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What do you when you’re 35 years old and in palliative care during COVID-19? You dance, of course.
Why? “Because you can’t choose what happens to you in life but you can choose how you deal with it”. They were words Jules Domigan lived by.
When she entered Claire Holland House in March 2020, Jules knew she would never come out. Despite her positive attitude and best efforts to beat her breast cancer, it wasn’t going to end like it does in the movies.
“I wish it was going to be like that but it’s not,” Jules said in a recent podcast for Breast Cancer Network Australia (BCNA). In the two years since her diagnosis, Jules chose to advocate for others, to raise money for BCNA, to enjoy her young family and to travel.
Dying was not going to be her choice but she did have control over how it would happen. Jules’ room was decorated with comforts of home, framed photos were on her wall, the bed covered with a favourite blanket of memories and each day she spent time with her husband, 21-month-old daughter, her Dad and their Dalmatian, Cali. But COVID lockdown prevented her friends from visiting.
When time is running out, it’s hard to imagine that fate could be crueller. That’s when Jules went ‘Footloose’—literally. She began to dance to the 80s tune and threw out a video challenge to her friends.
“Yes, I have no hair and yes, I am posting random photos and video of people dancing,” she wrote. “But get on board—take a video of you doing something really stupid, some good dancing and let’s brighten everyone’s day. I’m sick to death of this Corona Virus over and over again. So let’s have some fun. Love you guys!”
It might sound ‘Pollyanna’, but Jules knew how to find the upside because she’d also lived the downside. Wallowing in sad thoughts of all the things she’d miss out on in her daughter’s life changed nothing and bought her no joy.
Dancing didn’t change anything either but it did give her joy. Watching her family and friends bust out their best (and worst) moves to everything from Madonna to the Wiggles did as well.
Pets looked on in varying degrees of bewilderment and sheer horror as their owners took to lounge room dance floors with a backdrop of dirty kitchens and ordinary life.
Some needed a few beverages to loosen their joints and inhibitions. There was a mop for a prop, dress ups, wigs and even ‘cats balls’. It was a beautiful way to find joy and banter at a time when it would seem almost impossible.
As Jules watched the daily stream of videos from her bed in palliative care she laughed and smiled. “People are walking past my room with the funniest look on their faces,” Jules text to the dance group. “I’m not sure I’m appropriate for hospice care. And I love it!”
“F** being appropriate,” a friend replied. “You’ve not been appropriate to date, why start now?’
So Jules posted a photo of her fluid-filled ankles. “Check out my luxurious ‘Kankles’. They’re really sexy.” A friend suggested for her to try handstand dancing.
There was a photo of her with a unicorn headband. Then, after a particularly rough day the only thing left to do was dance to Queen’s Fat Bottom Girls. “Had a shit day,” she texted. “So what do we do? I know I am an amazing dancer.”
Despite little strength, Jules managed a leg kick and at one point looked like she was going to drop her pants. She didn’t, though no one would have been surprised if she had.
The laughter and videos continued even when Jules stopped posting. A few days later she died on her 36th birthday— 11 April 2020.
The thread went quiet. Then, on the day of her COVID-style funeral, the messages began once more.
“I’m so thankful for the videos of our Jules dancing.”
“We are all better for knowing Jules.”
“Sending love and dancing vibes.”
There was a live toast to Jules and more dance videos. Messages of sadness and love for a funny, fabulous lady who somewhere is now bound to be truly ‘Footloose’.
Listen to Jules Domigan on the BCNA Podcast – UPFRONT.