UPDATE: On Thursday afternoon, Kylee’s mother said in a text to News 4 Sports’ Tom Martin that Kylee’s surgery at Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City was successful, and that the entire tumor had been removed, which the family had not expected to happen.
BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — A Buffalo Sabres fan and a hockey player herself, 14-year-old Williamsville North student Kylee Bukowksi was recently diagnosed with cancer.
“I went to the doctors and they felt my stomach to see if anything felt different… and they sent me to the emergency room right away,” Bukowski told News 4 Sports’ Tom Martin.
“When they told me… I was in shock. I don’t even know how to explain. I never thought it would be that.”
Kylee was diagnosed with sarcoma in her stomach, a malignant tumor, that would require surgery in New York City this week.
“I’m very scared for surgery,” she said. “knowing that all of it can’t be taken out.”
If that was the case, Kylee would be in store for weeks of treatment in New York City, flying to and from for free, thanks to the organization Wings Flights of Hope.
But what Kylee didn’t know was just how much more help she was going to get.
“She’s one of the nicest people I know — and that’s just how we became friends.”
Jena Mattina-Chmiel plays hockey with Kylee on the Wheatfield Blades. And upon hearing of Kylee’s situation, Jena decided to help. It began with the hashtag “#FightForKylee,” to rally support. It then led to “Team Kylee” t-shirts. And then, Jena had another idea.
“I thought it was like a shot in the dark, like maybe he would send something. I didn’t even think he was gonna respond.”
In this case, “he” is Buffalo Sabres star Evander Kane, a talent on the ice… and a fixture on Instagram. That’s where Jena wrote him a message — asking for something to put a smile on Kylee’s face.
After just 20 minutes, Kane responded.
“I read what she had to say and was pretty moved by it,” Kane said, “Seeing a friend doing that for somebody who was going through a tough time, I wanted to do the best I could to hopefully turn her day around and help her fight what she’s going through.”
“My dad texted me and he’s like there’s a bunch of packages for Kylee,” Jena said. “And I was like, packages? And he was like, yeah, packages. And I was like, oh my.”
Evander had sent a signed Sabres jersey — with the words “get well soon, Kylee” — a hat, a puck, a shirt, plus a game-used stick, autographed at the bottom.
And then, there was a handwritten letter, pictured here:
Kylee had no idea it was coming. She read the letter after watching her teammates in a Blades game and burst into tears.
“He brightened my last few days in Buffalo,” said Bukowski, “knowing that he’s thinking about me.”
Photo courtesy: Kylee Bukowski