After doctors diagnosed Sherry Lebed Davis’ mother with breast cancer in 1979, Davis needed to do something. A professional dancer and choreographer, Davis enlisted the help of her brothers, both medical doctors, to design a dance therapy program to put a smile back on her mother’s face. It worked. When Davis herself got breast cancer in 1996, the same therapy, called the Lebed Method, helped with her quick physical and emotional recovery. Today, the smooth, gentle movements are taught in more than 400 locations in four countries. The therapy not only benefits breast cancer survivors but also those with Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, arthritis, and other illnesses. In June 2004, Davis piloted a dance program for children with cancer.

Q. Why is the Lebed Method such a successful program?

A. Well, doctors helped create the program. But more important, we heal the emotions of our participants. Music plays a vital role—it creates a mood that goes beyond the participants’ fears. The classes are so uplifting that participants forget their fears, get their endorphins going, and just have fun. Only 20 percent of our participants leave the program; for most it’s a lifelong commitment. We blow bubbles, we relate, we wear hats and boas. We feel sexy again, and laugh.

Q. What are your long-term goals for this program?

A. My dream is for every woman who has survived breast cancer to know about this program. In 2001, I started the nonprofit component, Focus on Healing, as a counterpart to the Lebed Method to provide for those who can’t afford the classes, videos, or books. Scholarships are available for training teachers. I don’t want anybody turned away because they can’t afford the program.

Q. How has your work changed your life?

A. I take every day as a gift. Since my own struggle with breast cancer, I’ve dedicated my life to letting as many people as possible know about this program—it gave me life after cancer. The Lebed Method participants became my support group, my foundation. It has altered my life by helping me to find joy in each moment. But most important, my work has given me the gift of really believing in the words I speak to others.