In May 2020 at just nine years of age, Charli was suddenly diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (Pre‑B ALL) — and her entire family’s lives were changed forever. Charli was immediately relocated to the Sydney Children’s Hospital which was her new temporary home.
“We got a call at 9pm Friday night from pathology and the only words I could make out were ‘Leukaemia’ and ‘Go to the hospital’. A moment in time that will be ingrained in my memory for evermore. We finally got moved to a ward at 2:30am — and didn’t sleep a wink.”
Charli in May 2020, on the day that she was officially diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (Pre‑B ALL)
This shocking diagnosis also came a couple of months into her schooling in a new, post-COVID world — which made it all the more difficult for her family to navigate.
“Because of COVID we weren’t allowed visitors, and only one parent could be on the ward at any one time,” Charli’s mother Faye recalls.
At the Sydney Children’s Hospital, Charli had to endure countless treatments, drugs and intensive rounds of chemotherapy. They all had their own side effects, including putting her in a wheelchair for long periods at a time. This meant frequent trips to the hospital for Charli’s family.
“We started commuting back and forth so Sydney Children’s hospital for treatment — sometimes 3 – 4 times a week — which was a huge juggle that took a tremendous toll on our entire family.”
Charli with her pet guinea pig, Summer, in August 2020
Charli’s Mission to Return to School
Returning to school — and to normal life — was one of Charli’s main goals ever since she was diagnosed. After nearly 18 months of treatment and chemotherapy, living in and out of hospital away from her family (and away from school), Charli’s wish came true. In November 2021, she returned to and completed her first full week back at school.
“It was a big, exhausting, emotional week for her (well, all of us) but she made it and I had very sweaty eyes over that long-awaited milestone,” her mother Faye remembers. “A huge thanks to Charli’s school who have once again gone above and beyond to help us. The week wasn’t smooth sailing and without their unwavering support, we wouldn’t have been able to celebrate that milestone.”
Charli in November 2021 after completing her first full week of school in 18 months
Charli’s Participation in Light the Night and World’s Greatest Shave
Despite being a patient herself, Charli — and her entire family — do so much to support organisations such as the Leukaemia Foundation to raise awareness for childhood cancer and how much it devastates lives. In 2021, Charli’s mother Faye signed up ‘Team Shine Like Charli’ to World’s Greatest Shave — and little did she know what would come next.
Team Shine Like Charli raised an incredible $128,340 for The Leukaemia Foundation and became the nation’s #1 family and friends fundraising team for World’s Greatest Shave 2021. Charli’s mother Faye — who assembled the team — was incredibly proud of what they achieved.
I feel unbelievably proud of every single person who got involved. Because of them, the Leukaemia Foundation can keep up their search for a cure and continue improving the lives of Australians living with blood cancer — And that is a bloody marvelous thing. It was an experience that we’ll never forget, and one that bought so much love and richness into our lives during a really tough time.”
Charli shaving the head of her amazing Mother, Faye, at a World’s Greatest Shave event
Team Shine Like Charli also came together to Light the Night in October last year, a night when everybody who has been touched by blood cancer lights a lantern to reflect on their unique journey.
With lockdown restrictions having recently been dropped, Charli was able to spend the night with somebody very special. Carys and Charli were diagnosed with Leukaemia within 4 weeks of each other — and despite hearing so much about each other from Nurses and other hospital staff — never got to meet in hospital as Carys ended up in strict isolation.
“They never got to meet, despite months and months of going through the same intense treatment at the same time. We heard from the nurses how alike they were, and our families connected on-line, but Light the Night was when we all finally got to meet in person — and what a great day it was!”
Charli and Carys light a white lantern to honour their own blood cancer journey
Charli’s Ongoing Battle Against Leukaemia In 2022
Unlike Christmas in 2020, Charli was able to enjoy the festivities and fun of the holiday period — and even got to meet Santa!
Charli’s family went on a camping trip over the new year, and despite still being exhausted from ongoing treatment, Faye is confident that Charli will keep on shining.
“Thankfully this year is a totally different story. We have just over 5 more months of treatment to go and the trip made me feel like we’re getting some of pre-cancer Charli back — ain’t nothing felt so good.”
The Leukaemia Foundation will be eternally grateful for all the support of Team Shine Like Charli as well as Faye and her entire family — and is continuously inspired by the strength and resilience of Charli and her entire family.
If you would like to learn more about Charli and her and her families story, you can follow Charli’s blood cancer journey via the Shine Like Charli Facebook page, where Faye gives regular updates. You can also find them on Instagram at @shine.like.charli.
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