University of Kentucky Dancer Kate Kaufling Dies Following Battle With Bone Cancer

University of Kentucky Dancer Kate Kaufling Dies Following Battle With Bone Cancer
A flag of the University of Kentucky at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland on March 26, 2015. (Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

The University of Kentucky Dance Team is mourning the loss of dancer Kate Kaufling.

The college sophomore died on March 31, nearly three months after finishing chemotherapy treatment for osteosarcoma, a type of bone cancer. She was 20.

The school’s athletics department confirmed Ms. Kaufling’s death in a statement shared online. The UK Dance Team’s head coach, Dawn Walters—who announced her retirement in March after leading the program for 15 years—said the team was saddened by Ms. Kaufling’s tragic death and sent their “thoughts, prayers, and love” to her entire family.

“Kate was a joy to coach and to be around. Her smile could light up a room and she was beloved by all of her UKDT teammates,” said Ms. Walters. “We will remember her for the tough battle she fought with osteosarcoma over the past year. She was brave until the very end and all of us can draw inspiration from the courageous battle that she fought.”

Ms. Kaufling was a nursing student and Delta Delta Delta sorority member who achieved a 4.0 grade point average. She and her twin sister, Abbey, joined the Kentucky Wildcats Dance Team in the fall of 2023.

“In addition to being a talented dancer, Kate was also an amazing student, in the College of Nursing, who took her academics very seriously,” Sandy Bell, executive associate athletics director for the University of Kentucky, shared.

“Even during her cancer treatments, Kate kept up with her studies, setting an amazing example for her teammates,” she added. “Kate was beloved by all who knew her and she will be deeply missed.”

Ms. Kaufling’s sorority also expressed sadness over her loss.

“Kate was an incredibly bright light in our chapter, one whose presence will be felt for years to come,” an account for the University of Kentucky’s Tri Delta wrote in an April 2 Instagram post, noting that “she was loving, genuine, and passionate.”

“We are devastated to no longer have her here, but take comfort in leaning on each other in this time of tragedy,” the statement continued. “Our hearts especially go out to all who had the joy of knowing her. Kate’s legacy will live in the walls of 468 Rose Street forever.”

Battling Osteosarcoma

After undergoing tests for “a few lumps and swollen lymph nodes,” Ms. Kaufling was diagnosed with osteosarcoma in June 2023, per a GoFundMe created to help cover her medical expenses as well as costs incurred while traveling to and from the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, where the college student was receiving treatment.

The sophomore’s cancer began in her femur, or thigh bone. However, a PET scan found it had spread to other parts of her body.

Although osteosarcoma can start in any bone, such as those found in the pelvis, shoulder, arm, or skull, it usually develops in the long bones surrounding the knee, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine.

This form of bone cancer most commonly affects children, adolescents, and young adults, with an average of 800 new cases diagnosed each year—half of which are reported in children and teens.

The survival rate for osteosarcoma varies based on many factors, such as a person’s age and the stage the cancer has reached at the time of diagnosis, per

However, the five-year relative survival rate for children up to age 14 is 69 percent. The rate is only slightly lower among adolescents between the ages of 15 and 19, at 67 percent.

If the cancer spreads beyond the bones to the lymph nodes, the survival rate decreases to 64 percent, dropping to 24 percent if it advances to other parts of the body.

‘Hold On to Your Loved Ones’

In a Jan. 6 Instagram post announcing her completion of chemotherapy, Ms. Kaufling opened up about her health battle.

“In honor of today marking the date of ringing the bell for the end of chemo, I felt it was a good time to post. Being the perfectionist I am, I refused to post about this before. For it would show my true weaknesses which I hate to let people see. 2023 was by far not the year I had in mind,” she candidly penned.

“My plans of returning to UK with my best friends to dance and start nursing school had made a sharp unexpected turn. I had no choice but instead to spend the past 7 months undergoing an intense chemotherapy treatment full of many hospital stays. 7 months later I’m proud to say, ‘it’s over,'” she wrote.

“Cancer is a curse I wish on no human being, but it did change my outlook on life. Hold on to your loved ones as long as you can. Those hugs might be the only thing making them feel safe right now. Embrace your friends who treat you no differently because you’re ill,” Ms. Kaufling continued.

“Thank God everyday for everything around you. Today I’m proud to share I’m officially done with chemotherapy and ready for a better chapter of my life to begin,” she concluded her post.

According to the University of Kentucky’s athletics department, funeral arrangements for Ms. Kaufling are still pending. In addition to her twin sister, the late dancer is survived by her parents, Holly and Steve.

From The Epoch Times

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