A brand new £5.5m childhood cancer centre would help develop further cutting-edge research into brain tumours in the North East.
The Future Fund, which aims to raise £5.5m to create the Newcastle University Centre for Childhood Cancer, would help give children diagnosed with brain tumours a fighting chance.
The Journal is backing the campaign to raise the funds for the new centre, a collaborative project between Newcastle University, North of England Children’s Cancer Research and The Great North Children’s Hospital.
Now 20-year-old Charlotte Lee, from Ponteland in Northumberland, is putting her voice to the fundraising campaign after overcoming a brain tumour when she was a teenager.
In October it will be six years since Charlotte and her family received the welcome news that she was in remission but the side effects of the intensive treatment that her body endured are a constant reminder of her journey.
She said: “I have issues with short-term memory and the processing centre of my brain but I consider myself very lucky as so many other young people are left needing all kinds of drugs and treatments to cope with the side effects of cancer.
“It will be fantastic if the money raised by the Future Fund will help reduce the side effects of cancer treatments in the future with more research and clinical trials.”
Charlotte was rushed to hospital a month after her 13th birthday when the occasional headaches, dizziness and double vision she had been suffering during PE lessons escalated to vomiting and pain in her neck. Over the course of two days, a series of tests, x-rays and scans were conducted and an MRI scan revealed a brain tumour of the cerebellum.
Charlotte had surgery to remove the tumour and it was identified by pathologists at the Great North Children’s Hospital as a medulloblastoma.
She then faced radiotherapy of her brain and spine daily for a week, followed by five weeks of treatment to her brain and a full 12 months of chemotherapy.
“Many of the young children who were being treated at the same time as me didn’t make it,” said Charlotte, who has gone on to study animal management at Northumberland College while working part-time in Kirkley Hall Zoological Gardens, Ponteland.
“They were my friends, they helped me get through it and we became very close because the situation is so intense. I pretty much grew up watching children die and that’s not normal. It changes you. But I know I am one of the lucky ones.”
She added: “Now I’m older I understand what happened to me psychologically and I want to talk about my experience to help raise awareness of brain tumours. I’ve always been comfortable talking about my cancer but when I was younger it made others a bit uncomfortable and I think scared at times too. It has been a difficult journey and it’s taken me a long time to start to regain my confidence. I was pretty much bed-ridden and had to learn to walk again. My mum had to go everywhere with me and I was in a wheelchair for a while.”