perform. There really was no greater feeling. Whilst I didn't win, just being up there was more then I had ever imagined.


 

I carried on teaching growing my little buisness back, my passion reaching new heights and bringing it to so many other women. I set my sights on my next competition, the one for me, where I could stand up and tell my story using drama and my Performing Arts side – Pole Theatre.  Getting through was such an honour and I pushed on, working hard towards performing on that stage.

In April this year, while on holiday, I started to notice my breathing was more difficult, a subtle difference at first. When I came home I went up to Harefield and they started to perform tests whilst my lung function continued to drop. I started to wonder if I would miss my chance to take the Pole Theatre stage. With all my strength, I pressed on, hoping I could do it. In May, I took to the stage – my breathing wasn't what I needed it to be. I struggled for breath as I fought my way through, telling my story with my husband up on the stage with me. Being up there, able to tell my story was everything I wanted, even though I missed parts out of my routine because my breathing had become so laboured. 



In June I was diagnosed with Chronic Rejection and started Radiation Therapy again – it was like a bomb hitting my family, the fear that I was going through the same thing, again. Though this time we were all reassured and hopeful as it had been caught much earlier.  However, it did mean I was forced to drop out of my third competition, Heir to the Chrome. I wondered if I would ever make the stage again. I had only just found my stage presence and now it was being taken away from me.

So here we are in August 2016, and I am being told radiation hasn't worked. That they are unsure if there is much more they can do as my lungs have begun to decline at a more rapid rate. I'm back and forth to Harefield as they try to decide what to do next. Breathing is becoming increasingly difficult. I'm still trying to teach with the help of my apprentice instructor demoing and performing the warm ups, but every week my lung function is going down a little more and it's just that little bit harder. I may not have reached my dream of winning, but I'm so grateful to my Donors for giving me the chance to simply take to the stage. This taste at life since transplant has only left me wanting more and I'm ready to fight for my life, for my passion, for my love and for my family. I have beaten the odds before and failure is not an option. 

Whilst I continue my fight, I've decided to fundraise for Harefield Hospital so that others can receive the first class treatment that I have over the last few years and also to raise awareness for organ donation.

To Donate

If you would like to make a donation, please visit my JustGiving page:

http://m.virginmoneygiving.com/mt/uk.virginmoneygiving.com/fundraiser-web/fundraiser/showFundraiserProfilePage.action?userUrl=KirstieTancock1

Alternatively, Bristol based artist Rebecca Dorsett is offering to create special pole/aerial/circus/dance drawings at a discounted price (starting at only £30) and to donate all profits from these drawings to Kirstie's chosen charity. To find out more visit her page here

Organ Donation 

In the UK around 10,000 people are in need of a transplant but without donors they cannot be helped. For more information and to join the register please follow the link below:

https://www.organdonation.nhs.uk

  • Post author
    Kirstie Tancock

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The first time I stepped into a pole dancing class, I had no preconceived ideas, in fact, I was completely clueless. I was 17 studying Performing Arts and Arts Management at College – I never thought Pole dancing would become such an obsession. 

Humble beginning just 17 and practicing on my first pole at home in my garage

Born with Cystic Fibrosis, a disease that affects all the main organs, especially the lungs, I had enjoyed gymnastics as a kid for years but endless hospital admission killed that passion for me as I found I couldn't keep up with my peers. Mostly I had shyed away from sport through out my life. My lungs were filled with thick, sticky mucus, any exercise would leave me coughing and people would stare. Along with developing Juvenile Chronic Arthritis at the age of 7, exercise felt like hell. 

There was something about pole dancing that, from the first time I spun round the pole, I was hooked. That was 10 years ago this September. My love for pole developed quickly and, by the age of 19, I had started my own business teaching in my home town, Honiton. Pole had benefits that I had never really considered at the time. My lungs fought off infection quicker and I built muscles on my very slim frame. I could never have envisioned just how important those muscles would be and how they would help save my life. Though it wasn't long before teaching became a struggle and I was told that I desperately needed a double lung transplant. In March 2011, I decided that I simply couldn't teach anymore. Every breath was a struggle, even walking was a task let alone trying to demonstrate moves. That month I was accepted on to the waiting list for a double lung transplant. There was no guarantee that a transplant would come as there are too few donors for the amount of organs needed. With this in mind, I never thought I would be back on a pole again and wrote a tearful goodbye to my passion. 

In the following months my decline was rapid and once I gave up my passion I knew it was because I simply didn't have much life left in me. I was rushed in to hospital several times suffering respitory arrest and in June 2011, 3 days after being ambulanced in to resus only to be told I had just days left, I married my fiancé Stuart.




Two weeks later my lungs had simply had enough, ambulanced back to hospital I said I couldn't do it any more. A mask strapped to my face, a mechanical ventilator forcing breath into my lungs. It was now or never. The doctors at Harefield hospital gave me two options; to stay in Exeter hospital and spend my last days with my family, or to be air lifted to Harefield and put on pioneering life support called ECMO (Extra Corporeal Membrane Oxygenation). The only reason I was offered the latter option was because I was still strong. Pole alone had given me the muscle memory that would help me survive this invasive form of life support. I took my chances and I was air lifted to Harefield to try this treatment. The machine took my blood out, re-oxygenated it and took out the carbon dioxide before pumping it back in. For 5 days it acted as my heart and lungs while I remained in a medical coma, too ill to be awake as was originally planned. 

We came to the final day of being able to survive on this Machine, my mum and husband asking if my own organs were still OK for donation to someone else, knowing that my other passion for organ donation meant that my death would not be completely be in vain.

