Charlotte was diagnosed in 2009, aged 4.
In September 2009, 4-year-old Charlotte came home and complained of a sore ankle. We had just purchased a trampoline for her birthday and thought it was due to a twisted ankle, but it persisted and awoke her in the night. After visiting the GP, we were told it was probably an infection in the joint with an appointment for over a month’s time to see a Paediatrician at Warrington Hospital.
Call it mother’s instinct, but something was really worrying me about Charlotte’s ankle, and I took her to A&E. Initially we were told it was a small break but luckily an Orthopaedic Consultant looked at the x-ray and immediately sent her for an MRI scan. Later that day we were told that the Consultant strongly suspected Charlotte had Ewing’s Sarcoma – a very aggressive and extremely rare form of bone cancer only really seen in older, adolescent males. It was a huge shock.
The hardest thing I had to do was face Charlotte again, in the playroom of the hospital after being told and knowing what she would have to face. She had just started school and looked the picture of health. It was hard to believe she had cancer.
We were sent to Birmingham Orthopaedic Hospital for a biopsy and waited for the result, which confirmed that Charlotte did have Ewing’s of the left tibia. We were sent to Alder Hey Children’s Hospital and had a full range of scans. We were told initially that the cancer was localized, only to be told two weeks later that the bone marrow which they had taken showed Ewing’s cancer cells.
This was a huge blow, and the Oncologist Consultants contacted the clinical trial doctors for advice for Charlotte’s treatment, as it was very unusual to have the cancer spread to the bone marrow and not to the lungs or other bones first.
It was decided after the chemo and surgery Charlotte would have a stem cell transplant.
Charlotte was an inspiration to all on the children’s oncology ward, showing a compassion and maturity well beyond her years. She accepted all the treatment and never once complained why me, we had to draw our strength from her. We practically lived at the hospital which was hard on our two boys Oliver and Jacob who were 7 and 2 at the time and it was only because of the support of friends and family that we got through.
I will always remember my son’s 8th birthday in January 2010 when I was told that the surgeon and oncologists had decided to amputate Charlotte`s left leg below the knee. I was on my own, as Darren had taken Oliver out for the day for his birthday, and it was hard to take in.
My first thought was how I would tell Charlotte. She was such an active sporty 4-year-old.
But again, Charlotte took the news with her usual complete trust of the nurses and doctors. I will always remember watching Heather Mills skating on Dancing on Ice and Charlotte watching it saying that will be me. I believed it would.
So, in March 2010 Charlotte underwent a below-knee amputation, followed 2 weeks later by a stem cell transplant. It was so hard seeing her in so much pain and so sick, but with her usual resilience she got stronger, and we left the hospital in April 2010 with the long road of physiotherapy and learning to walk with a prosthetic in front of us.
Charlotte was so weak but determined to walk, and through the brilliant work of the physiotherapists and the Wirral Limb Centre she did. She restarted school in Reception in September 2010, and we had a new baby brother for Charlotte, Henry in April 2011. Life was moving on and Charlotte was doing really well.
As a mother I was initially terrified when we left the hospital; scared of the cancer coming back and feeling very alone. But through great family, friends, and a good GP we are in March 2013 three years in remission.
The worry never goes away but we try to concentrate on the positives. We fundraise in an attempt to give Charlotte the best long-term prosthetic care so she can fulfill her ambitions, which are riding high after the Paralympic Games. Charlotte continues to be an inspiration to all she meets, determined to be a doctor or a nurse and help and inspire sick children in the future.