Local former dancer’s resilience after hip problems inspires others

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WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- For her entire life, Ann Sumner loved to dance. It was her thing.

"I was shy, but when I was performing, I felt alive," Sumner remembers as she showed us her well-worn ballerina slippers. "I always lived for the next time I was going to be on stage."

She danced all through high school, college and even into her mid-30s, competitively. "I worked, was a mom and I would dance in competitions on the weekends."

Until one day, her left hip gave out. Sumner, a longtime physical therapist at Novant Health Forsyth Medical Center, went through surgery and months of physical rehabilitation.

"I did get back to dance and it was wonderful. But I could feel my other hip and knew I had to make a hard decision."

Sumner knew she had to hang up her pointe shoes once and for all. That's when the already-inspiring leader of her team of 50 really showed her co-workers and patients what to do when life gets hard.

"To be beaten down to the point where you can no longer do what you love and then come back to do something so different, but with the same much heart and soul, that's just resilience all the way," says co-worker Crystal McCoy.

On a suggestion from friends, Sumner took up cycling and immediately loved it. Then, she got into Cyclocross, a mix of road and mountain biking. She's now the state champ in her division and age group.

"I am in the Master's category and just started winning last year. It was really exciting. I just love it. It's completely different. It's dirty, it's muddy," said Sumner. "I love to share my story with our patients because so much of physical therapy is mental. The thing is, it's all about moving forward. Don't get stuck. Always look for the next thing to help you move forward."