In most people’s minds, a ballerina is an ethereal creature suspended in air, on tiny pink pointe shoes, delicate and fragile as a dream. That’s one way to picture a dancer. Another way is to picture Anna Mott: a cancer survivor, Warrior Princess. Mott might not be on pointe at the moment, but her dancing spirit has sent her soaring above doctors’ expectations.
It has been almost one year since Gwinnett Ballet Theatre dancer Mott was rushed to Scottish Rite from Gwinnett Medical Center with a brain tumor. During the past year, Anna’s mother Melissa Mott, dad Steve Mott and four siblings have had their world turned upside down. However, they have also seen firsthand how the arts community and participation in the arts has made a big difference in their journey.
After enduring surgeries, chemotherapy, radiation and unexpected crises, Mott finished chemo in June. She is now cancer free and at home.
Melissa Mott affirms that her intense ballet training helped her daughter recover.
“While we were in the inpatient rehab unit they said that her ballet training totally helped her bounce back quicker and overcome lots of things others without it most likely would not,” she said. “They said her excellent physical shape made all the difference.”
Anna also had a stroke and was paralyzed on the left side.
“Her training in ballet was an integral part in regaining that side back. One of her therapists found out Anna was a ballerina and incorporated it into her therapy,” Melissa said. “She had her sisters come in and tell her the arm positions to use for Anna. That is how Anna regained the use of her left arm. They knew ballet was a huge motivation for Anna. She also had Anna use the parallel bars they had to help with the use of her left leg. She gave her a barre.”
The ballet world also came through.
“Our dance family has been a huge — the biggest — support for our family and Anna,” the mother said. “David Duke (a ‘dance dad’) has done more than I can even remember. The GBT girls also rallied to help her sister, Olivia, who had started a Twitter campaign to get Anna to see Taylor Swift. Through a major tweet campaign, they made it happen.”
Fellow dancers have also worn Anna’s name in their pointe shoes and painted special messages on the backs of set pieces.
It isn’t known if Mott will ever return to dance, but she is still a “miracle girl.” She never lost her hair during chemo and she was the only patient Scottish Rite ever had who went through this extreme chemo without a feeding tube.
Nobody expected Mott to be up, walking around, talking and interacting either — but she is. Her sisters spend a lot of time playing ballet music for her and quizzing her on which variation the music if from.
“This is great therapy for her brain,” Melissa Mott said. “Anna has come further than the doctors expected and we plan on getting her back.”
If you are interested in helping fight pediatric brain cancer, go to www.curethekids.org to find out more about how you can help.
Holley Calmes is a freelance writer and public relations consultant specializing in the arts. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.