It came as a terrible shock to the Hutchinson family when their active 13 year old daughter Charlotte was diagnosed with leukaemia.
Charlotte’s mother Pam shares their experience. And Charlotte updates us in 2013 and 2016.
"Friday 11th August 2006 is a day that will stick in my mind forever. Charlotte, then 13, went to the GP for a full blood test as she had been unwell for about the past two to three weeks.
Abnormalities in Charlotte’s blood
It was quite a normal Friday, until the consultant haematologist rang and said there were abnormalities in Charlotte’s blood and could we take her straight down to East Surrey hospital.
We were there within the half hour and Charlotte was examined by a doctor and asked loads of questions etc. She had yet more blood taken and then, at 10.30, we heard the awful words that no parent ever wants to hear.
We were taken into a small, unventilated, windowless room and asked to sit down. That sinking feeling filled me. I knew we were to be told bad news.
'Charlotte is very poorly and has childhood leukaemia' are about the only words I remember hearing.
Obviously we did ask some questions – the normal ones. 'Will my child get better?' etc. But it was difficult to focus on anything. Questions like ‘Why Charlotte?’, ‘Why my child?’ were all that occupied my very muddled mind.
Questions like ‘Why Charlotte?’, ‘Why my child?’ were all that occupied my very muddled mind. The time came for us to go back to see Charlotte, who we had left with our older daughter Harriet (15). They both knew something was seriously wrong - we had been gone ages and came back very red eyed.
The Doctor and nurse were both extremely kind and sensitive. They sat down to tell Charlotte what was the matter. Lots of tears followed. The word cancer hits you in the stomach like a brick.
We were told that she needed to be treated in a specialist cancer hospital and would be transferred to The Royal Marsden hospital. That night Charlotte was given a platelet transfusion and blood. We did not get a lot of sleep that night – just lots more tears.
Less than 24 hours since Charlotte had had the initial blood test, she was in an ambulance going up to The Royal Marsden – blue light flashing. She was diagnosed later that day with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL).
Charlotte is determined that life goes on as normal
The hardest thing to comprehend at the time was that she had been a normal teenager the day before.
She is a very sporty girl and is in all the school teams and plays football for a local league team. Now here she was wired up to drips and fighting for her life.
Her words to one of the doctors that first day at the Marsden were very poignant. 'I am now running the race of my life, and I will win.' What fighting talk that was and that is how she has handled each day since.
She insisted our family life must continue as normal, or 'we would be giving in to cancer.'
Charlotte is so determined that life goes on as normal. Even when her mouth is so full of ulcers and she can hardy swallow, she still gets up and, as she says, fights the cancer. She has suffered from terrible muscle and leg pain from the intensive chemo drugs. And, as a teenager, one of the hardest things for her to come to terms with was losing her hair twice.
But she has never given in and drags herself to school so she is not giving in to the cancer. She has even completed three GCSE exams a year early.
Charlotte truly is an inspiration to all and her grit and determination get her through each day.
Yes, she does have some down moments, but these are short lived and she is determined that she will live life to the full each day.
We have all learnt a new language of blood terminology and drug names, but the support we have had from family, friends and the medical profession has been brilliant in getting us through each day. Charlotte’s school has been so supportive to both her and her sister.
It seems a long time since that dark August night – but we are hopeful of the day, this November, when she will have beaten her leukaemia.
Charlotte is now 15. We are truly thankful to the support we have been given. If Charlotte’s story can be an inspiration to others, we feel we will have helped. 'Beating it' is how Charlotte ends each day – a remarkable girl. I know I am biased as her mother, but she truly is an inspiration.”
An update from Charlotte in 2013
"A year after the all clear I was diagnosed with Avascular Necrosis (AVN), a bone condition, which was a result of the steroids that I took during my treatment. This has since caused more pain and lead to more operations, resulting in broken bones.
However, this still has not changed me as a person. I play for my university netball team and competed in the university championships.
Now at 20, having had cancer and living with AVN, my whole outlook on life has changed.
Since the day I was diagnosed I have not given in and lived as normal a life as possible. I know it’s a cliché but it really does make you treat every day as if it’s your last and live life to the full.
I have even been skiing with a lot of metal work in my leg and weak bones but came back in one piece, much to my parents relief!
I am now finishing my second year at university and doing a year in industry for IBM next year. Looking back on my 13 year old self I am so pleased of my determined nature and drive to succeed as I wouldn’t be where I am now and I can officially say I beat Cancer."
Charlotte, now 23
"It is now 10 years on since the initial diagnoses - I am 23 and doing really well.
I still have problems with my bones and have aches and pains. But despite this I completed the London Marathon for Children with Cancer UK with my sister last year!
I graduated from university and am now in a graduate job with IBM. I have also recently moved in with my boyfriend.
August 11th 2006 seems a very long time ago now - but it's a day my family and I will never forget. And we all still celebrate November 11th, every year, as the day I got the all-clear from Cancer."
How you can help
There are lots of ways that you can help children like Charlotte in their fight against cancer.
From donating £5 to taking part in a run or organising your own event. Whatever you do or how much you raise, you really can make a difference to children living with cancer across the UK
Make a donation
Read more: Support us
Have you or a family member been affected by childhood cancer?
Many of our supporters have been affected by childhood cancer – either through family, friends or their own personal experience. These patient stories can help inspire others to get involved with us, or can support our media work.
If you have a story that you would like to tell, please contact us by email today.
Return to Patient stories