Looking back at THON: 'I would do it all over again'

It has taken me a while to actually sit down and reflect on dancing in THON. It's something so hard to put into a few words and something that I will never forget.

I'm still in disbelief that the weekend went by as quickly as it approached. I'm left humbled and honored that I was able to dance. It didn't actually hit me that I was dancing until I sat amongst the 706 other dancers right before we walked outside the multi-sports complex through the human tunnel to the Bryce Jordan Center. I was filled with joy and excitement, not knowing what the weekend would bring until we counted down the final 10 seconds before standing for 46 hours straight.

Throughout the weekend, I had absolutely no sense of time, probably making things a lot easier and losing track of how much time went by so quickly. It also helped having my DRCM, Olivia, or any visitors I had take my phone and change the time zone. As I saw many of my friends and peers on the floor of the BJC it was encouraging for them to come up and tell me I looked great even as we reached the end of the 46-hour dance marathon. I kept myself busy by doing various activities such as the childhood game parachute, coloring, playing small games, talking to people and playing with some of the THON children. I also always had a drink, water or Gatorade, by my side and kept moving or stretching (thanks Olivia!). 

The amount of support I received from my dance partner, Meaghan, my DRCM, Olivia, my friends, and everyone on the dance floor was absolutely amazing. Random people I barely knew would ask me if I need anything and were more than willing to take the time to grab me a water, massage my back or calves, give me a piggyback ride, help me stretch or just talk to me and keep me motivated. It was like nothing I had ever experienced and it truly showed what the Penn State community is all about.  

I felt really good throughout the weekend up until sometime before the final four hours on Sunday (not exactly sure what time). I remember standing in one of the hallways with Meaghan, waiting in line to be massaged when “the wall” hit me. The hallway reminded me of a hospital hallway- hot, dimly lit with white walls and flooring- making me tired. Just as my eyes were getting heavy a DRCM walked up to me and asked me if I wanted some cold water for my face, squirting some water from a water gun into my hands. Shortly after, another DRCM walked up and asked me if I wanted to stretch with her and talked to me, noticing that I was a dancer by the way I stretched. Once I had my massage I felt refreshed and eager to be back out on the floor, it was like I was a new person. Shortly after that, Meaghan and I went for an ice bath for our feet – one of the most painful things – and I had my knee wrapped while she had the arches of her feet wrapped. After that, I was definitely awake.

The final four hours were definitely an emotional rollercoaster. We cried, we laughed and we danced. Hearing everyone count down the final seconds and sitting was when it all really hit though. Meaghan and I sat down and hugged each other tight, crying into each other's shoulders – we couldn't believe that we did it.

One thing that really struck is that no matter how small I think dancing in THON was, I may have saved a child's life because of it. By standing for 46 hours, we showed the world that cancer will not win and that one day we WILL find a cure. The pain I endured during THON weekend was nothing compared to what the children affected by cancer feel and that got me through the weekend. 

Earlier this week, I received a phone call from a Four Diamonds family. I, unfortunately, missed the call since I was working but they left a voicemail thanking me for dancing and wishing me a good recovery. I was moved by it, thinking that a week later it would just be a memory to everyone but getting that phone call was a big reminder of why we dance. Cancer doesn't just stop after THON and that's why it's a year-long effort. One day we will find a cure but until then we will dance and I am so glad I had the chance to dance in search of a cure.

If I could, I would do it all over again.

Abbi Sales is a Penn State senior majoring in broadcast journalism and an intern for HappyValley.com.


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