Dancing with the Stars has been revitalized the careers of numerous stars, but none of them has given the show credit for saving their lives. Season 11 hasn’t even started yet, but actress Jennifer Grey says that the show has literally been a life saver for her.
The Dirty Dancing star admits that she had been asked to compete on the show in the past and had taken a pass. It wasn’t until the invite came in for this season that the star of the classic dancing film stepped into her dancing shoes. Once she decided to give the show a chance, it was time to get a checkup to ensure she could keep up with the physical demands of the show. That checkup led to a discovery that led to a life saving surgery.
“Last year, my neck was killing me,” she tells Zap2it, “so I said to them, ‘Let me have it checked out and see if I even could do this.’ I went to this neurological spine surgeon who I heard was the best. I knew he had operated on Karina [Smirnoff, one of the DWTS pros], and I figured I would tell him I wanted to do Dancing With the Stars and ask him what I needed to get through it.”
Good thing she had it checked out, the news she received was somewhat grim: “I’d had a really bad car accident years ago, and basically, the ligaments in the back of my neck were ripped and I’d never addressed that. It degenerated, and the surgeon said, ‘Right now, your spinal cord is compressed. If you fell or got rear-ended, you’d be paralyzed.'”
That wasn’t the end of the bad news for Grey, the initial surgery revealed an additional issue that could have turned fatal. She recalls, “He also said to me, ‘What’s that lump in your neck?’ I said, ‘Oh, it’s just a benign nodule that I’ve been watching for four years.’ I didn’t want to have surgery for it, but he said, ‘That has to go.’ They took out half of it, and it turned out to be cancerous. Then they took the second half out on Christmas Eve.”
Now she’s cancer free and ready to slip on those dancing shoes for the season premiere of Dancing with the Stars on September 20.
Jennifer is married to actor / screenwriter Clark Gregg, formerly of The New Adventures of Old Christine. The couple has one daughter, Stella, 8.