The Dancing Doctor & the Body’s Innate Capacity to Heal

The Dancing Doctor & the Body’s Innate Capacity to Heal

Note: This article may contain commentary or the author's opinion.

If you’ve ever had to face the uncertainty of an impending life-threatening surgery, then you’re already aware, regardless of how “safe” the data may be, in attempting to alleviate your fears of what may lie ahead.

Fear of the unknown, is a natural instinct, especially when we put our lives in someone else’s hands.  That’s perhaps what Doctor Deborah Cohan, a clinical professor and program director at the University Of California San Francisco School Of Medicine, may have been feeling on that chilly morning back in November of 2013, when she walked into an operating suite.

Not to perform her normal role as a surgeon, but to undergo a double mastectomy for breast cancer, a reversal of circumstances that would test her own innate instincts of fear and uncertainty.

However, before the good doctor could enter the operating room, the sound of music began to vibrate throughout the sterile operating suite with R&B drum beats.  The entire surgical team suddenly erupted into dance.  They were dancing to Beyoncé’s “Get Me Bodied,” with Dr. Cohan in the center of it all.

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The surgical procedure was successful, along with the video of dancing doctors on that chilly November morning, going viral with over 8-million viewers looking in. Even Beyoncé herself posted it on her Facebook page.

Later, when Dr. Cohan was asked about the incident, she responded; “What better time to celebrate life than when you’re facing death?”

Dr. Cohan explained that what she had learned that November morning was that dancing wasn’t about “glossing over suffering with a forced smile”, but about leaning into the body, literally dancing with fear and grief.

She continued telling her story, that dancing actually strengthened her immune system before surgery.  It also allowed her to connect with her surgical team, embracing a positive outcome, to an otherwise serious situation.

Although she was initially surprised by her surgical team’s performance, Dr. Cohan, an obstetrician-gynecologist, has witnessed (viewing through ultrasounds), thousands of babies “dancing in their mothers’ wombs.”

Cohan imagines that she, too, was dancing long before she was born. When she was just about 3-years old, she began learning highly choreographed methods like ballet and jazz.

However, her experience regarding the power of dance, and how it can actually help heal the body came in 2011, several years before her surgery.  She happened upon Dance Journey, a program where people danced freely, expressing themselves through the positive power of movement combined with music.  It allowed the body to heal by actively engaging the billions of biological cells within the body.

A year after her surgery, Dr. Cohan founded the Foundation for Embodied Medicine (FEM). The nonprofit group is dedicated in bringing the benefits of dance and its natural healing properties to patient’s caregivers and healthcare professionals around the world.

Dr. Cohan has been interviewed by multiple mainstream media outlets, including appearances on Good Morning America and the Ellen DeGeneres Show, sharing her experiences and knowledge regarding the positive effects of dance upon the human body.

She lives in sunny California with her two children and their dog. She was asked about that pivotal turning point within her life when she was diagnosed with cancer and what effect it had on her, as a renowned physician.

The day I got cancer…. that evening I danced my fear of death and, held by a loving and attuned dance community and brilliant teacher (Valerie Chafograck), experienced an expansion beyond fear into joy and freedom.  I went from feeling as though my body had betrayed me to experiencing my body as a source of profound healing.”

Adding, “Friends, family, and strangers all over the world dancing to Beyoncé’s “Get Me Bodied” while I was healing from surgery… I experienced the collective human heart on an inconceivable scale.”