Jennifer Grey’s road to ‘Dancing with the Stars‘ is one that may have saved her life.
The short of it: When she began to consider appearing on the show last fall, she got a routine physical exam, which revealed a problem with her neck: a cancerous tumor, something she probably wouldn’t have discovered otherwise.
Grey, 50, explains: “It was just a beautiful thing that happened, because I just took one step toward walking through fear by saying ‘maybe’ to the show. ‘What if I just entertain the idea of doing something that scares me to death?’ And then [that led to], ‘I guess I should see the doctor.’ And then, all of a sudden, I found out I was in very, very grave [danger] with my neck.”
The ‘Dirty Dancing‘ star and ‘Dancing’ frontrunner told us after Monday’s performance show that her doctors discovered her spinal chord was being compressed and causing spinal chord damage.
“I would’ve been paralyzed if I had slipped or fallen. It was so bad. So I immediately had it fused,” Grey says.
The actress had to undergo neck surgery and during the procedure, the doctors also found a lump.
“So I thought,” she continues, “well, let me just walk through this fear. Let me clean house and take care of one thing at a time. And I kind of picked them off my list. Okay, neck is now fused. Okay, lump being cancer, take it out. Oh, take out the second half. Oh, my neck still hurts. That means I need another spinal operation. Okay, let’s get it done,” she told us.
“And I had these four surgeries in three months. I started in October and I ended in January and then I started rehabbing my back. Isn’t that crazy?”
Crazy? More like lucky!
Today, Grey says she has been nearly pain-free since her surgery. “I was in chronic pain for 23 years and now I feel fantastic. It’s like I have a new Maserati that I want to take out for a vroom vroom,” she smiles.
That said, ‘DWTS’ fans shouldn’t expect to see any “crazy lifts and head whips,” according to her partner Derek Hough.
“Luckily with dancing, where the neck needs to be positioned to keep it safe is actually where I want it to be when we dance. So it works quite well,” he says. “We’re keeping it safe, but we’re still gonna keep it exciting.”
As for dropping to the floor after their Jive this week, which landed them atop the leaderboard for a second week in a row (high score of 24), the pair say they were simply exhausted.
“We’re doing this dance 30, 40 times a week, every day. No days off. No rest period,” says Hough. “Our muscles aren’t used to that.”
“Especially for an older person,” quips Grey. “So what you see up there is, that’s the last one we got,” adds Hough.
Well, the last one for that night maybe. But I think it’s safe to say we’ll be seeing the dynamic duo hitting the dance floor for many, many weeks to come … if not all the way to the end!
What did you think of Jennifer and Derek this week? The comments are all yours!
Classic Movie Moment: Grey and Swayze sway in ‘Hey, Baby!’