Bella Ballet’s bright and airy studio in Kentlands is reflective of its owner’s personality. The ballet school’s pink walls are emblazoned with messages of strength and empowerment, a message that Hope Bingham has pushed since she became a ballet teacher. Bingham’s sunny personality and positive spirit have always been matched with a drive to instill confidence and strength in her students. Never has Bingham’s resilience been on display more than since her diagnosis with multiple sclerosis (MS) in 2017, only four months after getting engaged.
The first sign something was wrong was when Bingham experienced double vision out of the blue while working out. After a week of continued symptoms, she went to the emergency room at Shady Grove where doctors ordered an MRI. The results showed multiple lesions on the brain and brain stem, which caused the double vision and led to her diagnosis. Upon reflection, Bingham realized that she had missed some signs that could have been early clues to her illness, ones that she chalked up to her busy lifestyle as a dancer and small business owner.
The website of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society defines MS as an “immune-mediated process in which an abnormal response of the body’s immune system is directed against the central nervous system (CNS). Within the CNS, the immune system causes inflammation that damages myelin—the fatty substance that surrounds and insulates the nerve fibers—as well as the nerve fibers themselves, and the specialized cells that make myelin. When myelin or nerve fibers are damaged or destroyed in MS, messages within the CNS are altered or stopped completely.”
Bingham explained that while symptoms vary with each person, in addition to double vision, her symptoms have included extreme fatigue, neuropathy and headaches. In spite of facing bouts of numbness in her legs, Bingham still works out three times a week and dances daily. “There are days that are extremely hard, days my fatigue has its very firm grip on me,” Bingham said, “but those days I fight through it and you will see me genuinely happy and positive and empowering my students at the studio.”
It’s incredibly important to Bingham that her students see “Miss Hope” continuing to work hard and enjoy life while coping with the effects of MS. “I want my students to see me persevere, show them that I will always give them 150 percent of myself and teach them that no matter what life throws your way, keep dancing and keep demanding the best out of life.” With that in mind, Bingham continues not only to inspire but keep her entrepreneurial flame alive with the launch of a new clothing line.
Confidence by Hope (confidencebyhope.com) offers activewear and accessories with a motivational message for men, women and kids. Bingham suggests that the apparel line’s messages of empowerment—as well as a selection of shirts with an MS theme—will “provide pep in your step reminding you of your worth, while empowering you and others with confidence.” One feature of the line is the ability for moms to match shirts with their daughters. Bingham stresses, both in her studio and in her personal life, the importance of dialogue regarding positive body image.
Bingham will be hosting a launch party for Confidence by Hope at Bella Ballet on Saturday, April 13 from 5 to 7 p.m. The event will feature “healthy mocktails and snacks along with multiple wellness activities, brought to you by members of the Kentlands community.” Attendees can expect a fashion show featuring the clothing line’s offerings as well as a raffle for merchandise and the chance to win four tickets to JoJo Siwa’s D.R.E.A.M.: The Tour at Wolf Trap this summer. Bingham asks that in lieu of an admission fee, guests should bring a donation of a used, cleaned mascara wand to donate to Wands for Wildlife.
Bingham continues to teach dance and run a business, all while not only coping with the effects of MS but also managing the treatments, which include hospitalizations every six months for chemotherapy and receiving plasma every six to eight months depending on symptoms. Bingham stresses the importance of listening to your body and being alert to changes, something she’s had to learn to do with her “power through” approach to life. Additionally, Bingham has adapted an autoimmune-based diet, removing dairy, soy and gluten in an effort to stop progression of the disease.
She credits a supportive husband, family, friends and her faith for helping her to remain positive. She wants to continue to share her journey, both the ups and the downs. “I’m extremely vocal about my MS. I don’t want pity, I want my students to see me still thriving with my business better than ever and to show the power of positivity. I want them to see me as an example and feel safe to come to me with their own struggles,” she said.