Kate Foster lost her leg to a leukemia-related infection when she was 12, but she didn’t let that stop her from becoming a competitive gymnast.
“I've never really found anything that I've loved more,” Foster, now 16, told ABC News.
Foster is able to perform the most demanding gymnastic routines using a prosthetic leg.
The Rockford, Illinois teen’s love of tumbling began when she was 7 years old.
“She loved it, right from the beginning. The extra practices, the extra time at the gym,” her mother, Barb Foster, told ABC News.
The leukemia diagnosis was a significant blow to the budding athlete.
Kate remembers being told that the infection that ravaged her left leg could take her life unless she had the leg amputated.
“I said ‘You're not -- you're not taking off my leg. I need that ... for gymnastics,’” she recalls telling her doctors. “And they were kind of explaining to me, you know, ‘you know, this bone marrow transplant won't work unless we do this. It's really your leg or your life."
After the amputation, Kate worried that her life as a gymnast was over. Her coach didn’t agree.
“My coach said something to me that really changed my mindset. She said that she had never coached a one-legged gymnast before, but she was willing to try if I was,” Kate said. Today, Kate competes with her team, traveling across the country in sanctioned gymnastics competitions. She is the only competitor with a prosthetic leg, and she’s held to the same standards as her peers.
Lynn Foster, Kate’s father, said what his daughter does is very difficult.
“They don't change the rules for her ... they're not saying, ‘Okay, you don't have to do this part of it or you don't have to do that part,’” he said.
Points are deducted any time she stumbles or a coach reaches to assist her on the balance beam - just as they would be deducted for any other athlete, Kate's parents said. And Kate doesn't receive any special treatment or extra time because of her status.
After spending so much time in hospitals, admiring the work of those who cared for her, Kate wants to become a doctor.
She says she’s no hero, but others disagree. A recent video posted by her father that shows her competing on the balance beam was viewed more than 5 million times in just days.
“People tell me all the time that I'm an inspiration, but I'm just me,” she said.