(FOX 2) - With pride, kindness and rugged resilience, 10-year-old Harper Nicholson is making medical history.
Five years ago she developed a strange spot.
"Gave her a bath, she got out of the tub and I noticed this tiny little pink speck on her forehead and I didn't like it," says her mother, Sydney Nicholson. The speck mystified many.
"We watched doctors flip through pages of medical books and no one had an answer - but no one had a concern. But we still did," she adds.
Eventually a biopsy determined Harper had a rare skin disease called linear scleroderma, creating the thickened line of skin in the middle of her forehead.
"[There's] lots and lots of extra collagen right in this area," pediatric dermatologist Dr. Tor Shwayder with Henry Ford Health System explains, pointing to his forehead, "that makes it thicken and then it makes it dimple, which is why it gets that groove."
It's a frightening diagnosis that brings more questions than answers; there's no clear treatment.
"I'll never forget that day. It was a bad day," her mom says.
Initially Harper got mega doses of steroids that came with many side effects.
"There was a rapid increase in her weight. Within a 6 month period it more than doubled," her dad Jeremy Nicholson tells us.
Harper and her family, who live in Berkley, Mich., traveled to hundreds of doctors all over the country but nothing seemed to help. But finally and recently, five years after that diagnosis, they found hope very close to home.
Dr. Shwayder and his team at Henry Ford Hospital are trying a procedure on Harper that they're tried with burn patients, in which they apply a laser to her forehead.
"We've been punching holes with the laser and it's been loosening up the scars [in the burn patients] and we thought, well why don't we just do that with scleroderma?" Dr. Shwayder says.
Harper is one of the first patients to try the laser treatment to deliver medication beneath her skin's surface.
"We use a laser to punch holes in the skin and then we give the medicine directly on the skin and then it has a wick down right to where the activity is happening," says Dr. Shwayder.
This started every two months last August, and for the first tim Harper's scleroderma seems to be fading, meaning doctors will be writing about her in the medical research.
"It makes me feel happy because I've had it for a very long time and nothing's really worked, so to know that this works it's kind of exciting," Harper tells us.
"We're excited. This is the first time we've seen progress," her mom says.
As Harper deals with her health, she also started the Super Harper Team to raise money to help fund scleroderma research to hopefully find a cure. They will be out in full force on Sunday, June 2 at the Stepping Out to Cure Scleroderma Walk at the zoo. You can get more information about that here.