Follow Riley J on Instagram @riley_j_dancer
Dance is such a big part of my life and has so many benefits. It keeps me healthy and strong. I wouldn't be where I am today without dance. I have been dancing since I was 3 years old and started competing when I was 4. I dance everyday and work hard to improve and get better with my technique. When I was eight years old I got sick and ended up in a children’s hospital. I had just changed dance studios that year and was just about to start competition season on my new company team. At first they didn’t know what was wrong with me. I had stomach pain so bad I would scream. I couldn’t eat food. I couldn’t even smell it, it would make me so sick. After many tests and weeks without food I was eventually diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. Crohn’s disease is an autoimmune disease that affects the gastrointestinal tract. I had an NG tube to feed me formula but my stomach couldn’t even handle it. I had to switch to a PICC line that gave me
nutrition through an IV. As I got better I had to have food slowly reintroduced to me. In the end I missed three months of school and dance. I missed my first few competitions and performances. It was so hard! I think that I owe so much of my recovery to my love of dance. Had I not been in such good shape when I got sick I think I would have had a much more difficult time getting better. I still take medication daily and have issues due to Crohn’s. My iron levels are very low and I am tired a lot of the time but dancing helps keep my energy up. It is important to your health to have good nutrition and to listen to what your body needs. Keep healthy so you can keep doing what you love. The support of your teachers and your team is also so important. During that time, I learned how important dance is to me and to never give up!