 Then, a miracle.  A match was found and I received a double lung transplant.

I was woken up, not knowing that I had had my transplant. Ventilated still, as my intercostal muscles had become so weak, in fact all of me had. My mum told me I had new lungs. It became apparent just how weak I had become. I moved my head and it flopped down, I wouldn't lift it and had to use momentum to swing it back upright. I couldn't lift my hands or open an envelope. This was why I had to go into this strong – if I wasn't this would have been even worse, I would have been too weak to even work my new lungs.

Over four and a half weeks I re-learnt how to walk and talk. At first unable to even sit up right, but then my muscle memory kicked in. 

The process felt like it lasted forever, whilst in reality it was so quick, though still I couldn't see that I would ever be back to what I loved. How would my body ever fully recover? Finally, a light at the end of the tunnel as I tackled the stairs – the golden sign I was ready to go home. 

 Transplant really opened so many new doors for me. I started the gym, slowly building up the strength I needed to resume pole, though I was only able to lift 0.25kg to begin with – I had a long way to go! A whole year later I was back teaching and cycled 180 miles for charity. I had never known what it was like to pole and not struggle with my breathing, it was something that I just got on with before but now, now I could dance and string my moves in to combos! I began to consider competing and winning! A goal I had always dreamed of before my transplant, now it seemed so tangible.



20 months post-transplant, only just recovered, I started to struggle to breathe I was diagnosed with chronic rejection. I started radiation therapy to hault the rejection, but the decline was so rapid that by the time I finished the treatment it was too late, I was dying. A second transplant was almost unheard of but they said maybe it was a option. On a Wednesday in August 2013, they came to tell me I had a couple of weeks left at most and re-transplant wasn't an option.  

 The following day brought a change of mind and heart – I could be relisted but my chances of getting lungs in time were almost impossible. But the next day a match was found. I waited anxiously that night to find out if it would go ahead, with my breathing constantly deteriorating I thought ‘if this doesn't go ahead then this may very well be my last day’. Then, I was taken down to theatre.

This time my muscles were even stronger and the day I woke I got up and marched on the spot, it wasn't long until I was out of the Intensive Care Unit and in the ward on the exercise bike, building back my strength. It took me a whole year to get back to pole but this time I was more determined than ever. I started to train seriously because I knew if I wanted to win a competition then I couldn't sit around and wait for it to happen. I began training 2-3 times a week with my coach Amy and 2-3 times a week either home studio stretching, on the pole or down the gym. I re-gained my strength and learnt new tricks and combos. I even qualified as a Personal Trainer and as an Aerial Hoop and Silks Instructor. Working hard in the gym and on the pole, it wasn't long before my confidence was high enough to take my first step on to the stage at MPD in the Semi-Pro category. 

Standing on the stage, I felt so many emotions thinking of my two donors, and the immense gratitude to simply be able to stand there and perform. There really was no greater feeling. Whilst I didn't win, just being up there was more then I had ever imagined.


 

I carried on teaching growing my little buisness back, my passion reaching new heights and bringing it to so many other women. I set my sights on my next competition, the one for me, where I could stand up and tell my story using drama and my Performing Arts side – Pole Theatre.  Getting through was such an honour and I pushed on, working hard towards performing on that stage.

In April this year, while on holiday, I started to notice my breathing was more difficult, a subtle difference at first. When I came home I went up to Harefield and they started to perform tests whilst my lung function continued to drop. I started to wonder if I would miss my chance to take the Pole Theatre stage. With all my strength, I pressed on, hoping I could do it. In May, I took to the stage – my breathing wasn't what I needed it to be. I struggled for breath as I fought my way through, telling my story with my husband up on the stage with me. Being up there, able to tell my story was everything I wanted, even though I missed parts out of my routine because my breathing had become so laboured. 



In June I was diagnosed with Chronic Rejection and started Radiation Therapy again – it was like a bomb hitting my family, the fear that I was going through the same thing, again. Though this time we were all reassured and hopeful as it had been caught much earlier.  However, it did mean I was forced to drop out of my third competition, Heir to the Chrome. I wondered if I would ever make the stage again. I had only just found my stage presence and now it was being taken away from me.

So here we are in August 2016, and I am being told radiation hasn't worked. That they are unsure if there is much more they can do as my lungs have begun to decline at a more rapid rate. I'm back and forth to Harefield as they try to decide what to do next. Breathing is becoming increasingly difficult. I'm still trying to teach with the help of my apprentice instructor demoing and performing the warm ups, but every week my lung function is going down a little more and it's just that little bit harder. I may not have reached my dream of winning, but I'm so grateful to my Donors for giving me the chance to simply take to the stage. This taste at life since transplant has only left me wanting more and I'm ready to fight for my life, for my passion, for my love and for my family. I have beaten the odds before and failure is not an option. 

Whilst I continue my fight, I've decided to fundraise for Harefield Hospital so that others can receive the first class treatment that I have over the last few years and also to raise awareness for organ donation.

To Donate

If you would like to make a donation, please visit my JustGiving page:

http://m.virginmoneygiving.com/mt/uk.virginmoneygiving.com/fundraiser-web/fundraiser/showFundraiserProfilePage.action?userUrl=KirstieTancock1

Alternatively, Bristol based artist Rebecca Dorsett is offering to create special pole/aerial/circus/dance drawings at a discounted price (starting at only £30) and to donate all profits from these drawings to Kirstie's chosen charity. To find out more visit her page here

Organ Donation 

In the UK around 10,000 people are in need of a transplant but without donors they cannot be helped. For more information and to join the register please follow the link below:

https://www.organdonation.nhs.uk