5-year-old’s swollen cheek leads to life-changing cancer 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, and the many ways you can help.

Harper Stribe started her summer with a swollen cheek. At first, she thought it was a bug bite. Then, she went to a doctor, and was told it was a viral infection. But when the bump got bigger and started hurting, her parents knew something else was wrong.

Harper's mom, Nicole Stribe is emotional. "As a parent, you don't go to the cancer word, but unfortunately, that's where it went," she says.

Harper has embryonal rhabdomyosarcoma of the cheek, which is cancer inside 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," says her dad, Nolan Stribe.

The family's life changed overnight, with weekly trips to Iowa City, and a bin full of medication.

The Stribes want people to know cancer can happen to anyone and more money 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," Mrs. Stribe explains. "So there's got to be some better research out there to help these kids."

Harper will be in treatment until April or May. The prognosis for her rare form of cancer has improved greatly over the past 20 years. The American Cancer Association says 70% of patients survive for 5 years after their diagnosis.

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 FoundationCure Search, and Alex's Lemonade StandChildren's Cancer Connection helps families on their cancer journeys. Click any of the links to find out how you can donate.