By Lauren Gudknecht
A former Kutztown High School swimmer, Niki Nolte, battled against cancer twice and won both times. Nolte, now a 20-year-old Penn State University (PSU) student, is thankfully getting healthier by the day, but her journey has not been easy.
Nolte’s struggle began with a Lymphoma diagnosis in April of 2017 when she was a junior at Kutztown High School. This later progressed to a Leukemia diagnosis in September of 2018 after starting her freshman year at PSU. Nolte was then diagnosed with graft-versus-host disease (GvHD) which was an effect of the bone marrow transplant she received from her sister, Krystal, in February of 2019 to help her recover from Leukemia.
In GvHD, the donor’s marrow attacks its new host body. The disease was starting to affect Nolte’s eyes, liver, joints, muscles and skin, causing her to struggle while performing simple tasks like putting on clothes. “GvHD was an even bigger punch to the gut than her daughter’s battles with Lymphoma and Leukemia,” Melissa, Nolte’s mother said in a Reading Eagle interview.
Nolte’s days consisted of traveling weekly to Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) for infusions and treatments to help control the GvHD. Traveling back and forth from PSU to CHOP after classes was done with the help of her parents. She also attended physical therapy three times a week.
During the spring, Nolte’s visits to CHOP decreased to once a month as she gradually improved until she was hospitalized with bronchitis just before classes became remote due to COVID-19. Despite all of this, she has managed to be quite successful with her academics, attaining an overall 3.92 GPA going into the fall semester.
Nolte is now 20-years-old, feeling much better and preparing to begin the next chapter of her life where she also plans on resuming her swimming career at PSU.
So far, keeping a positive outlook has helped Nolte through this difficult journey. “I’m very, very close to getting my life back,” Nolte said. “What’s crazy now is that everyone’s life isn’t normal with COVID-19. Life has completely changed for everybody. I would say I’m right there, not completely but very close. It’s closer than I’ve ever been in these past three years. I’m ready. I’m ready to get back to normalcy.”