Dancing for Life

By Christine Fillat  |  Photography by Andrew Holtz

A ballet dancer often portrays effortless grace: Odette’s slow pirouette, Giselle’s controlled arabesque. But such grace comes with much effort, requiring articulation, artistry and strength.

Maggie Kudirka’s training in dance has saved her life. It was the summer of 2014, and she was only 23 years old. Her lifelong dream—to train and perform with the prestigious Joffrey Ballet School—was shattered when she discovered that she had stage 4 breast cancer. The cancer started in her breast and had spread to her sternum, pelvis and back.

She accepted the bone chilling diagnosis with grace and a reservoir of inner strength, the same strength that propelled her since the age of 4 to dance. Her doctors established an aggressive approach to treatment, which included a double mastectomy.

She articulates her desire to live by continuing to dance, even though she had to leave the Joffrey Concert Group and move back home to Ellicott City, to her parents and her beloved Pomeranians.

Maggie has chemotherapy every three weeks, and ovarian suppression therapy every four weeks. The cancer isn’t growing, but it’s possible that the cancer cells will reappear. “For stage 4 the average life span is only three years and I am hitting that soon,” says Maggie. Summer 2017 will mark her three-year anniversary.


A day in Maggie’s life, November 15, 2016

6:20 a.m. Wake up late and have to rush to get ready to go to the hospital for my ovarian suppression shot. Body feeling tired and drained.

6:30 a.m.  Leave for the hospital on a cold damp day.

7:30 a.m.  Go back to get my vitals taken. Everything is normal.

8:00 a.m.  Sitting alone with ice on my stomach waiting for it to become numb before the shot.

8:15 a.m.  Getting the shot. The needle is so big I can’t even look at it.

8:17 a.m.  Leave the hospital to rush to Towson University for ballet class with Runqiao Du.

9:00 a.m.  Class starts. Class is difficult for me today. My body is drained and I have no energy. I take barre. During the rest of class I sit and stretch.

10:30 a.m.  Leave Towson to head home.

11:00 a.m.  Take my mom to the mall to run an errand. Have lunch at Panera.

1:00 p.m.  Going home to take a nap before work.

3:45 p.m.  Wake up late for work. Have to rush to get ready by 4 p.m. ready by 4 p.m.

4:30 p.m.  Arrive at Design In Motion to teach. I am a half an hour late and I for my class feel horrible for being late.

5:00 p.m.  My second class, Flexistretcher, starts. This is one of my favorite classes to teach each week. Being able to teach young dancers a cross-training tool is so important and will help them become better dancers.

6:00 p.m.  Head home after a long day.

7:00 p.m.  Reheating vegan pizza for dinner.

8:00 p.m.  Take a long bath to relax and get ready for bed.

9:00 p.m.  Watch Dance Moms with my dogs and mom before bed.

10:00 p.m.  Take my dogs up to bed and take my medicine (two pills).

10:15 p.m.  In bed snuggling with my dogs.

 

To help pay for her medical bills (anywhere from $4,000 to $10,000 for each hospital visit), Maggie has created a YouCaring website. Viewers can go to her page and contribute to her fund. She hopes to eventually create a nonprofit to help other ballerinas who have breast cancer. Follow Maggie at facebook.com/baldballerina.