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Little Charley's tale of courage

PUBLISHED: 19:26 11 December 2001 | UPDATED: 11:01 03 March 2010

IS THERE a child not so very far from you who you feel has had more than their fair share of suffering this year?

If so, they could be this year's Evening Star Kid in a Million –a campaign where we search high and low for the child who really deserves to have a smile brought to their face this Christmas.

IS THERE a child not so very far from you who you feel has had more than their fair share of suffering this year?

If so, they could be this year's Evening Star Kid in a Million –a campaign where we search high and low for the child who really deserves to have a smile brought to their face this Christmas.

The campaign is being run in association with British Gas and five lucky winners will get to meet Santa in Tower Ramparts and get a Christmas present.

But the overall winner gets an extra special prize of a Playstation 2 and game worth around £300, which can bring a smile to the face of the whole family.

Already one little girl has been nominated for the award to launch the campaign.

Her story shows how so many youngsters can smile through the face of adversity and that while their parents are crying inside, their child's strength can help them through.

The last half of this year has been a nightmare for three-year-old Charley Garrad and her mum Karen from Queenberry Road.

Little Charley had to have her left eye removed after she was diagnosed with cancer of the Retina, called Retinoblastoma.

The cancer meant that her eye had to be removed and although she now has a false eye, it still doesn't stop the stares and the comments from people in the street.

Karen, 25 said: "It has been such a stressful year, I don't know how I have coped.

"She is such a happy go lucky little girl that it helps me to cope as well.

"She just gets on with things and that's what I try to do as well."

The bubbly youngster happily goes off to playgroup at Gainsborough Sports Centre, getting stronger every day following the operation that turned her little life upside down earlier this year.

Even though the operation successfully removed the cancer, having a false eye is not the end to the problems and the youngster also has to endure having her eye taken out and cleaned, as well as having to take a variety of antibiotics.

Karen said: "It took three of us to hold her down to take her eye out and clean it.

"All the time I just seemed to be holding her down to do stuff to her.

"But she is beginning to get used to it now as before she would not have anything to do with it and would not let me go near."

The cancer was discovered in June this year and Charley had her eye removed a week after her third birthday in July.

Karen said she had originally thought the problem was a lazy eye, something that runs in the family, and so to start with was not that concerned.

But after she had been away for a week without Charley, she noticed something was wrong on her return.

She said: "Her eye was shining almost like a cats eye in the road when you shine a light on them.

"I tried to book an appointment with an eye clinic but they could not fit me in for a month so I decided to take her to the doctors."

The trip to the doctors was the start of a hectic few weeks with journeys to different hospitals and specialists.

For around three weeks, Karen was kept on tenterhooks trying to find out what was wrong with her only daughter.

From Ipswich hospital they were sent to Great Ormond Street and then on to St. Bartholomew's Hospital in London, where Charley was finally diagnosed with having cancer, which was a terrific blow.

It was decided that the eye had to be removed, and one heart-rending decision followed another for her frantic mother.

Karen said: "There were so many decisions to make about what would be best for her.

"Should she be given gas or injection to put her under general anaesthetic? – It was so stressful."

While the eye healed she did not even have a false one and some younger children in the street would run away from her because they were scared.

Karen said: "That really hurt me because she wanted to play with them and I just tried to explain to them that her eye was just different.

"But when she got her false eye they were all shouting 'look she's got her eye back,' and now they don't seem to notice at all."

Karen faced a nerve-wracking wait until a check-up in November told her that the cancer had not spread to the other eye.

Although Charley will need regular check-ups for the next five years to be told she is fully in the clear, for the moment they are just trying to get on with their lives.

Karen said: "She does have a problem with space at the moment as she thinks her face is only as wide as she can see and she does bump into things sometimes.

"Children always look where they have just been rather than where they are going and I always have to tell her to watch where she is going."

Charley's plight touched the heart of Cheryl Godfrey, a friend of the family who herself suffered from cancer.

In her letter to the Star, nominating Charley for the Kid in a Million, she said: "Please, Please, Please could you try and make something special happen for this dear little girl who has been through so much in her short life.

"I had cancer myself two years ago and I cannot bear to think of someone as young as Charley having to suffer."

FACTFILE: 1.Retinoblastoma is a malignant tumour or cancer that develops in the cells of the eye.

2. More than nine out of ten children with Retinoblastoma can be successfully treated and it has one of the best cure rates of all children's cancers.

3. It is one of the less common cancers of childhood and accounts for only three out of every 100 cancers occurring in children under the age of 15 years.

4.The tumour usually develops before the age of five years and some children are born with it.

5. Two commons signs of the cancer are: an abnormal appearance of the pupil, which tends to reflect light as a white reflex like a cat's eye, and also a squint.

6. The majority of children with unilateral Retinoblastoma (just affecting one eye) have the affected eye removed.

7. As the vision is usually quite normal in the other eye and young children adapt very well to uni-ocular vision, they are not handicapped in any way and will be able to lead a normal life and go to a mainstream school.

WEBLINK: http://ds.dial.pipex.com/rbinfo/information.html

n. Send in your nominations for a Kid in a Million by next Monday to:

Kid in a Million

Evening Star Newsdesk

30 Lower Brook Street

Ipswich

IP4 1AN.

Or email entries to austen.dack@ecng.co.uk – please remember to add your daytime phone number on all nominations.


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