19 Months Old at Diagnosis.
“Take the good days and try to make them last longer, and know that the bad days end, even if it seems like an endless amount of bad days.”
That’s a quote from Heather White, who has lived through both good and bad days since her daughter Charlotte was diagnosed with bilateral retinoblastoma, a rare cancer that affects both eyes. She was only 19 months old.
It was on February 15, 2016 when Heather was told the devastating diagnosis, and that Charlotte had to get her right eye enucleated (a type of surgery that removes a tumor or gland on the eyeball) or there could be a chance that it would spread.
After the initial shock, there was no time to hesitate. Charlotte went in for surgery to remove her eye, she got her port in, and then she received her first dose of systemic chemotherapy. She had to go through two types of chemotherapy – systemic and intra-arterial – and she fought for over a year. Fortunately, Heather’s entire family from both sides stayed with them at the hospital, along with a few of their closest friends.
“Charlotte having cancer really proved to my husband and I who was truly there for us. Surprisingly, I found out it’s pretty normal how people act when they find out a child has cancer. I lost several friends and family members stopped talking to me. However, as horrible as that sounds on losing people, we also grew friendships and bonded stronger with other friends and family members.”
After showing unwavering courage and strength against the cancer for just over a year, Charlotte was officially declared cancer free on Thursday, April 20, 2017! It was the first time that Heather and Charlotte’s father, Anthony, were happy to be at the hospital.
“There are no words to describe how thankful we are to have our little girl fight probably the hardest battles any child can fight and win. We do not forget that she still has the rest of her life to be checked, but at least for now our minds can rest easier now knowing she’s healthy.”
Today, Charlotte is 2 1/2 years old (she turns 3 in June). She loves playing dress-up, spending time with cousins and friends, and she enjoys watching The Little Mermaid, Frozen, and The Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. Her other favorite things include: her dog Jade, chocolate, Pez, gummy bears, and My Little Pony.
Charlotte is a superhero because even though she was so young when she was diagnosed, she never allowed her energy to run out, and her spirit was always so high and joyful.
“Always smiling, Charlotte did not allow cancer to destroy her. We stayed bonded as a family unit and nothing brought us completely down.”
It’s this strength and positive outlook that gives Heather and her family hope for the future of children’s cancer research. She believes that children are the future. They are the next Oprah or Stormy Simon, and they are what’s going to allow our planet to stay afloat.
Heather has advice for parents of superheroes who are fighting cancer. She knows it isn’t easy having a child born with an illness or raising one who develops an illness, but it’s the choices that parents make that shouldn’t be taken lightly.
“Love your children with every breath you have. Take as much time for yourself as possible. If there is one thing we have learned, it’s that you need to take care of yourself first before you can take care of others.”
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