A family is reeling from the heartbreaking diagnosis of their 16-month-old child, Harper Walker. The distressing journey began when Harper’s parents, Jenny Huddart and Adam Walker, noticed a bruise on her eyelid when she was just 13 months old.
Initially dismissing it as a minor accident while playing with toys, Harper’s parents became increasingly concerned as the bruise continued to grow and distort her eye shape. They sought medical attention, leading to a devastating diagnosis: Harper has a rare form of cancer called neuroblastoma, a condition that affects only about 100 children each year. To make matters worse, further tests revealed that Harper’s cancer was at stage four, posing a high risk with metastases in multiple parts of her body.
Recalling their experience, Jenny explained, “Harper was born with hip dysplasia and had to wear a cast until last December. After that, she became more active. In mid-February, we noticed a small black dot near her eye, but we assumed it was from bumping into a toy due to her increased mobility. Although it started to change, we thought she had merely rubbed it. However, when her eye began to move upward, resembling a lazy eye, we took her to the doctor.”
Initially, the doctor did not express concern and advised them to return in two weeks if the bruise persisted. However, five weeks had passed by the time they were due to revisit, prompting the family to seek a referral to an eye specialist. Unfortunately, the wait for an appointment was another week due to the continuously changing shape of Harper’s eye. In desperation, they contacted the National Health Service’s non-emergency helpline (111) and were directed to Salford Royal Hospital, the MEN reports.
Without delay, the medical professionals at Salford Royal Hospital recognized the need for further tests. However, lacking the necessary eye specialists, they referred Harper to Manchester Eye Hospital. On Good Friday, Harper was admitted for tests, and later that Monday, the family received a phone call from the doctor urging them to come in. The devastating news was delivered: a lump had been discovered in Harper’s sinuses, and a biopsy confirmed she had stage four neuroblastoma—an aggressive form of cancer.
Jenny described their reaction to the news, saying, “It felt like it wasn’t happening. We were numb. Despite knowing that searching online is not recommended, we couldn’t help but look up the statistics, which aren’t very promising. Apparently, this condition originates during fetal development, but it remains undetectable until a small bruise appears. Doctors who have worked in this field for 33 years told us they had never seen it present this way. We knew something was wrong when it started affecting her eye. It’s truly devastating.”
Harper has now begun an arduous 18-month course of treatment consisting of chemotherapy, surgery, stem cell therapy, and radiotherapy. To give her the best chance of survival, her family is striving to secure treatment at the innovative Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York. This alternative treatment could increase Harper’s survival odds to 60-70%, but it comes at a staggering cost of over £280,000, including multiple trips to the United States.
Adam set up a JustGiving page on May 28 to raise funds for Harper’s potentially life-saving treatment. In a short span of time, the campaign has raised nearly £13,000, leaving the family overwhelmed by the support they have received so far. Jenny expressed her gratitude, saying, “We reached out to someone who has gone through a similar experience, and they have been incredibly helpful. However, they informed us about the extensive travel and care