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Sick teen ‘staying strong’ through treatment

Rhonda costa-landers

Justin Stegemann, a 14-year-old teenager from Gardnerville who recently underwent surgery to remove a neuroblastoma from his adrenal glands, is still doing good and going strong according to his dad, David.

“The immunotherapy has been going well and is working throughout his body,” David Stegemann said.

“But we thought the effectiveness was better. It was going so well, he was having an outstanding response. But after the last scan, it was not quite as good as we had hoped. I guess we had our hopes a little high.”

The immunotherapy is an injection of monoclonal antibodies, which signal the patient’s immune system to attack and kill the tumor.

David Stegemann said Justin’s classmates at Pau-Wa-Lu Middle School keep in touch with him at least once a month, his friends more often.

“He’s got a great group of friends, they’re very good kids.”

Justin is continuing with bass guitar lessons, whenever he can squeeze them in. He plans to play with his friends in a “battle of the bands” when he returns. Justin celebrated his 14th birthday Jan. 14 by going bowling.

“The immunotherapy brings him down a little, but it’s a side effect of the pain medications. He has so much energy otherwise, he stays strong and even wrestles with me. He’s a great kid.”

Justin, his dad, mom Wendy and sister Alicia visited the campus of Purdue University in Indiana in December. Justin wants to attend Purdue after graduating high school.

“He wants a scholarship to Purdue,” Dave said. “He wants to use his ‘wish’ to get a scholarship. He heard of another kid that did that and this is what he wants to do. It’s encouraging to me he’s looking to the future.”

David Stegemann said while they’ve been at the Ronald McDonald House in Manhattan as Justin goes through treatment, he has been helping other families who are experiencing similar medical situations as theirs.

“I’ve been helping many other families who are here for the first time.”

David Stegemann said Justin has two more sessions at two weeks each of immunotherapy. During this cycle Justin will receive radiation therapy during the three-week time frame in between immunotherapy treatments.

“We’re hoping to go somewhere on Spring Break,” David Stegemann said. “We’ll have to wait and see. We’re taking it day by day. It’s all we can do.”

Contact Rhonda Costa-Landers at rcosta-landers@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1223.