Cristian Rivera Foundation

Maria Kuenster

Maria is a 23-year old woman from Minnesota, who is facing DIPG as an adult. She is a vibrant woman, filled with life and mirth, someone who truly enjoys even the smallest details of life.

Maria began to experience headaches in 2017 and went in for an MRI, but all the test results came back negative. Since then, Maria had multiple routine MRIs performed to see if anything had changed. In 2020, she had a few instances of minor twitches under her eye and after receiving another MRI in June 2020, the doctor noticed the tumor. Maria was diagnosed with Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma at the age of 22.

DIPG is known as a form of pediatric brain cancer and is extremely rare in adults. It most commonly occurs between five and seven years of age. When asked about the challenges she has faced due to her age, Maria said “I spent the month of July looking for clinical trials. Many of them I was deemed ineligible for due to my age – the limit is often 18 years old. I felt like I was fighting to save my own life.”

In July of 2020, Maria started photon radiation. She also created a fundraising campaign to keep herself occupied with something she enjoyed. With the help of a friend, Maria designed some merchandise and titled her campaign “Maria’s Miracle”. This is because she wants to find a miracle for herself and all those with DIPG. Maria eventually raised over $24,000, money which went to fund research at multiple hospitals.

Maria then decided to take part in a CAR-T Cell Therapy Trial at Seattle’s Children’s Hospital. This particular trial accepted patients younger than 26, although most were between 18 and 21. Maria’s eligibility and her desire to beat DIPG gave her the courage to go and fly to Seattle for the trial.

Who is Maria?

Maria is the middle child of three girls. She graduated from the University of Minnesota with a Bachelors of Science in Health Science in 2020. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with family and friends, watching movies, journaling, and exploring new places. She also adores her two dogs, Jordy and Liza.

While in Seattle, Maria took plenty of walks with her adorable dog, Liza, and had many visitors during the trial including her sisters and her college friends. Maria chooses to enjoy each moment of life because she is aware of the beauty of it. Her appreciation for her life is admirable and personified through her decision to live her life to the fullest.