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Harper doesn’t know she’s sick.

Sure, she’s been in a hospital room for weeks, rebuilding her immune system after a round of chemotherapy. Sure, she’s got tubes and cords sneaking through the slats in her crib. And yes, her parents sleep on a small fold-out bed in the corner of her hospital room.

Harper has Acute Myelogenous Leukemia (AML), which is a really complicated way of saying that she has a big, scary cancer that grew inside of her beautiful little bones.Since her diagnosis in December 2015, she’s taken on chemo, celebrated her first birthday, spent weeks upon weeks in a hospital room and inspired hundreds of grown-ups around the country with her spark, her smile and her survival.

But Harper doesn’t know any of this. She just knows that she’s in her crib, and she wants to get out. The object of her fascination is one of the many machines that crowd her little hospital room, undoubtedly doing something important and medical but also undeniably enchanting, with their little beeps and light up buttons.

“Before any of this, I prayed for her to have a story, to have a place in this world, to have a cause.”


The people bearing this for Harper are her parents, Krista and Derek. Krista left her job to spend every minute by Harper’s side. Derek doubled his daily commute to work just to spend every night alongside both of his girls. And both of them are dedicated to bearing this burden for Harper, to taking on all of the worry and the heartache they can, so she can have the childhood she deserves.

"It's our job -- as her parents -- to go through this for her, to take on the cancer ourselves."

It means weeks upon weeks spent in a hospital room. It means praying to spend her first birthday at home instead of a hospital crib.

When she was pregnant, Krista prayed for her daughter to have a place in the world, to have a story, to have a light to bring to the world. To be clear, this is not the one that she imagined, but it’s clear that Harper’s AML has helped Krista to find her place in the world, too. What could have dimmed this family has only made them shine brighter. They’re happy, grateful, generous people. They smile easily, and they welcomed us random strangers from the Internet into a hospital room the way we imagined they would have invited us into their living room, had the circumstances been different.

“It’s our job — as her parents — to go through this for her, to take on the cancer ourselves.”


Someday, Harper will understand everything that happened to her. And the story they get to tell her is that she was sick, and a whole bunch of people surrounded their family with love and support. That birthday cards arrived from around the country -- cards from total strangers. That even in the darkest times, she brought the light.

When we leave, Harper stands and waves. “Bye bye!” she says, and she blows a kiss -- a little ray of sunshine that stays with us, though the sun has already set.