BDO: How has the response been so far?
BE: The welcoming of everyone has been amazing. Everyone’s been so helpful. I’ve had choreographers who’ve reached out to donate their time and their talent – it’s just been amazing. So, now I’m actually trying to think of what I can do next because there are only so many dance classes you can do so that’s where I’m at now – what I can do differently to help the situation out with my mom.
BDO: What’s been the most rewarding aspect during this entire journey so far?
BE: Seeing my mom smile. I’ve been able to bring my mom to a few classes. I brought her to one “Hip Hop in Heels” class and then I brought her to the one with the kids – people forget that I actually work with kids a lot. And of course, those classes are not taught in heels – they’re very much age appropriate, but she just loves that and she thinks they’re her personal dancers so that’s what’s really funny [laughs]. So, when she sees me doing classes, she’s like, “Are my dancers coming to see me today?” And I’m like, “Well, mom, they’re not really your dancers, but yes, they’ll be here.” That makes me happy to see her smile. And it’s funny because we laugh about the fact she didn’t want to me to take dance back in the day and this is what’s paying your medical bills now.
BDO: What sort of things have you learned about MS?
BE: I was in denial when it first happened because no one wants to hear that their parents or loved one is sick. So, I was like, “Is it really that bad?” and when she would forget things or she couldn’t move as quickly, I was like, “OK, she’s just being dramatic” because my mother is a little bit dramatic, but so am I [laughs]. But when I was doing research, I was like, “This is horrible.” As an active person too – it’s like telling a football player he can’t run anymore. It feels like you’re losing all your power. I’ve learned a lot of patience because it’s hard – you deal with losing mobility, losing your memory and so, it’s a lot. With MS, it’s all about the diet and when you have a parent that’s kind of set in their ways, it’s almost better to catch it when they’re younger. When you’re older, it’s hard to tell them, “You can’t have that cheese.” And they’re like, “No, I like cheese. And this is what I’ve been doing my whole life.” Just trying to cope and be patient, and it’s like a role reversal because I feel like my brother and I are becoming the parents. And we have to tell our mom as much as we can, “You can’t do this. You can’t eat that,” so that’s probably the hardest thing.
BDO: For people who aren’t as familiar with the disease, what do you want them to know about MS?
BE: It’s impacts people differently. Some people have MS and they’re in pain. And thank God, my mother doesn’t have any pain, but her livelihood was working out. As much as I hit the gym, she hit it twice as hard as I do when she was younger. I just want people to be aware and conscious that it’s out there because with the other diseases, it seems like people talk about them more – we hear about Alzheimer’s, ALS and Diabetes all the time, but people aren’t really talking about MS so people don’t really know what it is and it’s really heartbreaking. MS is very hard to diagnose. A lot of people don’t find out they have MS until it’s so far gone. So, if you feel a tingling in your leg or if you feel anything that’s not right, you need to get to a doctor.
For more on Hip Hop In Heels, visit www.HipHopInHeels.com and follow @HipHopInHeels @DancingBrandee on Instagram. Check out Brandee and her choreography in Ledisi’s “I Blame You” video below: