Running against cancer, with Grace

Grace Kostyk.

In many ways, Grace Kostyk is a typical 6-year-old girl. She goes to kindergarten at Lookout Mountain Elementary and plays tennis.  She has an energetic and friendly personality.

But Grace’s life is anything but typical. In September 2011, she was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), one of the most common types of cancer in children, according to the National Cancer Institute. ALL inhibits healthy cell growth in the blood and bone marrow because of an excess of underdeveloped white blood cells. So hospital visits, spinal taps and daily medications are also part of Grace’s routine.

“She’s not the kind of kid to let this get her down,” says her mom, Sue Kostyk.

Grace is the honorary starter for Saturday’s Run to Fight Children’s Cancer. The event, which takes place at Grand Canyon University, benefits the nonprofit organization Children’s Cancer Network.

“Cancer can be a devastating health issue for the kids and a devastating financial issue for the parents,” says Sue. Treatment for ALL can last two-and-a-half years for girls and three years for boys. “[The Cancer Network] is a great organization,” she says. “Many families can’t even put food on the table and this run helps provide gas cards and mattresses and things families struggle to afford.”

Saturday’s event includes family activities, games, crafts, facepainting, mascots and more on GCU’s campus at 33rd Avenue and Camelback in Phoenix. 5k and 10k runs will be held, as well as a Cancer Surviviors’ Walk. Registration begins at 6:30am. Proceeds will support families at Phoenix Children’s Hospital, Cardon Children’s Medical Center and St. Joseph’s Hospital. A similar run last fall raised $30,000.

Sue says it’s hard “watching [Grace] go through things normal kids don’t have to go through. It breaks my heart that she can’t be normal.” But cancer hasn’t hindered her daughter. Grace is looking forward to starting off the big run and is proof that life doesn’t end with a cancer diagnosis; it simply changes.

To join the run, visit runtofightcancer.com.

— Amy Vogelsang

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