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From Blackpool to Bournemouth

Posted on February 17, 2022

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When champion ballroom dancer Alexandra Hixson’s mother Pam died of lung cancer in 2019, her best friend Louise Jones was right by her side. Now the friends are putting their best foot forward in memory of Pam and in honour of Louise’s daughter Lana, who suffers from juvenile arthritis, needing frequent injections for the pain.

The pair, who have known each other since childhood, will be walking 311 miles from Blackpool, the home of ballroom, to Bournemouth, another famous dance centre, to raise more than £5,000 in aid of four charities that have supported their loved ones.

Louise, 36, and Alex, 34, a former UK National Champion and International Rising Star Champion, will set off from Blackpool’s Empress Ballroom at the Winter Gardens on Mother’s Day. They will complete their 25-mile-a-day trek 14 days later at the Piccadilly Ballroom, Bournemouth on April 9 – the day Alex’s mum, Pam, died at home, surrounded by loved ones.

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Ballroom dancers Andrey Sirbu and Alexandra Hixson.

“My mum was always my number one supporter at every competition held in Blackpool, so it had to start there,” said Alex. “The dates have a lot of significance. To throw into the mix it’s also my mum’s birthday in those two weeks, so I know it’s going to be hard, but I couldn’t think of a better way to cope with it and be with my best friend, who was so incredible in those times.

“When my mum was going through palliative care, it was the first time I’ve had to care for somebody. As difficult as it was to watch, I will never forget my mum’s strength. When I want to give up on the walk, I will think of those final days I had with my mum and I will draw on her strength.”

“Pam is certainly our inspiration”, said Louise, “she was like a second mum to me. It’s also coming up to six years since Lana was diagnosed with Juvenile Ideopathic Arthritis and Uveitis when she was three.

“For about a year she would scream, cry, turn purple and throw up, because she was in so much pain with her legs. I took her to the doctors over and over again and each time it was passed off as growing pains.

“Eventually we were told it was arthritis. It was in her knees and her eyes. For nearly six months we had to give her two hourly eye drops, 24/7. Then we had to give her various immunosuppressive and anti-inflammatory drugs including Methotrexate, Humira, Naproxen, and concoctions of anti-sickness drugs, steroids, stomach liners, folic acid, and extra paracetamol for pain relief.

“We’ve had a long battle trying to get her life back from there to something more normal. Now she has hit the incredible milestone of remission, I wanted to do something huge for both her hospital team and CCAA (Children’s Chronic Arthritis Association).”

Alex and her partner Andrey Sirbu started dancing together in April 2006, representing England in competitive ballroom dancing. In this time, they amassed many titles together, including International Under 21 finalists, Rising Star finalists, World Championship bronze medallists and Amateur UK Champions. They turned Professional in 2015 and went on to becoming International Rising Star Champions and World finalists in show dance. They retired from competitive dancing in 2019, and their time is now focused on their own studio, the Piccadilly Ballroom, teaching dancers of all ages and abilities.

Alex and Louise will be raising funds for Wessex Cancer Trust and the Roy Castle Foundation, in memory of Pam, who received treatment for multiple cancers before she was diagnosed with lung cancer, and for CCAA and Southampton Hospital Charity (with funds going to the hospital’s Paediatric Rheumatology unit) in honour of Lana. To help them reach their £5,000 target, click here and follow their progress on Facebook. 

Photograph (top): Ballroom dancer Alexandra Hixson (left) and her best friend, Louise Jones, will be walking from Blackpool to Bournemouth for charity. Photographs courtesy of Alex and Louise. 

 

 

Nicola Rayner was editor of Dance Today from 2010 to 2015. She has written for a number of publications including The Guardian, The Independent and Time Out Buenos Aires, where she cut her teeth as a dance journalist working on the tango section. Today she continues to dance everything from ballroom to breakdance, with varying degrees of success. Her debut novel, The Girl Before You, was published last year in paperback, ebook and audiobook.

Nicola Rayner was editor of Dance Today from 2010 to 2015. She has written for a number of publications including The Guardian, The Independent and Time Out Buenos Aires, where she cut her teeth as a dance journalist working on the tango section. Today she continues to dance everything from ballroom to breakdance, with varying degrees of success. Her debut novel, The Girl Before You, was published last year in paperback, ebook and audiobook.

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