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May 10, 2018 10:02 PM

Music Teacher Used Her Voice To Save Her Life

A Sioux Falls music teacher learned an important lesson that saved her life. Katie Blunck just saw her middle and elementary school students for the first time after being gone most of the year. She hopes to get back into the classroom next year, but that's not her only goal. 

Blunck said, as she picked up her guitar and gave it a casual strum. She usually sings with her band.

"Always sounds better with my sister," Blunck said, referring to her twin sister. 

Even though she's solo, she's not afraid to use her voice. Music struck a chord early on in Blunck's life. When she's not strumming, she's handing it down to the orchestra students she teaches at two schools. She's an orchestra director at Memorial Middle School and Oscar Howe Elementary School. It's easy to see how much her students look up to her. There are baskets of cards and letters from them. Many of the well-wishes read, "get well soon." That helps you understand that Blunck's haircut -- her hair reaches her chin on one side, and is shaved to the scalp on the other -- isn't just a trendy stage look. 

"This one was done to remove the little bit larger than the quarter-sized mass in my right temporal lobe," Blunck said, pointing to a large scar on the side of her head. 

Earlier this year, doctors told Blunck she has a rare, aggressive, and incurable brain cancer called Grade three Anaplastic Pleomorphic Xanthro Astrocytoma. After surgery, her insurance denied the the pencil-beam proton radiation she needed. She appealed, but the company denied her a total of three times. She kept fighting, and eventually had the treatment.  

"I think this is one of the most important things I've ever done. You have to fight for yourself," Blunck said. 

Even during her fight, she supported other people she met while she was at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. She used her gifts, and sang to other patients.

"I would've wanted someone else to reach out to me. You know, treat others the way you want to be treated," Blunck said. 

Blunck knows it's important to have friends, family, and colleagues behind you. 
 
"I have a huge backup band, and I'm really blessed and lucky to have," Blunck said. 

Blunck will have to take a pill form of chemotherapy for the next six months, and hopes to get back into the classroom next year. She hopes her story of fighting the disease and advocating for her treatment will help others going through the same battle. Most importantly, Katie Blunck says if you're too afraid to use your voice, no one will ever hear you. 

"You know, you float through life. You, it's a wakeup call in a way. I'm not just trying to take anything for granted. And it may lead me down a different path of helping people," Blunck said. "The universe in many weird ways. It's kind of been a blessing in disguise." 

There is a benefit for Blunck on Saturday, May 19, at Remedy Brewing Co., in Sioux Falls. It's a show featuring Jami Lynn & Doppelgarten with Special Guests. It starts at 7 pm. See the poster below for more details. 

The Remedy Benefit

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