Real Girl Kate Foster: “Losing My Leg Won’t Stop Me!”
Going viral happens so often it feels like anyone can do it, right? Wearing a goofy mask, walking around in your white Vans or even simply having your picture taken can shoot you straight to the top of the trending list on Twitter. But when a video of 17-year-old Rockford, Illinois native Kate Foster sticking her beam routine with a prosthetic leg joined the ranks of viral sensations, it was clear she was no flash-in-the-pan internet star. “That routine was one of my proudest achievements,” Kate tells J-14 of the video that now has nearly five million views. “It took me a year and a half to stick it.”
Kate’s gymnastics journey started when she was just 7 years old and her parents signed her up for a tumbling class. Before long, she was spending 25 hours a week at the Gymnastics Academy of Rockford. “The gym has always been my second home,” Kate shares. “My coach and teammates
are my second family.”
But her life in the gym came to a sudden halt when Kate, then 11, felt sick. “I was exhausted all the time, and getting bruises all over,” she recalls. “Then, I started getting staph infections. That’s when I started going to the doctor to figure out what was wrong.” After a series of blood tests, the doctors broke the heart-wrenching news Kate never saw coming: She had leukemia. She immediately began the fight of her life with intense chemotherapy treatments, two bone marrow transplants and months of working towards becoming cancer-free. During that time, Kate was hit with yet another devastating blow. A serious infection had developed in her left leg — and her leg needed to be amputated. “I was freaking out,” Kate tells us. “I kept telling them no. I knew I needed my leg for gymnastics and I couldn’t imagine my life without it.” It was only when a doctor came in to comfort Kate that she began to accept the harsh reality. “It was either my leg or my life,” she recalls. “If I kept my leg, I’d lose my life.”
“I was determined to compete again”
Never one to back down from a challenge, Kate didn’t think for a second that she’d stop gymnastics, even if it meant training with one leg. That’s why five months after recovering from her nearly threeyear battle with cancer, she was back in the gym (with crutches) doing what she loved. “Even before they amputated my leg,
I was thinking about how I could build up my strength to get back in the gym,” she explains to J-14. “I needed to get back.”
She also counted on the strength of the people around her to help get her back on the mats. “My coach said to me, ‘I’ve never taught a one-legged gymnast before, but I’m willing if you are,’” she remembers. “That meant the world to me.”
“I don’t want the pity”
With that motivation, Kate persevered, and a few months later, she was fitted with a prosthetic leg that came with a special attachment just for gymnastics. “I was so excited to be able to walk normally and do gymnastics again,” she smiles.
It wasn’t long after that she was competing at a national level, with the same standards as all of the other gymnasts. “I would never want the pity,” she tells us with confidence. “I want to do my very best and succeed just like everyone else!” And in the future, she hopes to use her experience to help others going through similar situations. “I want to be a doctor,” she shares with J-14. “This way I can change lives the same way my doctors changed mine!” How inspiring! Justin Bieber has granted more wishes to kids with life-threatening conditions than any other celebrity! “Make-A-Wish has been heavily on my heart since I was about 13,” he smiles. When Harry Styles cut his long hair, he donated it to The Little Princess Trust. That’s an organization that makes wigs for kids who have lost their hair due to cancer treatments. “You’re very, very brave,” Harry said to one fan battling cancer.
This is Kate’s special gymnastics attachment. When she’s not at the gym, she attaches a prosthetic that has a knee and foot. ▶ Kate’s had a passion for gymnastics for as long as she can remember. “My favorite part is being challenged,” she explains.
“I like knowing something is difficult and having to work really hard towards achieving it.” ▲ Through her most trying times, Kate kept her spirit high! “I stayed positive,” she shares. “I have a great family and friends who helped me make the best of the situation.” ▼ Kate’s team has her back. They helped her while she was in the hospital, and they’re her favorite people to hang out with! “Our gym gets together to watch The Olympics,” she says. “I really like Simone Biles — she’s just amazing!”