“Dancing helped bring me back to life after cancer”

Lucy Ashton
Lucy Ashton

Lucy Ashton’s love of dance has helped her rediscover her love of life.

“I’ve been dancing ever since I was a child,” confirms Lucy.

Lucy Ashton

Lucy Ashton

“Dancing is great for the mind, body and soul and it’s such a big passion for me.

“I could never understand why anyone would want to slog it out on a treadmill at the gym when they could be dancing and getting the same, if not more, benefit.”

It was dance that Lucy turned to in order to pull her out of some of the darkest days of her life.

“I was diagnosed with cancer in 2015,” says the 45-year-old.

Macmillan gave me the support I needed and wanted as my world caved in. The Ballroom Blitz is my chance to say thank you.

“The impact of my diagnosis was truly earth-shattering, and I could never have imagined the ripples that spread through every aspect of my life because of it. “

As Lucy came to terms with the implication of her diagnosis, and began gruelling treatment - including chemotherapy and radiotheraphy - she was also faced with the collapse of her relationship, having to move out of the home she loved, the loss of the family she’d been a part of for four years, and the closure of her beloved business.

“I truly felt like I lost my entire life to cancer,” Lucy recalls.

“Everybody knows about the physical impact of cancer, and its treatment; everyone has seen an image of a chemo patient with no hair, and that’s the outwards sign of cancer that we’ve come to expect. The bit no one really sees, or even really talks about, is the emotional and psychological impact, which is equally as damaging and really kicks in once treatment has finished. It’s a lonely and frightening time.

Florist Lucy Ashtpn at her shop The Dandelion Clock in Fulwood with one of the Lonely Bouquets she is going to leave somewhere

Florist Lucy Ashtpn at her shop The Dandelion Clock in Fulwood with one of the Lonely Bouquets she is going to leave somewhere

“It began like a tremor, followed by this apocalyptic earthquake - which was the diagnosis and treatment - but the aftershocks just kept on coming. My relationship cracked first, and I loss the stability and comfort of my partner, his children, my home, so that was incredibly tough. I had to leave my dog of seven years behind with my ex as I felt it was unfair to take him away from the home he knew to live in some rental somewhere, and any dog lover will know how hard that was.

“I had friends, people who tried to help me keep my business going while I was ill, and I was so grateful to them for that, but without me there to oversee the day-to-day runnings, and be the face of the business, things slid away. I learned that my business doesn’t tick without me, and financially things began to crumble, so I had to close, which broke my heart, as my flower shop was such a big part of who I was and what I loved. The really tough part was that I was still committed to paying the lease, even though I didn’t have an open shop to help pay those bills. It was a hard time.

“After my diagnosis, some friends had trouble dealing with it, but a lot of people stepped up and were lovely and supportive. Others were initially supportive, but didn’t last the distance. I understand it wasn’t easy for them, some people just don’t know what to say in the face of such calamity, so in the end it became easier to stay away and not say anything. Plus, I was in a really tough place and I know I was quite a high maintenance friend for a while there, I needed lots of support. It’s true what they say, you really do learn who your true friends are at a time like that.

“I hit rock bottom after I finished radiotherapy, and began to struggle massively with depression, which was unsurprising given everything that had happened. I didn’t even want to get out of bed most days, I felt as though I had no real future. I just couldn’t picture crawling out of the mess I found myself in.

Lucy Ashton

Lucy Ashton

“I remember clearly being stood outside Weston Park. My treatment was all finished and it was time to start getting my life back to normal. I just stood there, looking at that building and thought ‘what now?’ I had no idea how to start putting my life back together. My old ‘normal’ didn’t exist anymore.”

One of the key turning points for Lucy was when she set up Boadicea’s Cancer Club, to bring together women like herself, who were trying to rebuild their lives following a battle with cancer.

“It’s not a club that anyone wants to get an invitation to,” Lucy says wryly.

“But having found myself on this wretched guest list, I was determined to make it a little easier for anyone else who also found themselves at the party. I wanted to create a ‘go to’ place for women following a cancer diagnosis.”

The club, aimed at 25-55 year old women at any stage of their treatment, hopes to put the ‘treat’ back into treatment.

“We use all kinds of social activities to get together, chat and compare battle scars while eating cake or chocolate, or enjoying some pampering or reflexology,” Lucy explains.

“For many women, the toughest time starts once the treatment ends and you are out of the care of Weston Park, so this club enables like-minded women to support each other through this new world. We figure if we have to be here, there better at least be cake and a manicure involved!

“I’ve also recently started doing flower arranging classes for the ladies at my shop,” Lucy says with a grin.

“That’s right - my shop! I re-opened The Dandelion Clock recently and I’m just so thrilled to be back in business. The shop is so engrained in my soul, and I feel like my heart and soul are mending now as all the pieces of my life are starting to fall back into place.”

And Lucy credits dancing with playing a huge role in helping her get back on her feet - literally!

“I’ve always loved dancing, doing ballet as a child, and I was really keen to regain some physical - and, in turn, mental - fitness as I was starting to recover. Macmillan have an Active Everyday program which gave me the impetus to get moving again. I wanted to do something that was good for the mind, body and soul, and dancing is that for me, so I began learning to salsa, and then tango. You have to concentrate, be aware of the music, think about all of your body and work all your muscles. Its sociable, fun and makes me smile from beginning to end. Plus it’s filled with free endorphins, so I’m completely hooked!”

And now Lucy is busy pulling together a charity night with a difference, teaming up with City Limits dance studio in Sheffield to host ‘Ballroom Blitz: Strictly No To Cancer.’

“It’s going to be an evening of dining, dancing and first-class entertainment,” she adds with a twinkle in her eye.

“This is something I feel really passionate about, and I was really keen to help raise some money for Macmillan, who gave me both the practical advice I needed and the emotional support I wanted as my world caved in around me. They were truly there for me when I needed them, and the Ballroom Blitz is my chance to say thank you.

“It’s going to be a glitzy, fun evening of shaking your tail feathers, relaxing with friends, and dressing to impress.

“We’ve had some amazing support from City Limits, and particularly from Darren and Lilia, so there will be exhibition dancers performing on the night, a taste of salsa session for people who want to try it for themselves, and a very funky disco - all on a Strictly theme.

“The evening has been sponsored by Howells Solicitors, in Sheffield, who - like me - felt very strongly about supporting Macmillan, as many of their partners have been personally affected, in one way or another, by the challenges of cancer.

The Ballroom Blitz will be held at City Limits Dancentre, on Penistone Road, on October 14. More than half the tickets have already been sold, so book yours now to avoid disappointment, by visiting Lucy at The Dandelion Clock, or City Limits.