Brain tumor robs 6-year-old Imlay City girl of eyesight


IMLAY CITY — Like other little kids her age, Karina Peterson likes to draw and paint and play with her dolls. The six-year-old loves storybooks, and has no difficulty lighting up her imagination.

Unlike other little kids her age, Karina has trouble seeing the colorful picture pages, having lost all sight in her left eye and partial sight in her right eye.

This past June, the Weston Elementary School student was diagnosed with Optic Pathway Glioma—a brain tumor that has wrapped around the optic nerve—and hydrocephalus, a buildup of fluid in the ventricles deep inside of the brain.

Karina Peterson, 6, and her mom Julie Watson, smile for the camera.

The road to diagnosis was a long one, says Karina’s mom Julie Watson, and the unexpected outcome has thrown them all for a loop.

The 43-year-old mother of two visited numerous medical professionals who chalked up Karina’s symptoms to allergies, a virus or the flu.

“She’d been getting sick repeatedly for about a month-and-a-half…vomiting and headaches and it was frustrating that she wasn’t getting better,” Julie says.

A trip to Children’s Hospital in Detroit resulted in the diagnosis, and Karina has been receiving weekly chemotherapy treatments since July 8.

“They’re hoping that the treatment will stabilize her vision, and it’s supposed to go on for two years,” Julie says.

Though it’s a huge disruption in life as she knew it, Karina is taking things in stride like a champ, Julie adds. She’s also learning Braille—a tactile writing system for the visually impaired.

“She knows there’s something in her brain that shouldn’t be there, and that she gets medicine in her ‘button,’—what she calls her port—to get rid of the bad thing in her brain,” Julie says. “She’s amazing and her spirit is inspiring.”

That inspiration is what helps keep the family going, Julie says, though keeping worries and fears at bay is an ongoing challenge.

The weekly drives to Detroit for treatment and doctors’ appointments are taking their toll—particularly since Julie also works full time at a group home in Armada.

The budget is tight, and expenses are mounting, which adds more worries to the mix. Skyrocketing gas prices and grocery costs are creating more difficulty.

Help in the form of gas and/or grocery cards or cash donations would help immensely, Julie says.

“I’ve always been a very hard worker and never ask for help but this situation has really been a test,” she says. “Karina is just such an incredible little girl who doesn’t deserve any of this.”

Those who wish to help can send a prepaid gas, grocery and/or credit card or check to Julie Watson, 240 West Third St., Imlay City, MI 48444.

“Any help is most appreciated,” Julie says. “Karina is the sweetest, most loving girl.”

Julie and her partner Greg Peterson moved to Imlay City in 2019. Her oldest child—Jacob Watson—is a senior at Imlay City High School.