powering cures, realizing futures

Charlie Stenson

Charlie Stenson was in and out of the emergency room for over half a year with complaints of constipation and random fevers.  Her symptoms were always dismissed as dietary, even though her parents insisted she ate a balanced diet.  Then, two months after she turned three-years-old, Charlie was diagnosed with Stage 4 germ cell cancer.  By the time physicians found it, the tumor, which began in her stomach, had metastasized to her liver.   Charlie’s diagnosis took longer than usual because she is in the 10 percent of people who do not have any tumor markers present on blood tests.  When her tumor was found in November 2022, it was 5.5 inches in diameter – about the size of an iPhone.  

For the last 10 months, Charlie has bravely smiled throughout arduous treatments. Her care has included nine rounds of chemo (five more than is typical for germ cell cancer), an eight-hour surgery, three stem cell transplants, countless blood transfusions, pokes, and more.  

Charlie’s next step this fall is an end of treatment scan, which will likely be followed by a liver resection surgery.

Her family asks that we all keep Charlie in our thoughts as she faces what they hope are her last steps to becoming cancer free. Then this beaming 4-year-old bundle of cuteness will be able to get back to the activities that bring her joy, including dancing, singing, playing outdoors and riding bicycles with her little sister.

Germ cell tumors are growths of cells that form from reproductive cells.  They tend to occur in the ovaries or testes but can appear in other parts of the body, including the spine, brain and lung. Germ cell tumors tend to be most common among teens, although they are also identified in younger children, like Charlie, and adults. Not all germ cell tumors are malignant. When they are, the good news is that germ cell tumors are one of the most curable types of cancers, so most adolescents and children usually recover. 

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