Luke Combs Fan With Stage 4 Cancer Fought to Live to See His Red Rocks Concert
Luke Combs' recent show at Red Rocks Amphitheatre was more than just a date on the calendar for Kylie Schwartz. The 23-year-old is battling Stage 4 cancer, and she told her doctors she was not going to miss this show under any circumstances.
“The first thing I told my oncologist," Schwartz tells Taste of Country, "in fact the only thing I remember saying to him, because I don’t remember the first 34 days is, ‘You have to make me live to May 12.’”
The oncologist in Colorado and then Dr. Stephen Mihalcik at the Northwestern Medicine Chicago Proton Center were able to make this happen, and in doing so Schwartz helped Mihalcik reach a milestone. She is the 4,000th patent to graduate from the Chicago Proton Center, each one earning a challenge coin with his or her unique patient number. On Sunday (May 12), she celebrated with Combs, enjoying 15th row seats to his sold-out show at one of the country's most famous and scenic venues.
“He gave me the biggest hug,” she says. “I don’t remember, I was fan-girling a bit, actually.”
Schwartz’s cancer story began in August 2018 when a rash wouldn’t go away. Chest and back pains that felt like bones breaking followed, and a CT scan revealed a candy bar-sized tumor. Quickly the team learned the cancer had spread to her spine, arms, pelvis, legs and bone marrow. It was Stage 4 of a very rare, aggressive cancer called alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma. Chemotherapy helped, but the proton therapy — treatment that uses positively-charged atomic particles instead of x-rays used in radiation — helped get rid of most of the cancer that remained.
The tumor is not gone, but it’s now a tenth of the size it was when first discovered nearly a year ago. That was good enough to send Schwartz back home to Colorado earlier this month. May 12 was approaching, and Combs' team caught wind of the importance of the date for this young fan. The star made sure she and her four friends had meet-and-greet passes and brought his makeup artist, Cali Jefferies, with him to Denver to do the group's makeup. Neighbors pitched in to get a limo for them.
Getting to her seats at the beautiful, but not especially accessible venue was a challenge, and she had to sit through most of the show — but the crowd around Schwartz made sure she could see the jumbotron and helped her stand for her favorite songs.
“My favorite song … is ‘When It Rains it Pours.’” she says. “He says a line in there, 'What I thought was gonna be the death of me was my saving grace.' Even though he meant it in a totally different way, I took this quote and that’s exactly how I felt.”
"Literally, what I thought was going to be the death of me ... it ended up being the best thing that ever happened to me," she says.
Schwartz has a new perspective on life and the love and sacrifice made by her parents who had to change their lives to take care of her. She's willing to fight for making each moment worth it. She was willing to fight to see Luke Combs.
“Literally, and I kid you not, the only thing that kept me going was knowing that I had this concert," she says.
Chemotherapy will continue through September, a press release from Northwestern Medicine states. The facility and Schwartz generously shared with Taste of Country pictures and videos of her experience with cancer and with Combs.
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