Life with Metastatic Breast Cancer: Maggie Kudirka’s Story

Life with Metastatic Breast Cancer: Maggie Kudirka's Story
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I was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer (MBC) in 2014 when I was 23 years old. At the time, I was living my dream dancing with the Joffrey Concert Group in New York. I was in the best shape of my life. After my diagnosis, I wondered if I would dance again.

My cancer responded very well to the initial treatment. After 6 months of treatment, no active cancer was found in my body. I thought I had beaten the cancer and could soon return to New York to resume my dancing career. I had a hard time coming to terms with needing herbal infusions every 3 weeks for the rest of my life.

I continued to take ballet lessons and perform as a freelance, and soon realized that MBC and its treatments had taken a toll on my body. I would never be able to dance the way I did before my diagnosis.

It was very difficult to accept how much this disease would affect my life. I gradually became an advocate for MBC, who is also a ballet dancer. I have met a lot of wonderful people through my advocacy and it has helped me deal with the sadness of losing my ballet career.

My world shifted again in May 2019. Cancer was active in my breastbone, spine and hips. It had also spread to my femoral head.

I entered a mental funk. I was depressed and very emotional about everything. I cried almost every day. I attended a number of advocacy events this summer to share my story and the challenges of living with MBC. For the first time, I started to cry when I spoke about my illness. The audience was still empathetic, but I knew something had to change. When I was with people it was fine, but I broke down crying when I was alone.

I have resisted seeing a therapist because I am uncomfortable talking to a stranger, especially if they are out of place. My mom was aware of my reluctance and suggested another option: getting an emotional support dog to keep me company and keep me off my progress.

My family has always had dogs and we especially love Pomeranians. My mom asked me if I wanted a Pomeranian puppy that could be trained as a support dog. Before she could call, the breeder we got our other Poms from texted her about a female puppy she had available. We accepted with enthusiasm. Momma Mia came to live with us in August 2019.

It was love at first sight and I couldn’t help but smile. I had a dog who loved me and wanted to make me happy. Momma Mia let me see life through the eyes of a puppy. Once again, I got to see the beauty of life and experience the moment, just like dogs do.

Momma Mia has brought new adventures into my life. She came from a long line of American Kennel Club (AKC) dog show champions, so I decided to start showing her. It was something new for both of us and we learned to do it together. I made a lot of new friends who weren’t related to cancer or dance. It was a great way to spend time with mom and focus on other things.

Because my cancer is due to hormones, I decided to have a complete hysterectomy and oophorectomy in July 2020. It was a difficult decision to make as it ruled out having biological children. It was a little easier to know I had Momma Mia. She’s like my daughter. I love having her and taking care of her. She has filled a large part of my life.

I had a scan in August 2020 to see if my new treatment is working. Fortunately, it has shown some improvement. While I’m still worried, it’s reassuring to know that Momma Mia will be waiting to greet me with a wagging cock and a gentle kiss no matter what.

Maggie Kudirka had been determined to be a professional dancer since she was 4 years old. At 22, she secured a place in the Joffrey Concert Group, living her dream and traveling the world. Just as her dedication paid off, she was diagnosed with stage 4 metastatic breast cancer. Despite her illness and intense medical treatment, Maggie found a way to get back to dancing for the added purpose of being a source of inspiration for others. Maggie’s advocacy work includes the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, the Pink Agenda, Living Beyond Breast Cancer, and metastatic breast cancer campaigns for several pharmaceutical companies. In 2016, she spoke to Capitol Hill about her illness. Maggie shined in “The 100%: Maggie’s Story”, a virtual reality film that won the 2019 Tribeca X Award and received an Emmy nomination. Maggie now shares her journey and her talent to teach young dancers perseverance and passion. Follow her on IG @BaldBallerina, or visit her website, www.BaldBallerina.org.



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