Finding Purpose Amidst Loss
HOW MANY TIMES can one person get knocked down and get up again before “I’ve had enough!” is their final decree? Gina Pausina Cherry continues to get knocked down with unthinkable hardships that no one ever wants to endure, but she is determined to conquer that wave no matter how many times it hits her. From being diagnosed with stage II breast cancer with the BRCA gene in June 2017 – only 5 months before her wedding date – to losing her first son, Joey, age 21, in a fatal car accident on December 26, 2018, and then losing her father and her rock, Stanley Pausina, in January 2021 to COVID, the knockdowns keep coming. Although she has faced much heartache and loss, she continues to find meaning and purpose behind all that she has endured.
In 2017, after her breast cancer diagnosis, she felt that she was being called to make sense of everything she had gone through during treatment including the physical and emotional changes that were taking place. She thought about what talents God gave her and her ultimate driving force for life that she could share with others. Shortly after she had finally decided to make the most of her illness, she tragically lost her son. “The loss of your child is like your heart being ripped out of your chest. A piece of me was missing. The spark or flame I had for life was extinguished, and I didn’t know when or if it would ever come back. My Dad would have me meet him once a week for lunch just to make sure I was up, dressed and getting out of the house. Time will never heal this type of loss. You just figure out how to navigate the waters and keep swimming forward without drowning.”
Healing with Dance
As time passed and the year 2020 came, Gina’s need to use her creative energy were even more intense than before. Now, it was not only her drive from surviving cancer, but also the profound loss of her son leading her to find meaning. After much soul searching, she formed an idea that would help others while helping herself by creating something she loved. It would be her saving grace. Dance had always been a part of her life and she was ready to share that healing gift. She would create a dance team for women diagnosed with cancer and undergoing the wretched therapies of chemotherapy or radiation treatment. From Gina’s early days of dance beginning at age five to being a member/officer of the Mt. Carmel Academy Carmelettes, and then being selected as a member and staff of the American All-Star Dance Team, she has performed, judged, coached and formed new dance teams as well as directed junior high and high school dance teams for over 35 years. Also, as a certified group fitness instructor, she has been teaching group fitness at Franco’s Athletic Club for 11 years and has been in the industry over 20 years.
Even with all of the challenges her community has faced in the past two years, Gina feels that now the time is right and that the first cancer dance team for women, the Bionic Babes, Dancers of Hope, will be the new talk of the town. Gina’s mission for the Bionic Babes is to provide an outlet of exercise for women that have dealt with cancer and to develop camaraderie with others who understand the emotional and physical changes of a woman’s body during treatment. “It’s my goal for the ladies to have fun together in order to help the body as well as the mind. The team will participate in parades, festivals, recitals and other community events.”
One of the loftiest goals for Gina is to perform in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. “It’s at the top of my bucket list of things to do in life. I started having my husband reserve his vacation time to take off the week of Thanksgiving because I keep telling him, ‘One year soon, we’re going.’”
Gina’s sense of faith, determination and perseverance has always been her strong suit. She says she is most thankful to her husband, Ben Guillory, for encouraging her to make her dream a reality for the Bionic Babes. Two other wonderful ladies and friends that so generously offered to support and help her, Jannie Gavrin Markey (featured in photos), and Sue Ellen Stewart (not pictured), have stood by Gina and waited patiently for her green light and direction of the vision she has for this dance team. Gina would also like to thank her supporters and friends in the community for embracing the Bionic Babes: Kelli Bouza Manville of Kelli’s Kreative Dance, Paige Henderson of Bellus – A Photography Boutique and Julie Naquin of JN Designs.
Bionic Babes, Dancers of Hope is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization open to women 30 years of age or over who have been diagnosed with any type of cancer and have undergone treatment, whether they are a fighter or survivor. For more information about becoming a dancer or supporter, please contact Gina Pausina Cherry, President/CEO of Bionic Babes, Dancers of Hope, LLC at 504-650-3910 or [email protected].