Everyone said Elizabeth Edwards was crazy.
But nothing was going to make the 31-year-old Omaha dance instructor cancel “Dancing with the Omaha Stars,” her annual fundraiser to benefit kids with cancer.
Not even when she was diagnosed with thyroid cancer in November, just two months before the show.
“The show was honestly a blessing for me,” Edwards said. “It helped me forget about it. I wasn't stressed about the fact I had cancer. I just kind of blew it off.”
Edwards said it was one of her students at Omaha Ballroom who noticed a nodule the size of an egg on her neck. When she saw her doctor in November for a biopsy, it was cancer, and her thyroid would need to be removed.
“I started bawling,” Edwards said. “But my No. 1 question was, 'How soon do I need to have surgery, and can it wait until after Jan. 25?'"
When doctors gave her the green light to continue her show, Edwards moved on fearlessly.
Other dance instructors and her students were in awe of her tenacious spirit.
Donations are being accepted at any Wells Fargo Bank to benefit Elizabeth Edwards. Make a donation to the Elizabeth Edwards/Omaha Ballroom account.
“She's a very dedicated person,” said David Vieceli, a professional dancer and instructor in the Omaha area who helps organize “Dancing with the Omaha Stars.”
She continued teaching roughly 30 dance students, including wedding couples and competition dancers. She learned at least six different dance routines that she would perform at “Dancing with the Omaha Stars,” most of them with novice dancers. And in December, she traveled to a dance competition in Arizona with some of her students. All while being a single mom to her 10-year-old son, Ethan, and planning every last detail for the annual fundraiser.
“Dancing with the Omaha Stars” sold out, drawing more than 1,000 people to the CenturyLink Center on Jan. 25. It raised more than $45,000 - more than three times the amount raised in 2010, the event's first year.
“Elizabeth putting on the event regardless of her diagnosis tells me she cares deeply and believes in the cause,” said Douglas County Commissioner Mary Ann Borgeson, who danced in the event as a local celebrity. Borgeson said Edwards is “totally dedicated” and “an unselfish person.”
While Edwards was concerned about her health, she said she had to keep pushing forward not only for herself, but for the Sunshine Kids, a charity that helps kids with cancer.
On Wednesday, Edwards had her thyroid removed. She's recovering and very anxious, she said, to start dancing again. She is already working on next year's “Dancing with the Omaha Stars” by reaching out to potential sponsors and recruiting dancers. She also hopes to start a new charity dancing event in the fall, though she's not sure of the details yet.
“I love dancing, I love teaching, and I love helping people,” she said. “It's my favorite thing.”