Livestrong: How Dance Helped Olivia Hutcherson Overcome Breast Cancer

by Bridget Conrad | 7/10/2017 7:36 PM

When most women in their 20s think about breast cancer, they think that it couldn’t possibly happen to them, but, for Olivia Hutcherson, her 26th birthday was one she would never forget. In 2015, when she returned home from a night of celebrating, Hutcherson saw blood inside her blouse and couldn’t shake the feeling that something was wrong with her. After a week of countless tests, she was officially diagnosed with breast cancer.

Initially, when Hutcherson went to see a doctor, she was told that the blood was nothing to worry about. Doctors did not find any evidence of cancer or any lumps, and her biopsy did not show cause for concern. However, after Hutcherson requested a mammogram, and repeated it three times, it was discovered that 87% of her left breast was covered in DCIS (Ductal Carcinoma In Situ). Doctors recommended a double mastectomy and, while in surgery, they found a tumor on her right breast which resulted in chemotherapy and an egg freezing procedure.

At the time Hutcherson was diagnosed with breast cancer, she was at the height of her professional dance career. After studying at Montclair State University, cheering for the San Francisco 49ers, making it to the top 30 on So You Think You Can Dance, and winning five gold medals in the youth division at USA DanceSport, her career exploded. Hutcherson performed alongside artists such as Madonna, JLO, and Flo Rida. She was also involved in doing shows and choreography with her professional partner, Mykhaylo Smagin, for their dance companies Arte De La Danza and Ballroom BASE (Be About Something Epic). The pair performed at well-known venues including Highline Ballroom, The American Alvin Ailey Theater, and Manhattan Movement Arts Center. Additionally, right before her diagnosis, Hutcherson dreamed of Broadway as the next step in her career.

Today, at age 27, Hutcherson is officially “cancer-free” and she described the support she received from her dance family, real family, friends, strangers, students, medical team, and fellow survivors as “overwhelming.” Hutcherson credits this plethora of support as a major factor that helped her keep going in her fight against cancer. “I believe that this support, in combination with my faith, is what gave me the strength and grace to get through all the suffering,” said Hutcherson. If cancer taught Hutcherson one valuable lesson, it was that it’s OK to ask for help and there was no shame in leaning on others.

Now, just a little over a year after her diagnosis, Hutcherson returned to the dance studio and brought with her “LivStrong,” which is her new motto in life. Per Hutcherson, “LivStrong means to live each day like your last. Live strong, love strong, give strong, and realize that sometimes being vulnerable is the strongest thing we can do.”  A huge part of the LivStrong motto is centered around dance. Dance helped Hutcherson throughout her entire life, including through her battle with cancer. She uses dance as a form of therapy because it gives her a simultaneous sense of control and freedom. In a nutshell, to Hutcherson, dance is life.

To learn more about Hutcherson’s journey, and her future plans, visit http://www.olivialivstrong.com/ and check out this video: https://vimeo.com/183846495 .

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