Swollen Cheek Leads to Life Changing Diagnosis

POLK CITY, Iowa –What started out as a little bump on a five year-old's cheek turned into something much more serious. Her parents want to share their story to raise awareness about how life changing the diagnosis can be.

Harper Stribe started her summer with a swollen cheek. "It had started one night out of the blue, and we thought it was a bug bite."

We met her in June for a story about virtual reality goggles. Doctors thought it was a viral infection at first, but when the bump got bigger and started hurting, her parents knew something else was wrong. Mom Nicole Stribe said, "As a parent, you don't go to the cancer word, but unfortunately, that's where it went."

Harper has embryonal rhabdomyosarcoma of the cheek, which is cancer in the muscle in the bone. She started chemotherapy right away in Iowa City and underwent six weeks of radiation.

"She obviously has a long road yet, but over the course of the last ten weeks, she's proven that she'll persevere through it all," said Dad Nolan Stribe.

The family's life changed overnight, with weekly trips to Iowa City, and a bin full of medication. Her mom said, "These are medicines we came home from the hospital with. This is her's. Luckily right now, we're not taking all of this."

The Stribes want people to know cancer can happen to anyone and more funding is needed to find a cure. “You know, 1 in 5 kids that gets cancer passes away, and of those kids that don't, and survive, 2/3rd's of them have some sort of life long chronic ailment, and so there's got to be some better research out there to help these kids."

In honor of Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, her parents wanted to let you know what organizations help research the disease. Those include, St. Baldrick’s Foundation, Cure Search, and Alex's Lemonade Stand. Children's Cancer Connection helps families on their cancer journeys.

Our Sonya Heitshusen is also fundraising for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society as she prepares for the Kona Ironman in Hawaii.  You can donate to LLS through her Ironman fundraiser.