Scarborough dance teacher, Julie Cannon, reopens school after wrong MS diagnosis

A dance teacher from Scarborough has told of her delight having managed to reopen her beloved school after being wrongly diagnosed with MS.

Monday, 6th January 2020, 5:34 pm
Updated Tuesday, 7th January 2020, 10:26 am
Julie Cannon with some of her dancers.

Julie Cannon, 61, was well-known for running Variety School of Dancing, which she opened in 1991 at Edgehill Community Centre.

The school was “like a big family” – a focal point for more than 60 young people and a vital part of Julie’s life. However, in 2000, things took a turn for the worse.

Julie was admitted to hospital due to problems with her bladder and weakness in her legs, symptoms that led doctors to believe she had multiple sclerosis.

Sign up to our daily The Scarborough News Today newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Dance teacher Julie Cannon has reopened her school.

Despite the devastating diagnosis, Julie was determined to continue working.

She said: “As a dance teacher my brain told me ‘you can do this’ and I carried on until 2001 but then my GP told me that the stress would increase the relapses so I had to give up. I thought ‘no-one’s going to want me teaching for them’.”

In the years that followed Julie accepted she had to live with the condition but was still keen to play her part helping children fall in love with dancing.

She helped Sweet Sensations dance group and Scarborough Dance Centre and joined the production team at the YMCA.

But in 2017, after being readmitted to hospital for severe headaches, doctors told her something unexpected.

“The neurologist said I didn’t fit modern criteria for MS. He didn’t want to retract such a long-standing diagnosis but if I wanted he was quite happy to do follow-up tests again.”

Despite being initially reluctant to “go through it again”, Julie had an MRI scan in April 2018. When the results came back there were no signs of the condition.

“I cried when I was told I had it but I cried more when I found out I didn’t. For 17 years I woke up thinking ‘is it wheelchair for life time?’

“The first thing I’d do in the morning is check if I could still move my arms and legs.

“Of course I was happy I didn’t have it and I was happy for my family but then I thought of my school, all the years we lost. It would’ve been our 29th anniversary this year.”

In July, Julie took the brave decision to reopen her school with the help of friends and former students.

Variety Stage Direction, based at St James’ Church and Edgehill Community Centre, focuses not just on dance but also singing, drama and performance. It is due to take part in The British Arts Awards, an international competition, later this year.

“We entered 10 routines in November and half of them are through to the semi-finals in Hull in March. I am still overwhelmed.

“Dance is my passion, I’ve always danced and now the passion is back.”

'One in 10' are misdiagnosed

According to charity MS Society, MS is difficult to diagnose accurately due to the variety of symptoms patients can experience which often originate from other causes.

In 2014 The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence said that as many as one in 10 MS cases was misdiagnosed and called for more thorough scans and tests to be carried out.

Around 100,000 people are thought to suffer from MS in Britain.