I have fibromyalgia, and the performer’s appearance on the Disney+ show changed the way I saw myself.
It may seem corny or clichéd, but it’s difficult for me to put into words how much her participation in Dancing With the Stars after receiving a Multiple Sclerosis diagnosis in 2018 meant to me. I also suffer from a chronic ailment (fibromyalgia). Anyone who has a chronic illness will tell you that it can be challenging to avoid feeling defined by your limitations, in part because our ableist society is set up to constantly remind you of them. I’ve had fibromyalgia for 11 years, and far too frequently, my method of coping with it has been to ignore it and try to pretend it doesn’t exist.
However, Blair demonstrated via her participation on Dancing With the Stars that your courage and passion, regardless of the situation, are what make you who you are.
Sincerely, I was shocked when I initially learned that Blair would be taking part in this season of Dancing With the Stars. Her candidness about her MS in a recent People cover story and the way she has completely rocked her cane on red carpets have both impressed me thus far in her journey. But dancing once a week in a tournament that strains the bodies of people in perfect health? How does that sound?
With a cold or the flu, you (ideally) have a few terrible days before feeling better. This is not the case with chronic disease. A mental MRI of your body is necessary every day, as is a check-in with your energy level, aches, and pains. Your sickness may set the parameters of your daily life, depending on the severity of your discomfort and the frequency of flare-ups. Do I have the energy to commute to work? is one of the questions I frequently ponder. Do some low-impact exercise, please. preparing food for oneself? The list continues.
But by making the decision to go on Dancing With the Stars, Blair was sending a strong message about perseverance in the face of those persistent concerns. Furthermore, her performances beyond my greatest expectations. Despite having trouble feeling her left leg and getting her body to communicate with itself, she continued to perform high-energy, flawlessly performed dances each week. She’s out here performing a happy quickstep to the theme song from The Muppet Show while I’m sitting on my sofa feeling sorry for myself because I’m so exhausted after standing in line at Disneyland.
Here, I also want to honour Sasha Farber, her professional dancing partner. I hope we may all find someone with his elegance, kindness, and understanding. He explained what it means to be a good partner on and off the dance floor, as well as what it means to be a good support system to someone with a chronic disease. Blair’s safety, fostering environments in which she could excel, and listening to her (and her body) but yet giving her the room to achieve were his top priorities.
I was maybe even more moved by her choice to withdraw from the competition than I had been by the extreme delight and tenacity that each and every one of her performances exuded. I’ll be honest; at first the news devastated me. I sobbed along with her other competitors and the viewing public during the scene in which she told Farber that the competition was putting too much stress on her body. It was hard for me to resist feeling a little dejected and in despair at her choice.