Being diagnosed with cancer at the age of four is not an easy thing for a little boy to understand.
But two years after his diagnosis, Charlie Harris decided he wanted to help other children like him and set up his very own charity.
Kicking Cancer for Charlie has raised £20,000 in just a year, with all money going towards the Children’s Cancer and Leukaemia Group (CCLG) to help find a cure.
Charlie, from Hilsea in Portsmouth, was diagnosed with cancer in May 2014.
His mum Marie, 43, recalls the terrifying time he was diagnosed.
‘He had the same symptoms as a viral infection – a really high temperature, aches, being sick, sore eyes and a sore throat,’ she says.
‘When you take him to see the doctor you just assume they are correct in what they are saying. ‘All I had was a good instinct and what I felt about him. I have stuck to that ever since that day.’
‘I took him to the doctors four times and to A&E twice within a period of about four weeks. But they just kept saying it was a viral infection.
‘I was working at the time so I was sending him to nursery. He was just getting worse. He couldn’t walk, he was being sick and he lost a lot of weight.’
Marie decided to take him to A&E again and she told staff there that she wasn’t moving until he was seen.
‘I knew that something was seriously wrong,’ she adds.
‘Trying to go against what the doctors said is very difficult.
‘But I knew I needed to get him seen. From looking at his history without even doing a blood test, they said it didn’t look good.
‘It was a really long night but in the morning they gave me the results of the blood test and they said it was cancerous. It was a horrible feeling knowing he was that poorly.’
Marie says her faith in her child’s doctor was shaken.
‘When you take him to see the doctor you just assume they are correct in what they are saying.
‘All I had was a good instinct and what I felt about him. I have stuck to that ever since that day.
‘I didn’t want to be right. We were just thrown into it. It becomes your new every day.
‘I honestly thought I was going mad. My husband said I was over-thinking it.
‘I had prepared myself for the worst. That’s just how I am. He wasn’t getting any better.
‘When I found out I was in shock and I was on my own.
‘He was just awful. He was just lying in bed. I never slept that night because I couldn’t take my eyes off him.’
It was confirmed that Charlie had leukaemia. He was transferred to Southampton General Hospital where he was given medication to stop his organs from failing as his body was shutting down in front of Marie’s eyes.
‘From then it was a bit of a whirlwind. But you have to accept it and get on with it or it will take over you.’
Marie and husband Rob have two other children – Sofie, now 10, and Millie, four. At the time, Millie was only a year-old so they were relying on help from family and friends to look after their two girls and juggle everything else that was going on at the same time.
Charlie went on to have chemotherapy at home. But he missed a huge chunk of it due to the horrific side effects.
‘Charlie had a teenage cancer which was hard to treat and keep away, which is why the future is a bit unsettled,’ Marie says.
‘He finished his treatment but he couldn’t have all of it because it’s more suited to teenagers than children his age.
‘He’s had a really rough journey. He’s still suffering from the side effects now.
‘It’s scary worrying that it might come back.
‘He battles with chronic fatigue which means he has to nap twice a day and uses a wheelchair.
‘But despite all of that he still puts all of his energy into going to school and organising charity events.’
He started Highbury Primary School and vowed to do his best to be there, despite his illness.
‘He is such a driven, determined boy who knows exactly what he wants out of life. Over the three years he has now been at school and fighting cancer, the lowest his school attendance has ever been is n 80 per cent.’
Now, Charlie has finished his treatment and he will go on to have regular check-ups to see if the cancer has returned.
Marie adds: ‘I am finding it harder now, afterwards.
‘We are lucky because he’s here but the repercussions of the initial diagnosis are there all the time.
‘He’s had a horrendous journey to the point where we thought we might lose him. He has a phobia of needles.
‘On the outside, people think we are amazing how we held it together – but we’ve got very good poker faces.
‘I find it difficult because there’s so much uncertainty. But Charlie is a superhero.
‘He kept us going and he still does.’
To see a video of Charlie, go to portsmouth.co.uk.
Just over a year ago and aged seven, Charlie told his mum that he wanted to start a charity to help other poorly children.
‘We’ve got a lot of friends and they wanted to do something to help us’, says Marie. ‘Charlie was full of ideas. He designed the logo and we all helped come up with the name, Kicking Cancer for Charlie, adds Marie.
‘I have known people who have had cancer but you don’t really witness it until you go to Southampton General Hospital. You don’t realise how many poorly children there are.
‘For us, we just had to get on with it.
‘He really is my inspiration every day. It doesn’t matter what he is going through, he always has a smile on his face, wants to go to school and do his charity work. For an eight-year-old he is wise beyond his years.’
In September Charlie organised a 33- mile ladies charity walk between Southampton General and QA Hospital, raising approximately £6,500.
At the end of the walk, Charlie and his family handed over £400 worth of toys to Queen Alexandra Hospital, Cosham.
‘He knows that the money will help other children and he knows that his leukaemia has gone and we hope it doesn’t come back,’ Marie says.
‘This is raising money to hopefully one day find a cure. The support that we had and still continue to get is just awesome. I think it’s because a lot of our friends have children his age.
‘He wants to raise money for other poorly children like him and that’s quite a big statement. ‘I want to thank everybody for their support. We couldn’t have done it without our supporters.’