St. Jude patient Kate, age 18, acute myeloid leukemia

Life's all about balance

St. Jude patient Kate, a competitive gymnast, is used to being in the spotlight. She recently stepped into a spotlight of a different kind when she announced the Chicago Bears' second-round draft pick during the NFL draft. Read her story.

As a competitive gymnast since she was 8 years old, Kate, who is now 18, is used to being in the spotlight. On April 28, the high school senior stepped into a spotlight of a different kind when she announced the Chicago Bears’ second-round draft pick — tight end Adam Shaheen — during the NFL draft. A lifelong Chicago Bears fan, it was a big deal for Kate, yet she handled it in stride. “I wasn’t nervous,” she said. “I was just so honored to represent St. Jude and the Chicago Bears.”

In 2010, Kate’s family learned she suffered from acute myeloid leukemia. Her parents were devastated, but Kate had a very different reaction — she felt energized. Thanks to the perseverance and dedication developed as a competitive gymnast, she saw no reason to slow down and continued pushing herself.

 

At a hospital near her hometown, she underwent chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant. However, due to treatment complications, Kate lost her left leg. “She was up on crutches the same day she lost her leg,” her mother, Barb, said. “Within a week of getting her prosthetic leg, she was learning to run.”

 

After she finished treatment, Kate continued gymnastics and adapted to having a prosthesis. But in September 2012, the cancer returned. This time, her family turned to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, where Kate successfully underwent a second bone marrow transplant later that year.

St. Jude has helped push the childhood cancer survival rate from less than 20% when we opened to 80% today. We won’t stop until no child dies from cancer.

Protocols developed at St. Jude helped save Kate’s life, giving her the chance to remain active and to share the spotlight with her beloved Bears.

 

St. Jude patient and Chicago Bears fan Kate (second from right) with her family.

Today, Kate, who visits St. Jude for annual checkups, is thriving. She’ll graduate high school soon and is looking at colleges with strong biology programs and top-rated gymnastics teams. Kate competes in three gymnastic events — bars, beam and vault. “There are only a handful of gymnasts with a prosthetic,” Barb said. “It’s a very difficult thing to do.”

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