All-Star Harper holding up her meds while sitting on the couch

All-Star Harper

Diagnosis: Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia

Harper’s family was living a regular life in early 2020 when everything changed forever. Dad, Kyle, worked as a pharmacist and mom, Sarah, was a cosmetologist. Harper had just started kindergarten and was enjoying soccer and gymnastics, and sister, Faelyn, was in pre-school.

In February, Kyle and Sarah noticed that Harper was spiking fevers. They gave her medicine and eventually decided to take her to the pediatrician who suggested it was a virus. The fevers continued for weeks, Harper also seemed drained after school, and she started taking naps.

“We went into the ER where they ran bloodwork, but nothing came up,” said Kyle. “Sarah’s mom-instinct told her that something serious was wrong though, and my sister, a physician, was worried too. I tried not to think that way though since the tests were inconclusive. Finally, we were referred to Masonic Children’s Hospital where Harper underwent a bone marrow biopsy.”

“We invited the family over since we were expecting not so great news. When the phone rang, we took the call together,” explained Kyle. “Immediately Sarah started crying and collapsed, unable to participate in the conversation. Instinctively I went into action mode asking what we needed to do to start Harper’s treatment. I also knew that I needed to support Sarah and the rest of the family. As the dad, you are there to be the rock; there’s no other choice.”

The family was told to report to the hospital on Friday. They had just one day to plan for a new normal nobody wanted.

Harper was diagnosed just after Covid was declared, meaning that only one parent could be in the hospital with her. Sarah stayed while Kyle was at home with Fae. Sometimes, they went and stood outside Harper’s window waving; that was the closest that the family could physically get to one another. Both parents took leave for as long as possible, and Kyle ended up staying home for about eight months.

Days were scheduled around the timing of the many meds they brought with them with them everywhere. A hospital bag was always in the car in case Harper got a fever. Thankfully, there was only one time that she had to be hospitalized, but there were several trips to the ER.

“We were taking a lot of extra precautions and trying to keep the girls’ spirits up. We could only see family standing in the yard and talking. We were grateful for Facetime and for the support of our community. We had become part of a cancer community that we didn’t want to belong to.”

“It wasn’t all bad,” explained Kyle. “Harper went into this like a rockstar; it’s just who she is. She would always smile and laugh. She took control and would remind us about her meds and other things that she needed. It was hard watching her grow up so fast and acting like a much older child. It was tough though watching Harper transform. One day she was outside playing with kites, and she tried to take a step, but she couldn’t run, and she fell over twice. That was heartbreaking.”

“The focus became staying afloat. Financially, it was so necessary to have support from you guys to stay home with Fae. I always worried about money and at night I would run through bills. If I had to go back to work I would, but if I could stay home, that was the goal.”

“The assistance from Pinky Swear was awesome. It’s unbelievable; it has helped us a huge amount. I had started to look for a different job, when we heard that our mortgage would be paid for a couple of months, it was huge. It gave me time to find the right position and it took the stress off finding something fast instead of what I really wanted. It was just a big relief. Harper still had a lot of treatment ahead.”

Now Harper goes monthly for lab work. Her parents are thrilled to see where she is now, seeing the joy she finds in doing things she couldn’t do before. She is back in soccer and is very independent. Her parents are crossing their fingers everything will be ok. Every time she gets a fever they worry; life will never be the same.

The family attended a Minnesota Wild Hockey Fights Cancer game with Pinky Swear.

“It was Harper’s first pro hockey game, and it was phenomenal. It was the most I’ve seen her scream and laugh, and now she wants to learn to skate which we are delighted about.”