By Jenny Earl and Drake Wilbur

As an avid advocate for people with cancer, Emily Hast, a University of Iowa senior, was quick to call Dance Marathon her second home.

After years of watching her family members fight their own medical battles, Hast helps her family and others the only way she can —  by dancing.

Hast (right) at last year’s “Big Event.”

“Dance Marathon provides me an opportunity to become part of an organization that hits close to home,” said Hast. “I can give back to children battling the same disease that has plagued my family and it feels amazing to be around other people who are as passionate about advocating for people with cancer.”

With her brother in remission from stage 4 osteosarcoma —  bone cancer — and her mother currently battling stage 4 mucinous cystadenocarcinoma —  a rare form of colon cancer —  Hast, also a UI nursing student, has seen the strength and courage of those who fight for life firsthand.

And a lot of that courage has rubbed off on her.

As a third-year dancer, Hast said this year’s Dance Marathon won’t be her last.

Looking up to the Dance Marathon families and kids with cancer, she’ll continue to dance for a cure.

“Meeting the kiddos and having the opportunity to talk and let them know they are little heroes is definitely my favorite memory from Dance Marathon,” she said.  “While they look up to us, we truly look up to them for their astounding courage to fight for life and hope.”

Although not everyone has had the same experiences as she has, attending the “Big Event” is a good place to start, she said.

“Dancing for 24 hours is a blast, hearing pediatric oncology patient’s stories every hour is life-changing, and power hour motivates everyone to offer every ounce of energy before learning how much money we raised to help the Dance Marathon families,” said Hast. “It’s an unbelievable, unforgettable, incomparably emotional experience.”

“I dance for hope. I’m hopeful for the day when “cancer” isn’t synonymous with “death sentence” and “cure” doesn’t seem impossible. ” – Emily Hast

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