Zoe considers herself a very strong person, and it is contagiously empowering how much she trusts her instincts. Even with such a diagnosis, she knew: “I can do whatever I have to do, it is all part of my healing.”

Daniela Zoe Croci was diagnosed with Breast Cancer in summer 2014 after doctors found a lump during a routine checkup. She went through nine months of chemotherapy and a double mastectomy.

Italian born, now New York resident Zoe has been dancing for as long as she can think, and, even though it is not the only thing in her life, she feels that it is her main passion. It was easier and cheaper to receive treatment in Italy, so she stayed there for the entire nine months of her life with Cancer. Friends of hers had a local dance studio down the road, where she went to stay fit. Dancing kept her happy and going.

During that time she discovered a lot of “evolutions,” as she calls it, which she could not access when she was younger. In those four years since her diagnosis, her dancing changed a lot, it progressed, matured, and gained depth.

Zoe’s diagnosis was painful to take in. Like the strong dancer and creative she is, Zoe took it in her stride. Overcoming Cancer has helped her become a different person — a happier one. After initially feeling “mad at the universe” because her professional and personal life had seemed to be going very well, she quickly connected to the admirable power within her.

PHOTO: Michelle Layne Lawson.

Being overseas for her therapy made her feel far removed from her life in New York City. People around her felt lost, not knowing what to do or say, and close friends disappeared into helplessness.

“It was tough,” she admitted, scrunching her brows.

The pain of her chemotherapy could not be compared to the one of the surgery. Losing all her hair, having a metal sensation on her tongue, and being completely filled up with chemicals caused her to feel more like a robot than a person.

“That’s what chemotherapy does. It makes you a sick person. And then you rise from it after.”

Zoe managed to maintain the incredible strength within her. Even with an IV in her arm restricting some of her mobility, she still kept dancing.

“At that moment you can’t understand. But I felt I was chosen before, [with] the chance to change something. When you’re taking life the wrong way, that’s when diseases like [Cancer] knock at your door.”

Photo: Massimo Di Marzio.

The disease as well as the yoga and meditation practice that derived from it “brought up lots of fears and problems I hadn’t released. I was very stressed and drained, not [dealing with] emotions in a good way, and putting my peace in jeopardy for others and outside [influences].”

When Zoe came back to the U.S., she put up an event about her disease called “Nine Months Rowing Upstream.” Being the same timeframe as a pregnancy, it is like she experienced a rebirth herself. For the event, she described her experience in nine pages and picked nine people from the audience to read each one and discuss afterward. Meanwhile, pictures on the screen behind them showed her transformation throughout the disease. Pictures that look like the caption of a strong warrior rather than a sick person.

Today, Zoe is “embracing life in a different way.” That also translates into her art and how it resonates with other people.

“Sometimes as an artist, you don’t know why you do what you’re doing, you just feel like you have to.” Her experience has brought her closer to this “why”: “I love to connect beautiful people, brains, and talents, and to see them blossom.”

She feels more aware of what it is she can give. In dancing as well: “You’re giving yourself. It is like being completely naked and giving yourself to everyone. It is a big moment of sharing humanity.” Expressing yourself without words is very powerful to her. “Language can be a big barrier. [In art], everyone can interpret and find their own message, recognize themselves and their own stories, reflecting what you project out.”

Learning about Zoe’s story and her incredible transformation is truly inspiring. She reminds us that no matter how difficult the circumstances, choosing to root in our power rather than our fears can completely change our reality. Dance—and any kind of art for that matter—is a miraculous tool to connect to this pure essence. So next time you ask yourself why you put on those dancing shoes: remember you will at the very least transform your own life, one step at a time, and maybe even touch somebody else’s. Just like Zoe.

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