Cancer and rare muscular disease don't stop this girl from skiing

Teenager trades in her wheelchair for a ski bike.

— -- Kati Leasure might be the least likely skier in Winter Park, Colorado.

The 15-year-old girl has a genetic muscular disease, but it hasn’t kept her from hitting the slopes.

With the help of her sister Amy and a team of volunteers from the National Sports Center for the Disabled (NSCD), Kati swaps her wheelchair for a ski bike.

I joined her recently on the mountain for her first run of the day as she stabilized herself on the “bunny slopes.” It wasn’t long before she demanded to be taken to the top of the mountain.

“I like to go fast,” Kati said.

Maybe too fast. During the next few runs, she crashed five times. Despite hitting the snow hard, she always got back up with a smile, eager to try again. Kati Leasure is helped back up by a team of supporters from the National Sport Center for Disabled and her sister Amy. Her boundless resilience is evident not only on the mountain, but also in life. After being diagnosed with ataxia telangiectasia at age 2, Kati learned that she had lymphoma at the age of 12.

“We didn’t think she’d ever bounce back,” her mother, Jennifer, said.

There is no cure for ataxia telangiectasia, a neurological disorder that breaks down the body’s immune system. Patients are “frequently wheelchair-bound by their teens, and the disease is generally fatal to patients by the time they reach their twenties,” according to the National Cancer Institute.

Not only has Kati survived, however, she’s also managed to pick up a few additional sports along the way.

She discovered a love for kayaking, rock climbing, horseback riding, snorkeling and skiing along the way.

“A kid in a wheelchair sliding down a mountain,” her mom said. “It’s awesome.”

By the end of the day, I could barely keep up.