Local teen an inspiration for Leukemia & Lymphona Society walk

Kate Foster, 13, of Rockford, will be an Honored Hero at The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s annual Rockford Light The Night Walk Oct. 20. (Photo provided)

• Rockford Light The Night Walk set for Oct. 20 at Loves Park Peak Sports Club

Staff Report

Kate Foster, a 13-year-old competitive gymnast from Rockford who is fighting leukemia, is an Honored Hero for participants in The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s (LLS)’s annual Rockford Light The Night Walk Saturday, Oct. 20, at Peak Sports Club, 4401 Peak Drive, Loves Park. That weekend, thousands of other participants gather at locations around Illinois to honor survivors, remember loved ones and walk in recognition of those still battling blood cancers.

When Kate, a successful competitive gymnast, was 12 years old, she was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia (AML). After two intense infections during chemotherapy, her doctors decided to skip a third round and recommended a bone marrow transplant.

Unfortunately, on the same day as Kate’s transplant, an infection in her knee forced doctors to perform above-knee amputation to guarantee the best chance of a successful transplant. Kate’s athletic ability helped during her recovery from the operation.

The doctors were always astounded by her flexibility and strength — she walked on her crutches to the bathroom minutes after returning to her room after the amputation and made all the nurses cry,” said Barb Foster, Kate’s mother.

Kate returned from the hospital after the successful amputation and bone marrow transplant last November, and returned to school this past April on her 13th birthday. She quickly adjusted to her new prosthetic leg, and returned to gymnastics and CrossFit training in anticipation of competing once again.

This journey has opened our eyes in so many ways — to the whole cancer world, to the whole amputee world, to the generosity of not only our friends and family, but also complete strangers and the power of prayer,” Barb said. “Why are we doing this? Because one more child diagnosed with leukemia is one child too many.”

Unfortunately, this September, Kate’s leukemia came back. She relapsed and is in another round of treatment at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

LLS Executive Director Pam Swenk said: “We are so appreciative to Kate and her family for being willing to share the experience of leukemia. As hard as it is to tell the story, it helps people understand how important Light The Night is, and what a difference The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society makes. Without the commitment of each and every walker that comes out and carries a balloon to symbolize our mission, and the dollars raised, we would not be able to invest in the research that is changing the quality of life for people living with cancer.”

Light The Night, LLS’s annual fund-raising walk, is held in communities throughout the country to celebrate and commemorate lives, like Kate’s, that have been touched by blood cancer. More than 8,000 people in Illinois will participate by forming teams with co-workers, family members and friends to raise funds for life-saving blood cancer research and patient services.

The Light The Night Walk is a 2-mile, non-competitive event. Participants carry illuminated balloons while they walk — white for survivors, red for supporters and gold to remember those we have lost to blood cancer.

Pre-walk festivities include music, food, entertainment and kids’ activities beginning at 4:30 p.m. Kate and other Honored Heroes will be recognized during a brief pre-walk program that begins at 5:45 p.m.

The 2012 Light The Night Walk takes place in Rockford, Chicago and Elmhurst Saturday, Oct. 20, and in Glenview Sunday, Oct. 21. Last year, participants raised more than $50 million nationwide and nearly $2 million in Illinois. For more information or to register for a local walk, contact the Illinois Chapter of The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society at (312) 651-7354 or visit www.lightthenight.org.

From the Oct. 17-23, 2012, issue

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