Water skier beats leukemia, wins national title

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(KTVI)-- Erin Kalkbrenner of St. Charles is an elite water skier. She had twice won first in jump and first overall in the USA Water Ski Championships.

In 2013, she was gunning for her third national title. But she knew something was wrong when her training left her exhausted. She was right. In July of last year, Erin was diagnosed with A.L.L. (acute lymphoblastic leukemia).

She spent 68 days in Siteman Cancer Center getting chemotherapy, radiation and finally a stem cell transplant. Her sister was the donor. It worked and Erin went into remission. She says she was very weak when she left the hospital and doctors advised her that she needed to take it easy, but Erin had other plans.

Within months of being released from the hospital, she was back on water skis. She trained hard, determined to win another title. In August of this year, 13 months after her diagnosis, Erin headed to Texas to compete in the nationals. She won first in jump and first overall for her third national championship. Her husband, Cole finished first in jump to make it a family triumph.

Erin made an inspiring comeback from a life-threatening disease and now she and Cole are giving back. They have a team of walkers that will participate in the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society's Light the Night fundraising walk this weekend in Forest Park. Money raised goes to patient aid, education and research.

Dr. Geoffrey Uy is a medical oncologist and bone marrow transplant specialist at Siteman Cancer Center. He says researchers are making tremendous progress in treating ALL. Dr. Uy explains that 30-40 years ago, it was almost always fatal. But now, the prognosis is very good in children. In fact, doctors expect cures and rapid progress is being made in treating adults. Erin is a good example of that.

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