It was a normal day. Woke up in Barbados, went up to the pool deck to get some sun, went to the coffee shop right off the ship to grab some wifi. Julie texted Isaac and I to let us know that she was being sent shoreside to get more tests done. Medical on the ship didn’t have what she needed. Cool, see you later Ju. I came back on board and wasn’t in my room for more than five minutes when Julie burst in the door, sobbing, with Danielle, our dance captain, right behind her.
Julie hadn’t been feeling well for weeks. She had been off duty with “tonsillitis” and when she was feeling weak after performing our quick “Welcome Aboard” number, she knew something was up. After coming back from the Barbados doctors she found out the she had to pack everything and prepare to be in the hospital for a few days to get a blood transfusion. She was a mess and I was doing my best to hold it together although I was a mess on the inside too. Danielle and I helped packed nine months of her stuff and Julie was gone less than two hours later. But we were confident she’d be back. The doctors said it’d only be a few days. Making sure your bags are packed is just protocol…
Well after a week of unanswered questions and worrying about Julie being by herself and Barbados’ lack of blood donors with her type, she finally got the transfusion. But her numbers were still off and the resources just weren’t there. So she was air-ambulanced to Ft. Lauderdale.
It was another few days before we got an update. Isaac was staying in my cabin where Julie would’ve been. We both needed each other as we were trying not to worry all the time. We were hanging out in the room and I happened to sign into crew wifi. Julie asked if I knew where Isaac was, she needed to talk to him. He got her on video chat and I started doing my makeup for “Can’t Stop The Rock” that night. He put his headphones on and I knew something was up even though I could only hear half of the conversation. He could tell I was picking up on the vibes and that’s when he asked if she wanted to talk to me. I got on and she delivered the news that she was diagnosed with leukemia. She wasn’t coming back.
She was so strong and composed and I was sobbing into the computer. It was just unbelievable. After giving up on putting on my fake eyelashes for the show, I called Danielle and told her, not really knowing what else to do. We decided we’d wait until after the shows to let the rest of the cast know. The show must go on, right?
After the toughest and most distracted two shows that I’ve ever done, we broke the news to the cast. And since then we’ve become even closer. We were already tight, but now we’re a family.
The reason I’m sharing all this is because I think it’s important to shed light on the fact that ship life isn’t always this glamourous, gypsy, love fest full of interesting people and picturesque beaches (which is basically all I’ve written about up until this point). Life still happens, shit still happens. The difference is, if you have to go to the hospital, you’re stuck in Barbados alone while your home sails away.
There are serious pros and cons to living and working on a floating vessel and what Julie went through has helped me remove my rose-tinted glasses and recognize a major disadvantage to this lifestyle. The same way ships can transform everyday life into an incredible adventure, they can just as easily amplify a bad situation.
For many of us, this is a bucket list job. I’d auditioned to dance on a cruise ship for years before I found my place with Royal. If I were in Julie’s position, facing a situation that would send me home, I would be beyond gutted. But in searching my feelings for “what would I do if that were me,” I know that I would have to put myself and my health before anything else. We are humans before we are dancers and coming to terms with that is something I constantly struggle with. For this cast, we put our heart and soul into these shows and we are truly a family here in our neighborhood on Deck 1, so it would be incredibly hard to leave so unexpectedly.
But Julie did it and she’s a badass for it. Not only for battling cancer, but for letting go and putting herself first. There are good days and bad days and weird days and changes both for Julie and for us that she left behind. What Julie has been through has inspired me to take better care of myself and to fully appreciate this opportunity, dance every show full out, and to not waste any precious time.
Read Julie’s side of the story here and donate if you can. Keep kicking butt Julie. I love you!