University of Kentucky Dancer Dies at 20 from Bone Cancer

A University of Kentucky dancer has died at age 20 following a battle with bone cancer, the university’s athletic department announced.

Kate Kaufling, a college sophomore who joined the dance team with her twin sister Abbey in the fall, was diagnosed with a common bone cancer called osteosarcoma in June 2023 after noticing  a few lumps and swollen lymph nodes, according to a GoFundMe page. Osteosarcoma usually affects teenagers and starts in areas where the bone grows quickly, such as the end of the leg, according to the American Cancer Society.

Kaufling died on Sunday from the disease, just three months after finishing chemotherapy.

“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,” UK Dance Team head coach Dawn Walters said in a statement. “We are all saddened by Kate’s passing. 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. Our thoughts, prayers and love are with the Kaufling family.”

Kate Kaufling.

GoFundMe


“In addition to being a talented dancer, Kate was also an amazing student, in the College of Nursing, who took her academics very seriously,” added UK Executive Associate Athletics Director Sandy Bell. “Even during her cancer treatments, Kate kept up with her studies, setting an amazing example for her teammates. Kate was beloved by all who knew her and she will be deeply missed. 

Kaufling is survived by her parents Holly and Steve Kaufling and her twin sister Abbey. In an emotional social media tribute, Abbey called her sister her “safe space in human form” as she shared how difficult life will now be without her “soulmate.”

“As heartbroken as I am right now, I can say I have the best guardian angel in all of heaven. I can’t wait to squeeze you forever again one day. you and me forever kate❤️,” Abbey wrote.

Kate Kaufling.

Grant Lee | UK Athletics


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In her final Instagram post, Kaufling shared a video of herself ringing the bell alongside her loved ones while celebrating the end of her chemotherapy treatments.

“2023 was by far not the year I had in mind,” she wrote back in January. “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”.” 

“Cancer is a curse I wish on no human being, but it did change my outlook on life,” she continued. “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. 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.”

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