After a child's devastating diagnosis, Hawaii mom takes crusade for research funding to DC

WAHIAWA, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - When she was healthy, Harper Cude was a bright-eyed bundle of energy who was always eager to explore the outdoors.

That changed last year when she began to experience abdominal pain.

"It never even crossed my mind that it could be cancer," said her mother, Erin. "When they told me it was a tumor — it takes your breath away."

Harper was diagnosed with Stage 3 Rhabdomyosarcoma, a cancer that attacks soft tissue.

"You'd be surprised how much it changes your entire life," Harper's father, Phillip, said.

Harper is 7 and she's had 34 weeks of chemotherapy since her diagnosis. She has six more to go.

When the Cudes searched the internet for information about pediatric cancer, they discovered that little research on childhood cancer exists.

On its website, the National Cancer Institute confirms what the Cudes discovered.

The organization said more research is needed to develop "new, more-effective, and safer treatments for childhood cancer." Another challenge, is that very little is known about the causes of childhood cancers.

Erin Cude dug deeper. She learned about St. Baldrick's, an international foundation that funds cancer research.

She also joined a group through St. Baldrick's called "46 Mommas." The name comes from the statistic that shows every day in the U.S. 46 families learn their child has cancer.

Next week, Erin and 70 others from the group, all parents of children with cancer, will travel to Washington D.C. to lobby congressional lawmakers. They'll urge them to pass the STAR Act, the most comprehensive childhood cancer research bill ever introduced on Capitol Hill.

"I will be meeting with representatives in Congress from Hawaii and possibly other areas to tell them Harper's story, and let them know how important it is that they support the STAR Act," Erin Cude said.

"I am extremely proud that she's able to do this and make an impact," Phillip Cude said of his wife.

On April 22, St. Baldrick's will hold a head-shaving event to raise funds toward finding a cure for childhood cancer.

"This is something that I wanted to get involved with," Erin Cude said. "Childhood cancer, whether we like it or not, this is part of the rest of our lives.

The Cudes said Harper's condition has caused the family to opt for more indoor activities for their three children.

"We're just focusing on the little victories, when she gains a pound, or gets through a chemo treatment without getting sick," Erin Cude said. "That's just the little thing to focus on."

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