August 24, 2016 03:35 PM

Cadence Schutter just started kindergarten, but the pageant princess and reality star has already survived a tough battle with cancer.

Diagnosed with neuroblastoma (cancer formed in immature nerve cells) when she was still in utero, Schutter had to undergo cancer treatment as an infant.

Shocked by the devastating news, her parents Julie Dimit and Amy Schutter (who conceived using donor sperm) were in disbelief at the time.

“I tried to be strong, but there’s so much fear,” recalls Dimit. “On the inside I was freaking out. My world was crumbling.”

When she was 3 months old, doctors successfully performed surgery on Cadence to remove the adrenal gland where the cancer was located.

Cadence Schutter
Alyson Aliano

Now 5, Cadence is cancer free and the Toddlers and Tiaras star has found joy in the world of beauty pageants.

Cadence Schutter (center) with her parents Julie Dimit (left) and Amy Schutter
Alyson Aliano

Since she only has one adrenal gland, Cadence is unable to play sports or any activity where she becomes overheated. Instead, the family turned to beauty pageants.

“It gives her an outlet to still feel like she can participate,” says Amy. “She still gets the camaraderie and the support of friends.”

For more on Cadence Schutter, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday

Kate Gosselin and her children on the cover of PEOPLE

For Cadence it’s just about having fun.

“I love to be on stage,” she says. “I don’t get nervous at all when I do pageants. It makes me happy when I get to do them.”

Toddlers and Tiaras premieres Wednesday at 9 p.m. ET on TLC.

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