NORTHGLENN, Colorado – It was a 5 year day Mary stegmueller and her family will never forget – the day Cinderella arrived home in a horse-drawn carriage to invite them to visit her castle at Disney World.
Mary has already lived longer than most adults. In October, she was diagnosed with Diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG), a rare, incurable and inoperable form of a brain tumor.
“Probably one of the toughest days I think we’ve ever had,” said Mary’s dad, Bobby Stegmueller. “When we were diagnosed in October, we weren’t sure we were all going to be together for Christmas.”
Doctors told the family that children with PIDD usually live six to nine months after diagnosis. The Stegmuellers said about 10% of children reach the age of two.
As part of her treatment, Mary recently underwent 30 cycles of radiation therapy over six weeks.
“The second she got home from radiation therapy, after being given anesthesia every day, she would have said, ‘Okay, let’s go to school,'” said Kristin Stegmueller, Mary’s mother. .
Mary is battling cancer with everything she has, trying experimental CAR-T cell therapy in California. In March, she was there for 35 days, with 26 days of hospital care. Following this round of treatment, Mary’s mother said there was a 10% reduction in her brain tumor.
“The treatments are going well right now, but we don’t want to experience any regrets,” said Bobby Stegmueller.
Mary will soon be returning to California for the second round of her treatment.
“(The treatment has) given Mary the chance to fight. A lot of kids who get this diagnosis don’t have that opportunity to fight,” said Bobby Stegmueller. “So no matter what, we’re so proud of her. She’s been so brave, she’s had so much support and so many people behind her, and if it’s another step towards the cures for the future, then it’s all worth it. “
Mary qualifies for the Make-A-Wish Foundation, but COVID-19 prevented his dream. She asked the foundation if she could visit Cinderella’s Castle at Disney World, but the organization does not currently allow travel wishes amid the pandemic.
“With everything going on with her, I was so worried that she wouldn’t be able to make her wish come true, because I didn’t want to let her down,” said Kristin Stegmueller.
When Brittnie Kreutzer heard Mary’s story, she knew she could help.
Kreutzer is the Membership Director for Agent of excellence, a group of real estate professionals in love with Disney. The organization started in Colorado Springs and is now expanding across the country and into Canada.
In about three hours, Kreutzer said the 172 members raised more than $ 6,000 to send Mary and her family to Disney World.
“We don’t have the paperwork, so we can do what Make-A-Wish can’t do right now, and that’s providing the pixie dust and magic that these families need,” Kreutzer said. .
The trip is scheduled for mid-June and Mary’s parents knew this element of surprise. However, they had no idea that Cinderella would come to their neighborhood with a horse-drawn carriage to invite Mary to her castle.
“I was stunned,” said Kristin Stegmueller. “It was more than we could ever have asked for, dreamed of, hoped for. Doing all of this for a family she had never met, people across the country, helping her support her, it’s just huge.
As another surprise, Kreutzer recruited Corrine Kurtz to sew a dress that Mary herself had designed. The dress appears on the T-shirts that Mary wore during her treatment and which now have was turned into a fundraiser. The Stegmuellers say the product is for Mary’s medical expenses.
Mary’s mother said her daughter was excited to wear the dress on her next doctor’s appointment and treatment cycle, in addition to the trip to Disney World.
“It makes so much more sense than anything that could be bought in the store,” Kurtz said.
Kurtz felt a personal connection to the Stegmuellers, even though she had never met them. “
“My son was diagnosed with a brain tumor in September, and when (Kreutzer) asked me to do it, I felt compelled to do it,” Krutz said. “We don’t know them, but we pray.”
Mary began to assemble bags filled with all the essentials for other children undergoing the same treatment in California.
Click here to be continued with the story of Mary.
This story was originally published by Colette Bordelon on the Scripps station KOAA in Colorado Springs, Colorado.