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Swollen Cheek Leads To Shocking Diagnosis For Girl

A 5-year-old girl's life was changed forever after what her parents thought was just a swollen cheek turned out to be cancer. 

Nicole Stribe noticed her daughter, Harper, had a swollen cheek at the beginning of summer. 

"It had started one night out of the blue, and we thought it was a bug bite," Nicole told WHO. 

Doctors thought the cheek might've been infected, but when the bump got bigger and started hurting, Harper's parents feared the worst. 

"As a parent, you don't go to the cancer word, but unfortunately, that's where it went," Nicole said. 

Harper was diagnosed with embryonal rhabdomyosarcoma of the cheek, a cancer that affects connective tissues in the body. 

Embryonal rhabdomyosarcoma commonly affects children ages 5 and under, according to the American Cancer Society. 

Harper immediately started chemotherapy and underwent six weeks of radiation, according to WHO. 

"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," Harper's father, Nolan Stribe, told WHO. 

Nicole showed WHO a bin full of medication. 

"These are medicines we came home from the hospital with. This is hers. Luckily right now we're not taking all of this," she said. 

Now that their lives have changed forever, the Stribes want to raise awareness of childhood cancer. 

"You know, one in five kids that gets cancer passes away, and of those kids that don't, and survive, two-thirds 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," Nicole told WHO. 

September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, and in honor of the month, the Stribes are promoting organizations that help research childhood cancer. 

Those organizations include St. Baldrick's Foundation, Cure Search, and Alex's Lemonade Stand.

Around 3 percent of childhood cancers are rhabdomyosarcoma, according to the American Cancer Society. Roughly 350 new cases are diagnosed each year in the U.S.

There is no recommended screening for embryonal rhabdomyosarcoma, but there are certain signs that can help early detection. 

The American Cancer Society recommends having a doctor investigate any painful swelling or lumps that grow quickly or don't go away after a week. 

About one in three of these cancers is found early enough to be removed by surgery, but the American Cancer Society notes that even in the case of early detection, small, undetectable tumors may have already spread, requiring further treatment. 

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