Seven-year-old Mary Stegmueller is a fighter. She has been battling cancer since she was 4 years old, but her cancer is spreading. It has left her weak and unstable. She finds joy in music, especially that of Luke Bryan. And this Saturday, she gets to live out her dream of hearing him live at Ball Arena in Denver, all thanks to the local Catholic community.   

Stegmueller is a student at Frassati Catholic Academy, and her family are parishioners of St. Scholastica Parish in Erie, Colorado. In 2020, Stegmueller was diagnosed with diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG), an extremely rare form of cancer with no known cure. After her diagnosis, she was given weeks to live, but thanks to a cutting-edge CAR-T cell trial at Stanford University and an outpouring of prayers and support, she is still here, 33 months after her initial diagnosis. The dire reality of DIPG diagnoses is that 10% make it to the mark Stegmueller is currently at. Zero percent make it to five years.

Mary Stegmueller, 7, is fighting cancer. She is a student at Frassati Catholic Academy, and her family are parishioners of St. Scholastica Parish in Erie, Colorado. Credit: Denver Catholic
Mary Stegmueller, 7, is fighting cancer. She is a student at Frassati Catholic Academy, and her family are parishioners of St. Scholastica Parish in Erie, Colorado. Credit: Denver Catholic

After hearing about Stegmueller’s case and her love for Luke Bryan (she considers herself Luke Bryan’s No. 1 fan), Bill Hanzlik, founder of the youth sports organization Gold Crown Foundation and a former Denver Nuggets player, started making calls to see if there was a way she could attend Bryan’s latest tour when it rolls through Denver on July 29. Hanzlik understood that it would be a challenge for someone as tiny and frail as Stegmueller to be in the general crowd, and he was able to find someone to generously donate a private suite. 

So, Stegmueller’s wish was granted: She, along with her mom, Kristin; dad, Bobby; 5-year-old brother, Robbie; and some other family and friends will all be enjoying the Luke Bryan concert on Saturday! Her second wish is to meet Luke Bryan — and if anyone reading this can make that happen, please share this social media post on Facebook and/or Twitter!

The Denver Catholic first told Stegmueller’s story back in March 2021, when Frassati Catholic Academy held “#MaryStrong Day” and raised money to help alleviate the many stresses that come with a cancer diagnosis like hers. Since then, the Stegmueller family has continued to receive support from the Catholic community, and Stegmueller has continued to prove that she is indeed “#MaryStrong.”

Since her diagnosis in 2020, Stegmueller has undergone more than any person — let alone any child — should ever have to. This includes: 42 rounds of radiation to the brain stem (12 of them awake), two brain surgeries before the age of 5, 12 rounds of chemo, hair loss twice, 17 rounds of stage 1 CAR-T cell trial, four rounds of apheresis, five PICC line surgeries, one port surgery, 55 MRIs, 70 times under anesthesia, four X-rays, three CT scans, 17 EKGs, three ECHOs, 19 trips to California for treatment (270 days total), 74 ommaya taps (spinal taps in the brain), five walking braces, two walkers, 11 blood transfusions, two chemical burns from medical cleaner, and has learned to re-walk twice.

As Kristin Stegmueller told us in 2021: “She’s going to be a miracle, and she believes it, too.” This certainly holds true for Stegmueller’s miraculous journey. The next time you hear Luke Bryan playing on the radio, say a prayer for Mary Stegmueller!

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This article was originally posted July 27, 2023, at the Denver Catholic and is reprinted here on CNA with permission.