Courtney Galiano, the Dix Hills native who was a finalist in "So You Think You Can Dance" season four, and who went on to perform in the Fox show's live tour and in TV and movie roles, has announced she has been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.
"My legs went numb on the season-seven tour" that ran September to November 2010, she told Newsday exclusively. "I thought I had herniated a disc or pinched a nerve, so I kind of ignored it. I didn't want to be taken off the tour, and I'm a dancer -- I beat up my body for a living. It's nothing. Then it lasted till about March, and when I touched my chin to my chest, I felt this electricity thing. And later I learned this was called Lhermitte's sign, and it's a symptom of MS."
The progressive neurological disease, for which there is treatment but no cure, was not diagnosed sooner, Galiano says, "because all of these symptoms -- whether numbness or tingling or dizziness or loss of balance -- overlap with so many other diseases." To help raise awareness, the 23-year-old alumna of Commack High School is making her diagnosis public and funneling a portion of the registration fees for The Beat, her dance workshop, into a foundation she and her brother created, Beat MS.
In addition, she and a team of family, friends and fans are participating in the Walk MS fundraiser in Los Angeles on Sunday , to support the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. "The teachers at Commack High School, the Commack Cougarettes, families from all over Commack have donated," she says. "I wish there were a bigger, better, more amazing phrase than 'thank you!' " Those wishing to donate can do so at NationalMSSociety.org/goto/CourtneyG.
As for her prognosis, "I have relapse and remitting MS," the earliest stage, known as RRMS. She is far from needing a wheelchair, she says, and continues to dance professionally. "My doctor at [Weill] Cornell [Medical College], Dr. Susan Gauthier, is absolutely unbelievable and says the best thing I can do is to keep dancing. I have no choice," she says, "but to be optimistic and positive."