As part of a major dance company, many ballerinas can’t afford to take time out of their hectic rehearsal schedule to address seemingly harmless medical issues. This was the case for then 23-year-old Maggie Kudirka, who put off worrying about a hard, raised lump just above her left breast.
Now 25, the freelance dancer said she simply thought she had pulled a muscle.
“Being a dancer, I could not take time off and risk losing my parts, so I continued dancing without telling anyone about my ‘injury,'” she said.
She finally booked a medical appointment in June 2014, almost four months after initially discovering the lump.
She explained that the diagnosis was “triple positive stage 4 breast cancer with a very poor prognosis,” with an average life expectancy of two to three years.
It meant she would need immediate and major treatment, and that she wouldn’t be dancing for a while.
Her treatment started with chemotherapy infusions and eventually led to a double mastectomy, which she called a silver lining.
Kudirka explained that the double mastectomy actually gave her the “dancer’s body” that she had always wanted, while removing the source of her cancer at the same time.
Kudirka can’t dance as much as she used to, but she now teaches ballet nationwide and performs as a freelance dancer whenever her schedule and health permit.
After her chemotherapy treatment started, Kudirka dubbed herself the ‘bald ballerina’ on social media, and gained a massive amount of support from individuals across the country.
Kudirka has even started a website and now sells merchandise for the cause of breast cancer, contributing to the near 2 billion t-shirts sold worldwide each year.
She said that while she doesn’t have the stamina and strength to dance as she used to, she feels extremely grateful for every day and opportunity she has been given.