Meet Kid Captain Krysty Bujakowska
Krysty Bujakowska, a 12-year-old Coralville girl battling an aggressive bone cancer at University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital, will play a role in Crossover at Kinnick, a first-of-its-kind event.
A women’s basketball fan, Krysty will serve as honorary Kid Captain during the outdoor Iowa Women’s Basketball game Sunday, Oct. 15, at Kinnick Stadium.
The honor is fitting, says her oncologist, David Dickens, MD, FAAP.
Krysty was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a bone cancer in her leg, when she was just 10 years old. After her initial round of treatment, Krysty has had multiple cancer recurrences, requiring multiple surgeries. This summer, the cancer became more aggressive.
“Despite all this, Krysty remains a positive and kind child who spreads joy wherever she goes,” Dickens says.
Her parents, Michal and Kate, say news of the Kid Captain honor lifted Krysty’s spirits.
“She’s very excited,” Kate says. “After all of this bad news, she got something really positive to stay with her forever and keep us going.”
Before her diagnosis
Krysty previously was healthy, enjoying gymnastics, bicycling, jumping on the trampoline, competing on a swim team, and playing grueling day-long chess tournaments, where she ranked among the top 100 girls under-13 in the United States.
When she began having leg pain, Krysty pointed out a bump above her knee to her parents, who took her to University of Iowa Sports Medicine after seeing a pediatrician, thinking it might be an injury.
But an X-ray revealed cancer.
“You don’t expect to hear anything like that,” Michal says. They followed up with an MRI at UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital, where Krysty began treatment, along with surgery to remove her femur and knee, replacing it with a titanium rod that can elongate as she grows.
That first year, Krysty was hospitalized for 100 days, along with another 100 as an outpatient. After she finished treatment in summer 2022, doctors found the cancer had spread to her lungs and she underwent the first of four lung surgeries, with the latest occurring this past July.
The battle continues
Unfortunately, recent scans showed another recurrence, finding possible cancerous cells on her scapula.
While her care team plans the next steps, Kate says Krysty’s swim coach reached out to see if she could be an honorary Kid Captain during Crossover at Kinnick. Iowa Women’s Basketball Associate Head Coach Jan Jensen visited the family to share the good news. Her parents say Krysty is very excited to meet Coach Lisa Bluder and the team.
“We watched so many times from the hospital window,” Kate says, recalling fans waving during football games to young hospital patients. “She’s very excited to be on the other side and wave to all the kids."
Kate points out the kindness shown to their family, whose relatives are in Poland, including bringing food and gifts for Krysty or helping with everyday chores.
Now a seventh-grader, Krysty finds joy in theater, including a starring role as Jack in “Jack and the Giant Beanstalk” at the Coralville Center for the Performing Arts, even as she faces a difficult prognosis.
“She’s a fighter and she’s not giving up,” Kate says. “And we have a whole team of dedicated doctors fighting for her, too.”