girl holding heart shaped balloon over face
Julie Hambleton
Julie Hambleton
February 14, 2024 ·  4 min read

Sweet 10-Year-Old Girl with Rare Facial Tumor Ignores Those Who Laugh And Inspires Us All

A 10-year-old girl born with benign tumors that distort her face is teaching all of us a lesson on positivity. In a world that has taught us to value physical beauty above all else, young Autumn Schierling has shown that beauty is more than meets the eye. Despite the bullying, staring, and inappropriate questions, Autumn goes through life with a smile on her face.

10-Year-Old Girl With Benign Tumors On Her Face Still Finds Reasons to Smile

Autumn was born with a rare genetic condition called neurofibromatosis type 1. Her doctors officially diagnosed her at just six months old. She has two benign tumors growing on her nerves. One is on her stomach, out of sight, but the other is on the side of her face. This tumor also branches into her brain and is inoperable. Before they found a medication for her to help reduce the size of the tumors, the one on her head grew so big that it pulled her eye to a point where she couldn’t see out of her right eye.

The condition also causes her to have abnormal skin pigmentation. What’s worse, if the tumors go unchecked and grow too big, they can cause her to have a stroke and even die. Now 10 years old, Autumn has had to endure much more than even most adults have had to throughout their lives.

A Beacon of Positivity

Constant doctors visits, tests, medications, and discomfort are a regular part of her life. Then, of course, there is bullying. People stare at her and others, especially children, constantly ask her what’s “wrong” with her face. People have teased her and called her names, even as a young child.

“We’ve had people call her the hunchback of Notre Dame and elephant man,” her mom Lindsay says, “She’s gone through phases where people have made fun of her, but she doesn’t let it affect her as much as I think it should. There’s a lot of pointing and ‘why do you look that way.’”

Lindsay says that Autumn’s older sister Riley often gets more upset than Autumn does. She regularly stands up for her younger sister on the playground in the face of bullies. Autumn, for her part, accepts herself just the way she is and nearly always has a positive attitude about her situation.

“She’s extremely unique, and we love her for it, she’s super social, very independent, she knows what she wants and she’s not going to let anyone stop her,” Lindsay said. “I’m lucky that she is the way she is, she just accepts herself and has a positive attitude with everything.”

Read: 6-YO Older Brother Comforts Dying Little Sister: Father Captures The Heartbreaking Moment That Defines Sibling Love

What Is Neurofibromatosis?

Autumn takes daily medications to shrink her tumors caused by neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1). This is a progressive genetic condition caused by a flaw or mutation of a particular gene. Doctors usually diagnose it in early childhood. It is a rare condition, with a rate of diagnosis of 1 in every 3000 people. In about 30% to 50% of cases, NF1 causes benign tumors to grow along the nerves anywhere in the body. (1)

These tumors are called plexiform neurofibromas (PN). They can negatively affect the parts of the body where they are growing. If left untreated, they will usually continue to grow bigger and bigger. Besides visible, cosmetic issues, PNs can cause pain, numbness, weakness, and mobility problems.

Early identification is critical to keeping these benign tumors under control. Unfortunately, they aren’t always very obvious at the beginning. They can be located deep in the body and therefore can’t be seen or felt under the skin. At first, they can often present themselves as simply a discoloration of the skin or a slight bump under the skin.


Some of the tumors are operable and can be removed via surgery. Usually, the child will require multiple surgeries because the tumors tend to regrow. If the tumors are intertwined with important nerves or organs, full of blood vessels, or are growing in difficult-to-operate areas, however, they can’t be surgically removed. There are medications and other treatments to help prevent growth and reduce the size of the tumors. The doctors will also likely provide other treatments and medications to deal with the pain and other problems associated with these tumors.

Currently, there is limited research and knowledge about these tumors and why they happen. Scientists continue to research them to hopefully one day come up with better solutions than the ones they have now. For more information on ways you can help, visit the Children’s Tumor Foundation website.

Keep Reading: 20-Year-Old Takes On Raising Her Five Siblings After Both Parents Die From Cancer


  1. What is neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1)?NF1andpninfo