Herndon Child Maddie Hartman Dies of Rare Cancer

A 6-year-old girl from Virginia who was diagnosed with a rare kind of cancer has died, her father told News4. 

Maddie Hartman's family campaigned to bring attention to the rare disease the child suffered from, diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma, more commonly known as DIPG.

The Hartmans, of Herndon, spoke with News4 about the disease earlier this year, on DIPG Awareness Day.

She passed away on Saturday, July 20, just seven months after receiving a diagnosis.

DIPG is a cancer that attacks a part of the brain stem called the pons, according to the Michael Mosier Defeat DIPG Foundation, an organization the Hartmans worked with. The pons controls bodily functions like the heartbeat, breathing, swallowing, eye movement, eyesight and balance.

DIPG almost exclusively affects children, typically between the ages of 4 and 11 years old. Between 200 and 400 children will get the diagnosis this year.

Hartman's illness progressed quickly in January, changing her life over the course of three days.

Her daycare called her parents one afternoon to let them know that she had fallen ill.

"When I got to daycare, I thought my daughter had a stroke," her father Nathan Hartman recalled in an interview in May. "The left side of her face was limp; her speech was slurred; her arm would not move. It was almost hanging off her body."

The Hartmans received a diagnosis a week later.

"Nobody knows about DIPG," her father said in May. "I didn't know [about] DIPG until we were in the hospital in this situation, quickly Googling DIPG to find out what it was."

Treatment for the cancer has not advanced much in the 35 years since it was named.

DIPG Awareness Day in May aims to change that. Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan designated the first holiday in 2016, after the family of Bethesda boy Michael Mosier began pushing to educate more people about the cancer.

May 17, the day of the holiday, is the date Mosier died of the disease.

Hartman's family was able to bring her home from the hospital for her final hours, her father said. Funeral services are to be planned soon.

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