Liberty News

Cancer survivor serves with Children's Miracle Network, runs 'victory lap' at Disney race

March 16, 2017 : By Tobi Walsh/Liberty University News Service

Last month, Liberty University freshman Katie Karp walked across the finish line of the Disney Princess Half-Marathon in Orlando. It was a feat that didn’t seem possible seven years ago.

At 12 years old, Karp was diagnosed with osteosarcoma (bone cancer) in her left thigh bone. Now the School of Communication & Creative Arts student hopes her story will encourage others as she serves as an ambassador for Children’s Miracle Network. The organization raises funds and awareness for 170 member hospitals, providing 32 million treatments each year to children across the U.S. and Canada.

“I was a perfectly healthy kid,” Karp said. “I had never had a surgery or broken a bone before. At the time, I was playing lacrosse and running. Suddenly, I couldn’t do any of those things.”

Karp said she immediately underwent chemotherapy for a year. Over her 18 sessions, she lost her hair and was told there was a possibility she would lose her left leg. But Karp wanted to play sports. Her family looked into the possibility of inserting a titanium internal prostatic bar that would take the place of the 12-inch bone that would have to be removed from her leg.

“The internal prosthetic was not approved by the FDA at the time,” Karp said. “My surgeon had permission to perform my particular surgery from the FDA. I just so happened to fit the bill of all the specifications required to be able to have that specific procedure.”

The surgery was successful and the implant worked. Then, Karp underwent eight months of physical therapy to learn to walk again and was declared cancer-free in 2011.

“By the grace of God I am still here today,” she said. “I now have this beautiful outlook on life.”

Karp high-fives her trainer and doctors at the finish line.Karp was able to return to sports. She played two years of lacrosse in high school and now participates in CrossFit. But finishing the half-marathon last month where she represented Children’s Miracle Network was what she called a victory lap. She was able to walk the more than 13-mile course through Disney’s Magic Kingdom and EPCOT with her trainer and the two doctors who treated her.

“God ultimately saved my life, but so did these doctors,” Karp said. “To walk with them and honor them was such a blessing.”

Karp was also asked by Children’s Miracle Network, the sponsor of the race, to speak to runners during the weekend about her story. (Watch her interview with Disney Sports on the Disney Parks Blog below.) She shared the stage with Miss America Savvy Shields.

In 2015, Karp was named the Florida Champion Ambassador for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals, where she advocated for needs at children’s hospitals. As an ambassador, Karp traveled with ambassadors from each state to Washington, D.C., and for an event at Walt Disney World where they were able to tell their stories on a national stage. Her duties also included meeting and spending time with children going through their own cancer battles.

Karp said she has never had a problem talking about her cancer journey, but ultimately she wants to use her story to show others how God has worked in her life.

“I’m grateful for the little things like being able to sleep in my own bed at night,” she said. “So many people weren’t as fortunate as me. Now I’m trying to be joyful in all things and enjoy where I’m at.”

Karp is glad she chose Liberty, where she is studying journalism and has aspirations of becoming a sports reporter.

“When I stepped on foot on campus for the first time, I just knew I was supposed to be here,” she said. “You could just feel the presence of the Lord moving on campus, and the people were amazing.”

Her dream before she graduates is to hold a dance marathon on campus to raise money and awareness for Children’s Miracle Network.