Yesenia Peralta Shares Her Story of Dance, Growth and Healing- Interview- Part 1

Part 1: “Dancing has really taken me to a place of healing that I never imagined.”- Yesenia Peralta

yesenia4Yesenia Peralta has always been one of those dancers who really stood out to me because of her flavor and natural movement both in her social dancing and stage performances.  But her talent as a dancer has come to mean even more to me after getting to know Yesenia on a more personal level over the past few months.  Through an in-depth interview with Yesenia, first conducted in July of this year,* I learned what a strong, courageous and fun loving woman lies within this dancer, this individual.  Most of all, I was touched and deeply inspired by the passion for living that Yesenia shows off the dance floor as much as, if not more than, she has demonstrated in her years on the dance floor.

It is an honor to help her, through this interview, to share for the first time Yesenia’s story about her recent diagnosis with Multiple Sclerosis (MS,) and how it has affected her perspective and growth in many areas of her life.  Thank you, Yesenia, for trusting me to help send your message out to all the people out there who want to know how you’re doing.  I know you will continue to inspire others with your positivity and charisma wherever you go.  You have definitely had a huge impact on my life from just a few months of knowing you.

*Note: This interview was conducted on July 23rd, 2012; therefore, any reference to time and location is reflective of Yesenia’s experiences up to that date. 

Thanks so much for taking the time to talk with me, Yesenia, especially with everything you’re going through right now. 

That’s okay, girl.  Like I wrote to you, la gente estan pendiente (laughs)

(Translation: the people are waiting, they are waiting to find out what is happening with me)

People know I’m sick but they don’t understand what’s going on and what my mission is in my head.  But this is my moment to talk a little more personally about myself.  And even though you might be asking me questions about dance here, this interview is still different than others in the past.  Every interview I’ve ever done before has always been about ‘what’s next’.  People are always concentrating on what is GOING to come- “Oh, when is your school going to be opening up? When is your dance company going to perform?” they always ask.  It’s always about what I am GOING to be doing.

But this time, it’s a little different, you know?  This is the first time I’m doing an interview since I’ve been diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis.  And, to be honest, at first, I wasn’t interested in talking on a personal level to anyone.   Three weeks ago, I would not have done this interview.  A month ago, I would not have done this interview because I hadn’t found ‘my place’ yet, you know?  (*see reference note at the start of the interview)

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Interview with Yesenia Peralta- Part 3

Part 3: “EVERYONE- the world- is helping me through this. You guys are my strength.”- Yesenia Peralta

(Click here to begin at Part 1 and Part 2)

I found out about your health condition when your brother sent me an invite to the fundraiser that was put on for you earlier this year.  I was shocked. I had no idea you were even suffering through anything, let alone multiple sclerosis.  How did the diagnosis come about for you?

MS poster advertIn 2007, I had tingling in my arms and my legs.  And the tingling got worse.  I went to Singapore with my brother, but I wasn’t being very social there, and I wasn’t dancing as much as I used to.  I didn’t know why, but I just wasn’t feeling good.  When I came back from Singapore, it got worse.  It went from my hands to my arms and to my legs.  The tingling got so bad that I couldn’t unbuckle my belt, I couldn’t brush my hair, and I couldn’t write the receipts for my students.  Eventually, I couldn’t teach!

I had to go to three different hospitals before I got admitted because nobody could figure out what was going on.  So I finally get admitted and they released me five days later, without telling me what was wrong, because they said they didn’t know.  And because I didn’t have insurance, they couldn’t continue to just keep me there.  So they let me go.  And then little by little, I got better, so I just thought, “Oh, it’s gone.  All right.  Back to work!”   I opened up another school and didn’t think twice about what had happened.

Then, in 2010, I get this feeling again- tingling, numbness, and all that stuff.  And then finally, I got diagnosed in August of that year.  But when we finally saw the paperwork from 2007, it said ‘possible Multiple Sclerosis’ on it!  2007! Why couldn’t the doctors have just mentioned that word to me then?  But no, they didn’t.  And that’s how I found out three years later.

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Salsa As Medicine

 

It was a cold morning in December. My feet were unusually tingly on my way to the shower. I laughed, thinking that’s what I get for having worn a warm pair of woolen socks to sleep all night. I was sure that it was just a strong case of pins and needles. But stepping out of the shower, I was startled to find that no matter how much I scrubbed my thick towel against my skin, I couldn’t feel parts of my legs under it.

I tried not to panic, believing that the feeling – or lack of feeling – would subside. But within a few weeks, the numbness traveled to my stomach, and turned into a strain on my spine. On some days, I could barely bend down to help the students in my grade six classroom. And I felt tired after just an hour of any concentrated activity. My usual energy and enthusiasm was quickly transformed into an uncontrollable lethargy.

After many visits to various doctors and specialists, and finally being sent for an MRI exam in March, I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. I didn’t know much about it at the time, but had heard stories that it had the power to permanently disable or cripple. And sitting in the waiting room of the MS Clinic quickly added to my fears: patients in wheel chairs, canes and severe limps, and swollen feet surrounded me.  Continue reading