Teen with Neurovascular Muscular Dystrophy Competes in Ballroom Dancing Competition

Teen with Neurovascular Muscular Dystrophy Competes in Ballroom Dancing Competition

Muscular dystrophy and ballroom dancing doesn’t often mix. But Ariel Mayer, who was diagnosed with neurovascular muscular dystrophy, uses ballroom dancing as a way to cope with her devastating symptoms.

Neurovascular muscular dystrophy is a progressive condition that  leads to painful joints and muscles in kids. Unlike other forms of muscular dystrophy, this form affects mostly girls and its symptoms can range from headaches, fever, chest pain, insomnia, weight fluctuation, to fatigue.

There is currently no cure for the disease but treatment options include exercise, biofeedback, stress reduction and mindfulness.  When someone is diagnosed with the disease they have to learn how to adapt to the changes in their body, which may require to give up certain hobbies and activities.

Ariel Mayer: Finding a new dance with neurovascular muscular dystrophy

After an extended hospital stay where she received her diagnosis, Ariel returned home to find that she could no longer do what she had always done. As a talented ballet and jazz dancer, Ariel had always used dance as a form of creative expression. Now, after her diagnosis, the stress on her joints caused by the use of Pointe shoes or extreme jazz dance moves became too much to bear. Not wanting to give up on dance altogether, Ariel decided to try her hand at ballroom dancing.  After just one beginner lesson, Ariel was told to get a partner and coach. She had the talent to become a pro.

After being introduced to a coach and eventually a dance partner, Ariel found herself immersed in the ballroom dancing world. Even for a seasoned dancer like Ariel, it was challenging to meet the demands of professional ballroom dancing. Weekly lessons were hard on her body, and she was having trouble regaining her strength back after being in the hospital.

But Ariel rose to the challenge and worked very hard to reach her goals.

In the first year of training, thanks to her coach and new dance partner, Ariel saw that her stamina increased, and her ability to push through her pain grow and her dancing significantly improved.

Her strength, resilience, and talent eventually led to her winning the United States National Pro/Am Youth Smooth Ballroom Championship, as well as the National Pro/Am Youth Rhythm Ballroom Championship. At just 14 years of age, Mayer won in the category for 16-year-olds and 18-year-olds. By working alongside partners and coaches older than her, Mayer is already working closely with the pros and is continuing to her pursue her dream in dancing.

Mayer credits the hospital that diagnosed her for giving her the strength to win

Ariel will continue to dance and pursue her ultimate goal of becoming an actor, dancer, and singer.  She often credits the time she was in the children’s hospital that first diagnosed her with neurovascular muscular dystrophy for her success. What she learned there has given her the strength and motivation to find a way to pursue her dreams, despite her disease. She commented, “Every child has something terribly wrong with them. But they’re still kids who more than anything to get better. I learned from listening to and observing them how to stay strong and keep your dreams alive when your body is weak.”

Her parents had supported her throughout her entire journey

Throughout this entire journey, Ariel’s main support system was her parents, who are not only proud of her but are also humbled by her resilience. “To have a child so sick she couldn’t get to school, suffering from pain and fever, to see her brought out of her crippling illness with ballroom, it was miraculous,” says her mother Melanie Mayer.

Like Ariel, other patients can find hobbies that they’re passionate about

Ariel used her newfound passion for ballroom dancing to help her overcome the challenges she faced with her disorder. For kids and adults alike who are suffering from diseases and disorders like neurovascular muscular dystrophy, finding an outlet could play a key role in maintaining happiness. Reach out to community centers and support groups to find out if there are any programs running that are specifically for people with the disease.

If sports do not sound appealing, look toward other hobbies such as reading, writing, arts, and crafts. Find groups through social media that will encourage sharing passions and to develop more contacts with like-minded people. Whatever activity it is that motivates the patient, add it to the list.

Ariel’s message: Find something you are passionate about and use it

As a champion, Ariel will be forever grateful for the people who have helped her. Right now, she remains thankful that her health is good, her disease is managed, and for her incredible support group. She plans to continue to be competitive in her dancing and hopes that it will take her to where she wants to go with her life.

Her message to those who are suffering from degenerative muscle disorders or other chronic illnesses is to find something that they can be passionate about and do it. Mayer says, “You don’t have to be competitive; you can do it just because you enjoy it.”

Who knows, maybe like Ariel the creative outlet that you choose will take you to big places, even with a life-changing illness.

There are ways for patients like Ariel to ease their symptoms

For other kids like Ariel who want to pursue their dreams, there are ways to help reduce its symptoms. Reducing these symptoms will also help patients who do not respond properly to traditional treatment options, such as medication.