Today is metastatic breast cancer awareness day. Metastatic or stage 4 breast cancer is the breast cancer that has spread beyond the breast to another organ like the bones, brain, or liver and it represents 30% of all breast cancers. It is the only type of breast cancer that is deadly. It kills 110 women every day because there is no cure. One day, I may be one of those women.
Scientists know very little about metastatic cancer and what makes cancer spread to other organs. Sometimes it takes years for this to happen, sometimes it happens almost immediately, like it did for me. Two weeks after finding my breast lump, I felt excruciating pain in my sternum that I attributed to a partnering injury. Only after my diagnosis did I realize that the pain was caused by breast cancer spreading into my sternum bone.
Until a cure is found for metastatic breast cancer, no one with breast cancer can ever be certain that they are cured, even after both breasts have been removed and no cancer is detected following surgery. Months, years, or even decades later, some patients will develop metastatic breast cancer and die. It is a possibility that no one wants to talk about. It is the elephant in every breast cancer patient’s room.
Please pray for a cure for metastatic breast cancer, and if you can, please donate to an organization like METAvivor Research and Support Inc. where 100% of all donations go to metastatic breast cancer research
Photo by Beau Pearson Photography
Leotard and Pointe Shoes by Capezio
While I hate pink-washing, I do believe in using the pink October platform to raise awareness and research dollars for #metastaticbreastcancer. Sadly, many companies exploit well-meaning shoppers and only contribute pennies for pink ribbon purchases. But a few companies do it right: S’well Bottle and Bloomingdale’s are giving 54% of the sales price of every limited edition Karma in Bloom bottle sold to The Breast Cancer Research Foundation. I love the design by artist Donald Robertson which cleverly combines flowers with fashionable women.
A family member got me one and I love it! It can be used for hot or cold beverages and it keeps the beverage at the right temperature for 24 hours. I especially like that it is entirely made of stainless steel so no worries about toxic chemicals leeching. #terminalbreastcancer #baldballerina#breastcancer #kissthis4mbc #thisisnotpink
Now that my hair has grown back, many folks ask if I plan to change the name Bald Ballerina. The answer is NO. I remind them that I have stage 4 metastatic breast cancer which is incurable. My cancer could return at any time and I could once again become bald because of the treatment I may need.
I chose the name Bald Ballerina to point out that cancer does not discriminate – it strikes young and old, rich and poor, healthy and sick. It can even strike a healthy ballerina whose body has been trained to execute seemingly impossible physical feats. One in every three Americans will get cancer; one in eight women will get breast cancer; three of those eight will metastasize and die. Despite advances in detection and treatment, cancer remains undefeated.
Today I also celebrate the 50th birthday of the most fearless breast cancer advocate I have ever known: Champagne Joy. Sadly metastatic breast cancer took her from us on March 27, 2017. She started #Cancerland to help breast cancer patients and organized many events, including the Exposed runway show during NY Fashion Week. Her work is being continued by Dana Kasse Donofree and her many supporters and friends. #thisisnotpink
Photos by Andrew Holtz for Dancers Care Foundation and Beau Pearson Photography
Yesterday marked the beginning of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The message behind the month has become all about “Races For A Cure” and buying pink. That is not what it means for women and men with Metastatic Breast Cancer; it is a month to remind us that we will never get to celebrate being free of breast cancer.
In February I was honored to walk in AnaOno and Cancerland‘s New York Fashion Show which included 16 incredible women who have been affected by breast cancer. This was a major stepping stone for Champagne Joy. Unfortunately she passed away from metastatic breast cancer this past spring with only seeing the start of a change. Dana Kasse Donofree is leading us to help continue Champagne’s life’s works by changing the face of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
October should be a month to educate everyone about the truth of Metastatic Breast Cancer and how it is an incurable cancer. It isn’t about buying something pink thinking it will help find a cure. It is about being educated about what organizations, like METAvivor Research and Support, to donate to. It is better to donate right to the organization than to buy a product where only a small portion or nothing goes to help the women and men affected by Metastatic Breast Cancer.
