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    Maggie Kudirka: The Bald Ballerina

    Maggie is a force of nature. I don’t say that lightly.  At the age of 23, while a blossoming ballerina with the Joffrey Concert Group in New York City, Maggie Kudirka was diagnosed with Stage IV breast cancer.  After her diagnosis, Maggie’s career trajectory may have shifted, but her fighting spirit only got stronger.  She now uses her exquisite movement for self-expression and breast cancer awareness.

    Bald Ballerina Dancing with text Brain MRIBald Ballering in a dance pose text Brain MRI is Clear

    photos: Instagram.com/baldballerina 

     

    I spoke with Maggie, whose taken on the moniker Bald Ballerina, about here Metastatic Breast Cancer Journey.

    Dana Donofree:

    How did you initially find out about your cancer diagnosis?

    Maggie Kudirka:

    I was showering and I felt a pea sized lump in my armpits. So, I didn't really think anything of it. I thought it was just like fatty tissue or some dance related thing. And then it just slowly kept growing and growing.

    About a month later, I was doing a lift in rehearsal, and I felt the sudden pop in my sternum. And again, I thought it was a dance injury didn't think anything of it. And then by the time I get to the doctor in May, you could physically see the lump in my chest. And I could hardly breathe and move and do anything because the sternum pain was so intense. And it just week after week of going to doctor’s appointments and calling them I just got that  four-word, phrase, “You have breast cancer.”  and that was basically my diagnosis. So, it's crazy.

    DD:

    Did you have any family history? 

    MK:

    I have no family history, no genetics related to it or anything.

    DD:

    So were you a professional dancer? Like, tell me tell me what Maggie was doing when Maggie found out?

    MK:

    I was dancing in New York City with the Joffrey Concert Group, a student based company that prepped us and helped us find a professional job in the ballet world. So, I was on the path of becoming a professional ballet dancer when I got diagnosed. And that obviously changed very quickly. 

    DD:

    So what have you done after your diagnosis?

    MK:

    After my diagnosis, I have kept dancing I now teach more than I danced professionally and I advocate for young women and metastatic breast cancer. I think it's so important that people are aware that young women are getting it and young women are dying from metastatic breast cancer and we need more research and more awareness for women under 30 with breast cancer.

    DD:

    What would that awareness be like if you could close your eyes and create the perfect world like awareness for women under 30? What does that look like to you?

    MK:

    The perfect world would be that doctors don't refuse us when something is we feel is something that's wrong with our bodies, that they listen to us. We know our bodies best the doctors don't know us. And I think better treatments that don't put us in menopause and don't cause us to become women over 40 basically while in our 20s. And to have that ability to have families and to stay healthy and all of that that goes with being young.

    DD:

    Amazing. I have chills. So, tell us talk a little bit about what your treatment path has been as you were diagnosed Stage IV de novo, like what has life looked like for you after the diagnosis?

    MK:

    I started with six rounds of chemo and then I had a double mastectomy with no reconstruction. About two months after I finished chemo, but I was still in treatment. So, I was still getting infusions every three weeks, up until about a year or so ago. And then a progression caused me to get off Herceptin and Perjeta. And I'm now on pills and targeted therapies and everything under the sun is an option for me right now.

    I had a hysterectomy last July, July 2020. And it was something that I thought was necessary. I had talked about it with my gynecologist who's also an oncologist; about getting it when I was 30. And I started to have cysts and all these questionable pap smears. So, we talked about it. Surgeries opened again in Maryland and I hopped in there and got my hysterectomy because I had the time to recover from it. Because of COVID.

    DD:

    Amazing. So you are infamous ballerina at New York Fashion Week. walked down the runway in your toe shoes. Yes. To talk a little bit about being on New York Fashion Week runway in your shoes. And what was that like? 

    MK:

    Well, first, I never thought I would be at New York Fashion Week as a model. So that was pretty cool. And I remember the day I texted you about walking in pointe shoes, and I was like I can't walk in heels. I'll fall. I'll look ridiculous. Can I walk? Oh boy. I was like, I can't do this in heels. I got to do something I'm comfortable in and walking in pointe shoes was it. I just had to practice it once or twice to see if it was even an option. And it was I was like, Okay, good. I won't fall and slip. I won’t be an embarrassment in New York Fashion Week.

    DD:

    Oh my god, all I could think about was like she has to walk to the end of this runway in pointe shoes.

    MK:

    Yes, I'm impressed. It's so much easier, I think to walk in heels. I didn't fall.

    DD:

    So it's only like, about time that Ana Ono has a bra named after our infamous dancer from the runway. So what does if you could share anything like? What does that symbolize for you? Like, what does that mean to you? 

    MK:

    It honestly symbolizes our friendship. I've known AnaOno since the beginning of my diagnosis. And I know how you name your bras and what it takes to be have a bra named after you And it's truly our friendship and our growth over the past seven years, I'm so proud to have known you from the very beginning of and I don't know, and I'm so excited that I get to have my name live in the AnaOno world and just support you all I can and everything. I'm just so excited I get I don't even know I can't put words to it. But it's our friendship and all you do for the breast cancer world and even non breast cancer communities. It's amazing what you do for us.

     

    photo: Instagram.com/baldballerina 

    DD:

    No, thank you. It's amazing what you do, because you talk a little bit about Bald Ballerina. Tell us what Bald Ballerina is, and what it does and how you created it.

    MK:

    Yeah, Bald Ballerina initially was just for me to share my story with my friends and family. So, I don't get a million calls and texts, how I'm doing and it quickly evolved into educating dancers, young adults, children about breast cancer and what they need to know for their future and advocating.  We need more patients to share their story and to talk to the researchers and talk to the doctors and organizations that raise money for research, to hear our stories and for them to be inspired by us. There's so many we have lost who has inspired so many drugs and policies and everything. And I just want to be that voice and use it to change the world for the better and not to be back where it was seven years ago; because it's already changed so much. And I just want to keep seeing that change.

    DD:

    It's amazing. The AnaOno slogan is “Never Alone”. Can you tell us what that means to you?

    MK:

    Never Alone means to me that I can always turn to someone in a split second. If I need to talk or text. I know there's someone always there ready to talk to me and to be open; you and so many others in the breast cancer world. It's just knowing that I can turn to anyone at any time. Period!

    Bald Ballerina in Black Maggie Bra from AnaOnoBald Ballerina in Maggie Bra from AnaOno side view

    photos: AnaOno.com

    The Maggie bra is available for every body type, now at AnaOno.com. Check out this beautiful bra inspired by this beautiful human. 

    Dana Donofree

    Dana Donofree

    Founder and CEO of AnaOno. After a diagnosis of breast cancer in her late 20’s, Dana took her own lived experience and fashion design background and (re)designed intimates for those that have undergone breast surgery. Dana’s story has been published around the world in outlets like New York Times, BBC, Huffington Post, The Today Show, and more.