Maggie Kudirka had just started working as a ballerina with the Joffrey Concert Group when she discovered a painful lump near her sternum. But since she was in the middle of a busy season, she decided to put off going to the doctor, instead doing exercises recommended by the company physical therapist. Near the end of the season, however, when massage had failed to help with the pain or decrease the size of the mass, Kudirka finally went to her doctor.
The tragic diagnosis was stage IV metastatic breast cancer. The cancer had spread to her bones and lymph nodes and was incurable.
At the young age of 23, Kudirka felt like her life was over. She underwent a double mastectomy and chemotherapy to help combat the disease, but the side effects of the chemo and surgery left her unable to dance for a time and then only able to do the simplest of routines after that.
But cancer occasionally has its upsides, too. Kudirka never expected that having cancer would improve her life in any way, but now she credits it for making her a better dancer. While she could not do some of the jumps and fast complex moves that were once her specialty after her treatments, she was able to focus on slower moves, helping her to become a more well-rounded dancer.
“I am grateful for every day that I am healthy and strong enough to dance. When I was with the Joffrey Concert Group, I often wished the rehearsal would end early; I welcomed days off from a grueling performance schedule. Now I long for those days.”
Kudirka will be on cancer drugs for the rest of her life to stabilize the growth of her cancer, but she isn’t giving up on life. Her mission now is to raise awareness for breast cancer in young people. “I want young girls to know they’re in charge of their bodies,” she says, “and if they feel something is not right they should be able to ask for help and get what they need.”
Watch the video below to learn more about Kudirka’s unique journey. This bald ballerina is en pointe with some gorgeous and graceful moves that are out of this world!
Elizabeth Nelson is a wordsmith, an alumna of Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, a four-leaf-clover finder, and a grammar connoisseur. She has lived in west Michigan since age four but loves to travel to new (and old) places. In her free time, she. . . wait, what’s free time?