Please help us change the face of breast cancer awareness month by using the hashtag #ThisIsNotPink with anything that isn’t helping changing the world for metastatic breast cancer patients directly.
I’m excited to announce the 4th Annual No One Can Survive Alone a fundraiser concert for Bald Ballerina The exciting day is January 14th at 2:30pm at the Smith Theater at Howard Community College. This year will be bigger and better than ever with performances by
Bad Boys of Ballet
Jon Ole Olstad
Ashley Canterna Hardy
Kelly & Eddie Hall
Edna Lee Dance Studio, Inc.
Studio Bleu Dance Center
Design In Motion Dance Studio
And many moreTickets are NOW on sale. Email me at BaldBallerina@gmail.com to get your tickets today
I was overwhelmed when the amazing Kenny Ortega presented me with his Lifetime Achievement Award at Industry Dance Awards. To me, it epitomizes the selflessness and generosity of my fellow dancers. I will treasure it always.
I am incredibly grateful to the dance community for the love, care, and support they have shown me since my diagnosis in June 2014. I am grateful for the dance writers/bloggers who shared my story; the dancers who gave whatever they could to help with my enormous medical bills and who donated their artistry to perform in my benefit; the dance suppliers who gave me leotards and shoes; the costumers who gave me beautiful dance dresses; the photographers who captured unbelievably moving images of me; the studios that invited me to teach or perform; and most important, the dance organizations and their donors who raise money for cancer research and that help dancers who have cancer. You are all WONDERFUL and I’m very thankful to have you in my life.
Dancers Care Foundation Flexistretcher Capezio
Dance Against Cancer Footlights Dance & Theatre Boutique I’m A Dancer Against Cancer SweetBird Productions Gaynor Minden KNKMiamiTutu.Com Holtz Photography Luis Pons Photography Beau Pearson Photography Starbound National Talent Competition Dincwear The artÉmotion Summer Intensive Joffrey Ballet School Pirouette DesignsPerfectFit Pointe Shoe Inserts Carolyn Rooney Richter Kelemen Inferno Dance Dazzle Distributors Dance Spirit Dance Informa Tendus Under A Palm Tree .com Runqiao Du XMBphotography Lee Gumbs PhotographyVisual Concepts Photography Dancing For A Cure Yumiko
I met Christina Applegate while I was in LA. She has the BRCA mutation and is one of the 250,000 women under 40 who are diagnosed with breast cancer. Because insurance often denies mammograms and breast MRIs to young women, Christina founded Right Action for Women (RAW) to help pay for screening for young women. Please visit her website if you need financial assistance to get screening.
Thank you United States Senate for voting 94-1 for legislation. This bill would make it easier for terminally ill patients to get experimental treatments without FDA red tape. My dear friend Champagne Joy was a passionate advocate for this before she passed away from stage 4 breast cancer. I like to believe she is smiling now.
The bill now goes to the House. Please contact your representatives and urge them to support this bill which will give hope to many terminally ill patients and possibly extend their lives. #cancerland
Today is my 3rd Cancerversary. It was hard deciding which date to celebrate such an important milestone. Many choose the date of diagnosis, but my cancer had been growing long before that date.
To me, the most important date was the day I had my first chemo treatment and began taking back my body and its cells from cancer. In the process, I lost my hair, my breasts, and my energy. I learned a whole new vocabulary and underwent many new procedures and tests. I met many caring doctors, nurses, techs, and office staff who did their best to make me feel comfortable. I racked up enormous medical bills.
Three years later, my hair is back but my energy is still not back to pre-cancer levels because of the medications I take. Despite this, I am still dancing and there is no evidence of active cancer!
I am very grateful to my outstanding medical team headed by Dr. David Riseberg at Mercy Medical Center, Baltimore, MD and also to everyone who sent encouraging messages, prayers, and donations for my medical expenses. I couldn’t have done it without you.
