Bio

DON KETCHUM is a native of Phoenix. He was a sportswriter for The Arizona Republic/The Phoenix Gazette for nearly four decades. He covered high school sports on several occasions as well as the Arizona Diamondbacks, Arizona Cardinals and Arizona State sports. From 2008-14, he was a staff writer for AIA365.com, the web site of the Arizona Interscholastic Association.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

"Flo'' fights, is true inspiration for everyone

Her hair is back. The smile, however, never left Kylie Rodgers, nor did her will to survive.

As the sun sets Monday (April 23) on a long, arduous season for her Xavier Prep softball teammates, it is rising for Rodgers. The junior is resuming her life that was tragically turned upside down by a 14-month duel with Ewing’s sarcoma, a form of cancer.

The disease primarily affects teens and people in their early 20s. Unlike many tumors that attach themselves to the outside of the bones and/or tissue, this particular tumor grew inside Kylie’s bone in her right femur and hip. Treatment involved chemotherapy as well as surgery to replace the affected bones with titanium.

Kylie first noticed some pain in her leg in January of 2017, about a month or so before her sophomore season at Xavier was supposed to start. With two key older pitchers graduated from her freshman season, she had a good chance to see a lot of time in the circle for the Gators.

“I thought it was just some tendinitis or something, nothing too serious. I was on crutches, but I didn’t think it would be very long, maybe six weeks at the most,’’ Kylie said.

Kylie had stopped most of her softball activity because she still had pain that included some discomfort in her back.

“Three months of not really getting any better,’’ she said.

She had MRIs and finally a biopsy.

She went on a trip to Washington D.C. with her family during spring break.

Her mother, Mary Kay, received a call with bad news.

Cancer.

“The whole thing seemed like an out-of-body experience,’’ Kylie said.

From April until the surgery in late July at Phoenix Childrens Hospital, there were all sorts of tests and evaluations and chemotherapy.

In an interview on FOXSPORTSAZ, her mother said there was no hesitation for Kylie, that she told her mother and father, Blake, “that she was going to beat this thing.’’

“My (Xavier) coaches and teammates were the first ones there for me, and have been there ever since. They have all been great,’’ Kylie said.


Kylie Rodgers: "I have been given a new lease on life and I don't take anything for granted.'' (Photo by Don Ketchum).

Because some of her treatments affected her immune system, Kylie could not return to Xavier out of fear she would pick up the flu or cold or something that would set her back. Her mother, who has been a teacher, helped her with her studies, and Kylie said she also was helped by suggestions from her XCP teachers.

Kylie moved to Arizona from Jacksonville, Fla., in between her eighth grade and freshman years.

In Florida, she lived in a big cul de sac that had as many as 40 kids also living there, she said.
Coming to Arizona was a big adjustment, particularly to new students. Before the move, she acquired the nickname of “Flo,’’ a reference to Florida, and that later would become part of her rallying cry – “Fight Like Flo.’’

It is printed on T-shirts, and she and her family are working on a “Fight Like Flo Foundation,’’ in which she wants to help raise funds and provide assistance to young people who experience similar obstacles.

According to Kylie, there only are about 137 people her age nationally who have this form of the disease.

Even before getting cancer, she had the idea of working in the field of medicine, and now will increase the focus to pediatric oncology, “where I can help kids who go through this and maybe even save some lives.’’

She returned to school after spring break, completing a year cycle since the diagnosis. She helps out the softball program as a team manager and does all sorts of things such as shag balls during practice and pre-game warm-ups and runs errands. She still has a slight limp, but it is barely noticeable. She also does laundry for some of the seniors (“my mom has been having me do laundry since I was 8’’) and provided water and hair ties to those players who might have forgotten them.

“I want to help them the way they have helped me,’’ Kylie said.

The ultimate goal is to return to the pitching circle next season. She knows it will be a long road, but her parents told FOXSPORTSAZ that if anyone is capable of such a comeback, it is her. Her dad said he would not want to be the batter to step in the box and face Kylie for the first time since the surgery.

She is looking forward to what the future will bring.

She will continue to have rehabilitation at least twice a week. She wants to follow her younger brother, Noah, who will be a freshman at neighboring Brophy Prep and hopes to play baseball.

Maintaining good grades as a senior will be another goal. Although she still has another year before graduating, Kylie also is evaluating college possibilities. She said it likely will be somewhere on the West Coast, perhaps a place such as Stanford, California (Berkeley) or Washington. She wants to stay close to Arizona because she will have to return to Phoenix every three months for scans to make sure she is clear.

Staying in good shape should help.

“I can still ride a bike, swim and do yoga,’’ Kylie said.

Looking at the entire picture, she said, “I have been given a new lease on life and I don’t take anything for granted.

“I definitely want to play again. It depends on how my leg responds to the therapy. I’m not allowed to run yet. If I don’t get to play, I still will be supporting my teammates. But I’m going to do everything in my power to get back out there.’’

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