A young Australian woman is embracing her personal adversity to create awareness around the stigma of lung cancer.
Jessica Bowen’s mother was just 37 when she was diagnosed with stage four terminal lung cancer. Mother Lisa Bowen lived a perfectly normal life—she never smoked, but still found herself battling a disease almost impossible to win. She had lost all sense of feeling in both her legs and was later confined to a wheelchair. At only 38-years-old, Lisa devastatingly lost her battle. Seven years later, Jessica formed a dancing initiative called Act Now Speak Later in honour of her beloved mother.
Jessica released her first dance video for Act Now Speak Later on what would have been her mother’s 45th birthday. Prior to forming her initiative, Jessica felt there had to be a purpose for all the pain she had gone through.
“I would never want another person to go through everything I did,” Jessica admitted to Dance Writer.
She considered shaving her head and exploring other fund-raising options, but her dad insisted she do something dance related to helping conquer the stigma of lung cancer. This was far beyond the scope she had originally thought. She spent the next two months conjuring up ideas and in March 2014, Act Now Speak Later was born.
Dancers from all over Australia have come together to participate in Jessica’s Act Now Speak Later workshops. It is a simple day of dance that has been taken out of the competitive environment and into the emotional lyrical realm, led by iconic choreographers. One of her Sydney workshops held in April this year raised $1600 for much-needed cancer research. The dancers have come out inspired to develop their craft beyond just technique. Even though some of the dancers are too young to understand what it is exactly Jessica is trying to achieve, they also feel warm and fuzzy after leaving her workshops.
“I always felt an amazing sense of love and selflessness from the dance community, and I knew that if we targeted dancers across the globe, we would be inviting like-minded people on this journey for great change,” said Jessica.
“Cancer has the power to destroy anyone,” Jessica added. “It means people living without mothers, fathers, siblings, family or friends. It means not only a physical battle but a mental battle as we watch our loved ones suffering from its debilitating effects.”
Her meaning of the word Cancer has not changed over time. It is still the same deafening silence for her. Now, Jessica is more motivated than ever to make a difference to our dance community through Act Now Speak Later.
When her mother was alive, Lisa had written a letter to her daughter years ago after watching a memorable performance in her first ballet eisteddfod. Jessica had found this letter only last year, which her dad discovered. It read, “You looked like a true princess in your tiara and tutu. I couldn’t keep my eyes off you. I didn’t notice anyone else. All I could see was you. You shine. Your smile lights the room. Always believe in yourself. Love yourself first. You truly are worth it.”
“I will always be with you my special girl,” it concluded.
“Every time I feel down or am doubting myself, I pick up this letter, read it, and it has its way of changing my mindset,” Jessica explained.
Despite Jessica’s strong and smiling face, she admits she struggles a lot every single day with her pain. Losing her best friend has been the most “unimaginable” thing for her, particularly as a child and too young to fully comprehend the severity of the situation. Now, Jessica has learned how to surround herself with people who continually support and distract her from the loss of her mother Lisa.
“Together, we can conquer anything!” Jessica smiled.