HOLLIDAYSBURG - When she was 8 years old, a local dancer competed on the international stage, coming in 5th at the World Cup Of Ballet. Cianna Stone, from Hollidaysburg, performed the premier roles in our region and trained intensively hoping to become a professional ballerina. Now it looks like she may never dance again.
Ever since she was little, Cianna dreamed of being Clara in "the Nutcracker," never knowing the performance could be her last. When Cianna was in a show, her mother, Denice always stayed backstage to help with costume changes. But, it was different for the Allegheny Ballet Company's final holiday show in 2012
Denice Stone remembers, "she said 'mommy I really want you to watch me this time' and she said 'my last performance on Sunday, I want you to sit in the audience,' and sadly that was her last time on stage."
Now. for Cianna, who's 12. helping in her mom's dance boutique is her main connection to her favorite activity. As she explains, "it's just something where you wish you could do it but the pain is so bad you can't."
Cianna had actually been in severe joint and stomach pain while performing. Her parents and doctors thought it was growing pains, or dance injuries that would heal, and then celiac disease, caused by gluten sensitivity. And Cianna kept insisting she could still dance.
Denice says, "she tried to suck it up and get through it without everybody knowing what she's always going through."
But when the ballerina who danced every chance she could from the age of 2 finally said she couldn't perform and could barely walk because she was in so much pain, the family began searching for answers.
The diagnosis---Ehlers Danlos syndrome, an autoimmune disease, that was breaking down the connective tissues in the muscles of her back, knees and ankles. It was also attacking her digestive system.
"I knew how sick I was," she says, "but I didn't think I'd have to stop dancing."
But Cianna did stop after that last performance, although she still keeps Clara's dress and her doll close by, at her mother's shop.
Cianna's medicine doesn't completely relieve her pain, but she says her spirit's still fabulous and she hopes to live life to the fullest.
"I'm excited to see what God has to come for me so whatever it is I'm excited for it," she says, smiling.
Right now, she's excited about seeing a big dance production on Friday August 15 at The Hollidaysburg Area Senior High school. Some of her fellow performers from area dance academies are putting on a Night for Cianna show to raise money to fight Ehlers Danlos syndrome.