Folks have surely heard of the indomitable Molly Brown from “The Titanic” tales – one of the few who survived the sinking ship. Well, we’ve got our own unconquerable heroine in Howard County who continues to spread the word of hope for metastatic breast cancer patients.
Maggie Kudirka, known widely as “The Bald Ballerina,” produces her fifth “No One Can Survive Alone” fundraiser to help pay for treatments for stage 4 breast cancer at Howard Community College on Sunday, June 2, which happens to be National Cancer Survivors Day.
The past five years has been a roller coaster ride for Howard County’s sweetheart ballerina. One day, she is in New York City accepting first prize for a documentary that highlights her struggle with this dreadful disease. The next day, she is at Mercy Medical Center for her 80th treatment. Through all of this, the 28-year-old dancer and producer keeps a positive outlook on her life and her career.
“I will be celebrating my fifth ‘cancerversary’ on July 1, which is the date my chemotherapy began,” said Kudirka, during a break with the HCC production staff that has helped her with her concerts at the college, including an earlier planned benefit that was snowed out in January. “To me, the most important date was the day I had my first chemo treatment…when I began to take back my body and its cells from cancer.”
In the process, she lost her hair, her breasts and so much energy.
“I learned a whole new vocabulary and underwent many new procedures and tests. I met caring doctors, nurses, techs and office staff to make me feel comfortable,” she said.
Still, there were the enormous medical bills which to date, have totaled over a million dollars.
Kudirka has had a total of 85 treatments at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore, where every three weeks she goes for maintenance care.
“I am very grateful to be alive and still able to dance,” said Kudirka, keenly aware that only 27 percent of metastatic breast cancer patients live five years.
Just getting scan results can be harrowing, as her last brought both comfort and fear.
“Sometimes I feel that my life is lived between scans,” she said with a sigh. “Anxiety and hope builds up to the time the results come in. Afterward, treatment decisions must be made. Then life returns to ‘normal’ until the next scan.”
So what does she do to keep her mind off these hospital visits and all that goes with them?
She dances, models and speaks at every charity event that touches her.
“I work with Dancers Care Foundation to find new ways of raising money for research,” she said. “I speak at various competitions and I dance at select national events. I also started a program to help young dancers in active treatment for cancer.”
Kudirka is not only a beautiful dancer, she is an intelligent woman who gives inspiring interviews to publications around the world. She shines on camera, as evidenced in “The 100%” that won the 2019 Tribeca X Award in the Virtual Reality Film category. It features the story of Maggie Kudirka, a young ballerina with the Joffrey Concert Group, whose career was derailed due to cancer. Using volumetric video and LiDAR to create a VR experience to tell Kudirka ’s story, Springbok Entertainment has broken new ground in immersive storytelling.
This is heady stuff for Kudirka, though she shrugs when offered a compliment on her long list of achievements. She is steadfast in her determination to make the upcoming concert the best ever. She somehow has managed to bring back those stellar dance stars (who came from faraway places and were stranded in Columbia last January). Among the professional performers already slated are Adrienne Canterna, Alicia Canterna, Ashley Canterna-Hardy, Maeghan McHale, Eric Lehn, Leslie Plummer, Kaeli Ware, Daria Breslin, Kelly & Eddie Hall, Sam Buchanan and Kenzie DuMars, among others.
One of the most memorable moments took place two benefits ago, when Kudirka performed a contemporary work created by her friend, Adrienne Canterna, a gold medalist who was touring in Germany at the time of the benefit. Moments after the curtain came down, Canterna surprised Kudirka and the crowd went wild. Some cried when the tall, lithe Kudirka graciously thanked all the dancers who inspire her as she embraced her “dance sister” who had been there from the beginning.
This time around, Canterna (along with her talented family) will be dancing, and you can bet on a phenomenal piece that captures the raw emotion of this amazing ballerina who will always be there for Kudirka.
Dance Schools slated to perform include the Edna Lee Dance Studio that has appeared in every concert Kudirka has produced; The Academy of Russian Ballet, Design in Motion, Dee Buchanan Studio of Dance and Studio Bleu Dance Center.
Other highlights include a duet with Kudirka and teenager, Riley Marshall, who first appeared in 2016 when she was undergoing treatment for a brain tumor.
“I call her ‘Bald Ballerina Junior’ because, like me, she continued dancing through treatment and has become an advocate for children’s cancer,” Kudirka said.
“No One Can Survive Alone: A Fundraiser Concert for the Bald Ballerina” will be held at Howard Community College’s Smith Theater, 10901 Little Patuxent Pkwy, Columbia, Sunday, June 2, at 4 p.m. There will be pop-up tables with memorabilia and other treasures to buy. Food will be available to purchase. Suggested donation $35. For tickets, contact BaldBallerina@gmail.com.