Hunter Jones had gone to the dentist for a routine cleaning when Dr. Harlyn Sussarla noticed something unusual.
As KOMO News reports, the young girl from Everett, Washington was only 4-years-old when a trip to the dentist became a life-saving intervention.
Hunter’s dentist, Dr. Sussarla, noticed that Hunter had a few loose teeth — something abnormal for a child of Hunter’s age. Concerned, the dentist ordered an X-ray. That’s when she discovered a tumor growing in the girl’s jaw.
Hunter’s mother, Kara, told KOMO:
“I was freaked out. I was at the dentist. You don’t … tumor? No.”
The family took Hunter to Seattle Children’s Hospital, where a surgeon confirmed that the tumor was cancerous. They also learned that the young girl had a tumor in her abdomen which had spread to her hip.
Dear Friends, We need your help! Hunter Rose Jones is a beautiful fun-loving 4 1/2 year old patient at Stellar Kids…
Over the next 140 days, Hunter underwent an aggressive course of treatment. “We had two tumor removals. We’ve had five rounds of chemo, two stem cell transplants,” Kara told KOMO. “We’ve had 12 rounds of radiation, six rounds of immunotherapy.”
Dr. Seenu Susarla, one of the doctors on Hunter’s treatment team, told KOMO that the dentist deserves credit for finding the tumor early and giving Hunter the best chance to beat it:
“This is such an aggressive disease process, early recognition and diagnosis is the key, I think, for treatment.”
Coincidentally, the dentist and surgeon who treated Hunter are husband and wife.
Now 5-years-old, Hunter is cancer-free, though she did suffer hearing loss and other health problems as a result of her treatment. Recently, she returned to the dentist for another cleaning. Only this visit was accompanied by a big hug.
“I’m so thankful for you. You saved our daughter’s life,” Kara told Dr. Susarla.
Hunter presented her dentist with a handwritten card that read, “I love you.”
Dr. Susarla told KOMO that she’s happy she was able to spot the cancer and help save Hunter:
“The fact that this was something that was found in the dental chair … I’m grateful that I saw this and that she was able to get the care the treatment that she needed. Honestly, I probably think about her every day.”