A support worker has finally realised her childhood dream of becoming a ballerina at the age of 54 – inspired by American reality TV show Dance Moms.
Summer Green experienced an epiphany after surviving breast cancer – diagnosed in January 2019 – which led to her ending her 20-year marriage, having “age reversing” skin treatment and learning ballet and tap.
Told she was cancer free in December 2019, Summer, who lives in Poole, Dorset, with her son, Jai, 18, a full-time student said: “I always wanted to learn ballet, but it never happened.”
She added: “So, after surviving cancer, I wasn’t going to let anything stop me and I signed up to classes.”
The go-getting mum discovered a lump in her right breast while she was watching a girly rom com to cheer herself up following an argument with her husband and saw a doctor straight away.
She said: “We had a row over a shepherd’s pie, and I went upstairs and started watching a Jennifer Anniston film.”
She added: “I don’t know what made me drop my hand to my right breast, but I realised I had a lump.
“I was so scared and after checking with my friend, a nurse, I went to the GP. I felt confident it was just a cyst, but when I had a scan in January 2019 my heart sank.
“Everyone else was in and out, but as the minutes ticked by and I wasn’t called, I realised something was wrong.”
Soon after, Summer was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer, an especially aggressive form, and doctors signed her up for a ground-breaking trial involving 12 weeks of intensive intravenous chemotherapy and chemotherapy tablets at Poole hospital in Dorset.
“The first thing I thought was, ‘I’m going to lose my hair,’” she said.
“I just wasn’t thinking straight. The nurse rang me the next day and offered me a trial and I agreed.”
She added: “I went into Poole Hospital the day after and was poked and prodded and cleared to have the treatment.”
But as Summer started her intensive treatment in March 2019, the mum of one was horrified when her body was thrown into disarray as it was ravaged by the chemotherapy.
“For the first two rounds I felt ok,” she said.
She added: “But on the third round I got so sick. I felt awful. I couldn’t move and just lay on the bathroom floor until my friend managed to help me into bed.
“I slept for two whole days. It was just the worst I’ve ever felt.
“I dropped from a healthy 8st 10lb to 6st and my hair fell out. Then my skin started to peel away and I was left looking red and purple.”
— Dance Moms (@DanceMoms) November 3, 2020
She added: “It was like it had been burnt off. I was so frail, I struggled to move. I got dressed in the dark and covered all the mirrors up with rags, so I couldn’t see how bad I looked.
“I had 10 blood transfusions, skin biopsies, CT scans and multiple hospital stays.
“It was a really hard time, but Jai was truly amazing. He was my rock and really supported me through everything.”
But all the pain was worth it when in May 2019, doctors discovered the lump had disappeared.
“I cried when they said the lump was gone. I couldn’t believe it,” said Summer.
“They still performed a lumpectomy to take some tissue out of my right breast to stop the cancer from returning and I had six weeks of radiotherapy, but the disease had gone.”
She said: “By December 2019 I was officially cancer free. Other than a yearly mammogram for the next 11 years, I didn’t need to go back to hospital.”
Empowered by her recovery, she decided it was time to make major changes.
“I looked like I’d aged 20 years,” she said. “It was tough, but despite everything I’d been through, I wanted to start afresh.”
She said: “I hadn’t been happy in my marriage for a while, so I left my husband of 20 years when I finished chemotherapy.
“I worked through all my treatment, my employer Dimensions in Bournemouth was amazing and supported me throughout. Thanks to their support and the help of my sister, Sharon, who is 56, I bought my own flat.
“It was lovely having my own place, but I was still going through a lot.”
Summer was so horrified by her appearance that she had rid the house of mirrors, leaving Jai to squint at his reflection in the door of the microwave if he was brushing his hair in the morning.
“I hated the way I looked,” she said.
“First, I covered all the mirrors in the house with rags then, when we moved into the flat, I got rid of them all. I just couldn’t look at myself.”
She added: “I covered my body in long sleeves and leggings and wrapped my head in a scarf and would wear big sunglasses. I just didn’t want anyone to see me, as I felt so awful about myself.
“Poor Jay had to get ready using the microwave as a mirror!”
But, a massive fan of Dance Moms, which follows the training and careers of children in dance and showbusiness, all taught by choreographer Abbey Lee Miller, she decided to pull herself out of the doldrums and learn ballet, tap and musical theatre dance.
Triple negative breast cancer develops in 1 in 5 women with breast cancer
Due to having no receptors for hormones or HER2 the best course of treatment is chemotherapy, surgery and radiotherapy
Triple negative breast cancer is sometimes described as a faster growing cancer
“I love watching dance programmes,” she said.
“During lockdown I watched every episode of Dance Moms, I love it. I’m obsessed with Abby Lee, she’s my hero.
“We got cancer at the same time, so I really felt like we were going through the same things.”
Empowered by her favourite programme, Summer signed up to classes in October 2020 but, surrounded by mirrors in the studio, she was haunted by her looks.
“I still felt self-conscious about my face. I had been to the dermatologist about my skin and they explained that I would have to wait for it to grow back properly.
“I just didn’t feel right. I had a lot of lines on my face, though.”
So, digging out an old leaflet she had seen during her breast cancer treatment, she contacted River Aesthetics in Bournemouth, Dorset.
“I’d seen River Aesthetics in the local paper as they were doing a charity event for cancer and decided to find out more. It said they offered bespoke medical aesthetics and anti-ageing treatments,” she said.
“I asked if they could help me.”
She added: “When they asked if I was ok with needles, I couldn’t stop laughing. After so much chemotherapy I was completely used to them.
“But the staff at the clinic were fantastic and they gave me my treatment free of charge, as they were so moved by my story.”
Opting for an Ellansé collagen filler, normally costing around £420, and two MaiLi lip fillers costing £370 each, Summer took the steps to undo the aftermath of her chemotherapy.
She said: “For my first treatment in December 2020 I had an Ellansé collagen filler to plump my skin, help smooth out the lines resulting from chemo and reverse some of the ageing.
“Then I twice had a Hyaluronic Acid dermal filler called MaiLi injected into my lips to reduce lines around my mouth.
“It’s changed everything. I can now look in the mirror and I’ll let my friends and family take photos of me again.”
“I’ve even bought a bathroom mirror, so Jai doesn’t have to rely on the microwave anymore!”
Rejuvenated by her cosmetic treatments, Summer threw herself into her dance classes, learning to twirl and pirouette like a prima ballerina.
“I’m really good at ballet now,” she said.
“It’s all thanks to my lovely dance teacher, Allie. I go to classes three times a week. I love it!
“Everyone laughed in my face when I said I was going to do ballet. But I didn’t give up on my dreams, and now I’m like the white swan.”
MUST PAR: To find out more about the treatments Summer received go to https://mailifiller.com and https://ellanse.com