Novartis Returns With Breast Cancer Awareness Campaign


This is the first of a series of articles that will be published in observance of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. An annual international health campaign, Breast Cancer Awareness Month is observed every October to increase awareness of the disease, and to raise funds for research into its cause, prevention, diagnosis, treatment and cure.

Maggie Kudirka is a dancer. She was diagnosed with cancer at age 23.

Courtesy Photo

Maggie Kudirka is a dancer. She was diagnosed with cancer at age 23.

Reflecting back on the diagnosis that changed her life, dancer Maggie Kudirka said, “I found a lump in February 2014, and it grew to the size of a grapefruit. Then, I started having sternum pain. I was only 23 at the time, and thought it was just a dance injury. In May 2014, I went to see a doctor and from there it snowballed into my diagnosis. It was a big learning experience for me to find out it was incurable and would be a part of the rest of my life.”

Reflecting back on the diagnosis that changed her life, Shay Sharpe said, “I had worn a new dress, and I was just itching all day. In the midst of scratching, I felt a pea-sized spot on my chest. I had just had an exam done, and figured the doctor would have picked it up. I went to the doctor for a Benadryl shot, and told him about the spot. He sent me for an ultrasound. My mother had told me about this aunt and that aunt who had cysts in their breasts. I thought the spot was just a cyst.”

She added, “The ultrasound was followed by a mammogram. That was the determining factor in my learning that I had Stage Three breast cancer. You just don’t think at the age of 26 you should have to worry about breast cancer. Breast cancer was not on my radar.”

Both Kudirka and Sharpe have Metastatic Breast Cancer (MBC). According to the National Cancer Institute (NIH), cancer can spread regionally, to nearby lymph nodes, tissues or organs. The NIH also points out that cancer can spread to distant parts of the body. When this happens, it is called metastatic cancer.

While the women were both diagnosed with breast cancer at a young age, they also have something else in common— they want to do all they can to ensure their voices are heard to bring awareness and support to MBC.

Kudirka and Sharpe are Ambassadors for Kiss This 4 MBC™, a campaign seeking to increase much- needed research funding and support for the community. Kiss This 4 MBC Ambassadors are comprised of individuals who have all been affected by breast cancer in some way, and use their social media channels and active roles in the breast cancer community to encourage posts for #KissThis4MBC.

For each public post using the hashtag #KissThis4MBC, Novartis will donate $20 to Metastatic Breast cancer Research. A global healthcare company, Novartis launched Kiss This 4 MBC™ in 2017 to increase much-needed research funding and support for the MBC community.

“I am happy to be part of the Ambassador squad because I get to use my voice and experiences for the campaign and share my story with the country and the world,” said Kudirka. “It is rewarding to be a part of it.

“Metastatic Breast Cancer is a big part of my life, but I can’t let it take my life over. The campaign has given me a stronger voice and more awareness that we all are going through something. Just because I look healthy, doesn’t mean I am. The person next to us can have a chronic disease, and we not know it.”

Kurdirka, also known as “Bald Ballerina,” began dancing at a young age, and would eventually grow up and join the Joffrey Ballet Concert Group, a part of the prestigious Joffrey Ballet Company in New York City. Kudirka still dances occasionally, but primarily focuses on advocacy efforts for the MBC community.

“I get to meet women with MBC and men with MBC,” said Kurdirka. “Men getting Metastatic Breast Cancer is rare, but it does happen. Being a part of this campaign teaches the general public about MBC. We won’t be quiet. We will rise up and want to change the world.”

Sharpe, who is now 41, advocates for young women with breast cancer and started the non-profit group Shay Sharpe’s Pink Wishes. The organization educates and grants wishes to women under 40 affected by breast cancer.

“It’s all about getting the word out about breast cancer,” said Sharpe. “The more education the better. I am really happy to be an Ambassador. If I had not been diagnosed, breast cancer would not be on my radar. It makes you think and that’s what it’s all about— awareness.

“I have met some amazing women through this campaign. I get to put real faces to the names of those who are advocating in their areas. I get to meet people who are trying to make an impact by bringing their story to people who wouldn’t know their story if it wasn’t for this campaign.”

To visit Kudirka’s Instagram, go to and Sharpe’s Instagram is

For more information about the Kiss This 4 MBC campaign, visit