Sophia Baudo: Dancing through life as a cancer patient
Sophia Baudo performing in a dance competition amid cancer treatment.

Sophia Baudo’s energy is magnetic. At just 17 years old, her positive attitude and engaging smile take center stage in even the hardest of times. Her ability to focus on the good and dance through life’s challenges played a pivotal role in January of 2024 and the months that followed. That’s when Sophia learned she had cancer.

Sophia’s Cancer Diagnosis

Sophia is an active teenager: an involved student at Nardin Academy and a competitive dancer at Company Eight Dance Studio. When she started to develop cold symptoms in July of 2023, cancer was far from the radar.

“I started to get cold symptoms and a cough that just wouldn’t ever go away, and I started to get swollen lymph nodes on my neck. At first, the doctors thought it was just a cold or the flu.” Sophia explained. “I was on antibiotics and steroids, but nothing was helping make me feel better. Nothing was making my lymph nodes go down. This was going on for months, multiple times, multiple antibiotics. Then during Christmas break, I started to wheeze, and I couldn’t breathe.”

Sophia’s mom knew something was wrong. So, they went back to the doctor and received an initial diagnosis of pneumonia. A chest X-ray would later reveal a large mass on the right side of Sophia’s chest. It was Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

“It was crazy to me. You never think it’s going to be you, especially being a young, healthy teenager doing all the fun things, but cancer doesn’t discriminate. It doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from, it can hit you,” Sophia, who is a member of Courage of Carly, reflected.

The news came in early January. Amid the challenges of her treatment, Sophia strives to maintain some level of normalcy and seek moments of joy.

Sophia and her fellow dancers
Sophia's fellow dancers wearing supportive bracelets.

Staying Positive Through Cancer Treatment

Sophia is now a patient at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center. She admits the symptoms of her treatment can be brutal at times, and the journey thus far has been an emotional one. She credits the family and friends in her circle for helping her stay optimistic day after day.

“I have a great support system surrounding me, and I have so many people who are rooting for me and I just think that there’s a mind-body connection and if you’re positive, you’ll get through it better. I think that’s been true for me.”

Cancer can take a lot from patients without their control, but Sophia hasn’t let it take the thing that makes her happiest: dancing.

“I’ve been able to continue dancing and I’ve actually been competing,” said Sophia. “Some days after I get treatment, I go straight to the dance studio even if I’m tired.”

Sophia put it best in an Instagram caption with photos from a competition during her treatment: “Dancing through life,” she stated simply.

Bald for Bucks and the Buffalo Sabres

Sophia at the Bald for Bucks and Buffalo Sabres headshaving event
Sophia at the Bald for Bucks Buffalo Sabres headshaving event

The Buffalo Sabres have a more than decade-long relationship with Bald for Bucks. Every year, Dan DunLeavy and Marty Biron raise money and shave their heads for the cause.

At the 2024 event, Sophia was selected to help with the headshavings during the Sabres live broadcast.

“It was super fun. I’m super happy I got to do it because shaving my head was hard, so it was fun to shave somebody else’s.”

Sophia’s “soul sister” Penelope was by her side during the event, with assistance from Studio 14120 Salon & Spa.

“Bald for Bucks means so much to me because it makes me feel way less alone. You truly aren’t alone because there are so many people who are willing to shave their heads for you. And hair is a big deal. It’s your identity. And especially as a teenager, a teenage girl, that’s who I am. But I’ve found that it doesn’t really matter anymore and so many other people are doing it and it just makes me feel a lot less alone.”

A New Perspective as a Cancer Patient

Cancer isn’t fair, and Sophia, like so many other pediatric patients, knows that firsthand. However, she is committed to living life to the fullest and making the most of each moment.

“It’s awful — symptoms and the sickness, but part of me is grateful for this journey. I know now that everything in life has purpose, and this is serving its purpose. I’ve met some incredible people and learned incredible things.”

Sophia Baudo