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Meet Our Hero, Stella

Apr 3, 2023 | Hero

little girl with birthday cake

HOMETOWN: MCCOOK, NE

DIAGNOSIS: DIPG

DATE OF DIAGNOSIS: 2022

CURRENT STATUS: BECAME AN ANGEL IN 2023

Stella McConnell was a sweet little girl from McCook, Nebraska, who loved unicorns. She easily stole the attention of the room with her red curly hair and her sweet little personality. In late April of 2022, Stella was diagnosed with a cancerous brain tumor, a diffused intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG). DIPG is an aggressive tumor and the deadliest type of brain cancer in children with a five-year survival rate of less than one percent. Stella’s first symptom was that her left eye was unable to move/look to the left. Stella and her parents spent fifteen months going back and forth to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota for treatments and appointments. Stella’s treatment began with surgery to biopsy the tumor, then endured ten days of radiation therapy in May.

In June of 2022, Stella, and her family enjoyed a fun trip to Disney from Make a Wish. In late June the MRI showed that Stella’s tumor shrunk from the radiation. She continued to do remarkably well and even started Kindergarten in August. In November of 2022, Stella’s tumor had grown again and was as big as it was originally, so they began radiation treatments once again. Her follow-up MRI showed that her tumor had shrunk again, even more than after the first round of radiation. This was wonderful news and a great way to start the new year!

In early March of 2023, Stella’s MRI showed 40% growth of her tumor, prompting them to start medications to try to keep the tumor growth to a minimum. Within weeks Stella began having trouble with her speech and swallowing and immediately started back to Rochester, where she started experiencing right-sided weakness. After running tests, it was determined that the tumor was causing Stella’s symptoms, and they began to prep for round three of radiation therapy.

Sweet Stella passed away on September 22, 2023, surrounded by her family as she reached her hands up for Jesus. They appreciate all the thoughts and prayers as they navigate the devastating reality of losing their little girl.

Click here to read Stella’s obituary. 

To make a donation to fund child brain cancer research in memory of Stella and her fight, click the red donate button at the top of the page.