The costs of fighting cancer are enormous – even with health insurance. It has been called the hidden side effect of cancer. In addition to things insurance doesn’t cover, deductibles and co-pays reset every January. This will give you an idea of how expensive cancer treatment is:
Total Cost of Treatment since diagnosis: $689,064
Cancer Drugs Cost: $523,689 (76% of total cost)
Insurance paid: $654,496
My family & donations paid: $34,568
Before the ACA, many health insurance plans had a lifetime cap of one million dollars. While this is an enormous amount, just 3 years of treatment have used up almost 70% of that million. It is vitally important that our lawmakers do not put lifetime caps on benefits or determine that certain treatments can be excluded because they cost too much. Life is more valuable than money.
Sadly, the health care debate has pitted healthy people against sick and disabled people. Good health is not guaranteed to anyone. Cancer does not discriminate: No one is too young; no one is too fit; no one is immune. Everyone is at risk.
Below is a list of the procedures, treatments, and diagnostic tests I received in my 3rd treatment year. Because cancer treatment is so hard on the body, numerous diagnostic tests and scans are ordered regularly to make sure the patient can continue treatments.
16 maintenance infusions & blood tests
8 Xgeva injections
12 ovarian suppression injections
1 transvaginal sonogram
1 brain MRI
1 PET/CT Scan
1 CT scan
I humbly ask for your support to help pay for my treatment. I have an ACA (Obamacare) plan and am very scared about what will happen in 2018. Please consider donating any amount you can; every dollar will go toward my medical expenses.
Here is the link: www.youcaring.com/baldballerina.
Photo by Beau Pearson Photography
Leotard and Pointe Shoes by Capezio
Today Bald Ballerina celebrates her 3rd birthday!
Her life began filled with hope despite a very poor medical prognosis: stage 4 metastatic breast cancer that had spread to the sternum, spine, and pelvis; median life expectancy 2-3 years; no cure on the horizon.
This was very hard to accept. I was only 23. I wondered how many years would I live? Would I be able to dance? If so, for how long? I wanted to live and to dance for a long time. I decided medical statistics would not determine how long I would live.
I learned that I would need both medical and moral support to keep the cancer at bay. So I became the Bald Ballerina. She was born to share the beauty of life with others, and to tell the world that breast cancer does not discriminate: No one is too young; No one is too fit; No one is immune from breast cancer. With your help and support, Bald Ballerina’s message spread and became a social media movement.
I am very grateful to everyone who has followed my journey and supported me with encouraging messages, prayers, suggestions, and donations. I treasure and appreciate them all. With your continued support and prayers, I hope to have many, many more years of living and dancing.
Here are some of the highlights of Bald Ballerina’s 3rd year:
·All scans were NEAD: No Evidence of Active Disease
·Visited India and saw the Taj Mahal – a dream I’ve had since childhood
·Returned to NYC to perform with my friends at Joffrey
·Spoke on Capitol Hill about living with metastatic breast cancer for the Tigerlily Foundation
· Walked in NY Fashion Week for AnaOno and #Cancerland
NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt : featured in Tom Costello’s story about the high cost of drugs
· People: ‘Bald Ballerina’ Keeps Dancing
· NowThis: This Ballerina Is Dancing Her Way Through Terminal Cancer
· Glamour Magazine’s video “Every Scar Tells a Story” won Webby award
· ABC-TV People’s List : featured in Thrive Causemetics Safe Beauty Products
· Mercy Medical Center, Baltimore, MD (my hospital) chose me for a Patient Story video
Dance Informa : Overcoming Obstacles; Finding Fulfillment
· Produced my 3rd No One Can Survive Alone benefit dance concert
· Visited Salt Lake City for the 1st time and taught class for Allison DeBona ’s The artÉmotion Summer Intensive
· Spoke about breast cancer and performed at the Dancers Care Foundation Benefit and at Starbound National Talent Competition showcase.
· Judged my 1st dance competition
· Continued teaching three nights/week at local dance studios
· Continued teaching master classes and speaking to young dancers about breast cancer
· Continued performing on a freelance basis
I can’t wait to see what is in store for the Bald Ballerina in the coming years. Thank you to everyone who has shared my journey and who made these wonderful experiences possible. I can’t begin to express how much your support means to me.