As the face of the teenage Cancer Trust, Charlotte newman’s image graced the pages of magazines. She’s now helping to honours Yorkshire’s bravest children. Lindsay Pantry reports.
Tenacity, strength and positivity are words that could easily be used when describing Charlotte Newman.
But it is these very same words she uses to describe the young people she will help honour as the winners of this year’s Yorkshire Children of Courage Awards in October.
In a few months’ time Charlotte, 24, will start work as a trainee solicitor, something that seemed a distant hope in 2011, when, while studying for a law degree at the University of Leeds, she was diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma, a rare form of cancer that particularly targets young people.
But her cancer story is far from a negative one. After going into remission in 2012, her sister and father decided to run the London Marathon for the Teenage Cancer Trust, the charity which runs the ward at St James Hospital in Leeds where Charlotte was treated.
It was the moving words that Charlotte used to tell her story for their Just Giving fundraising page that captured the attention of the charity, and led to her becoming its face in a major awareness campaign. That saw her picture emblazoned on posters across the London Underground, in newspapers and magazines, and ultimately, take to the stage with Noel Gallagher to tell her story to thousands of people at the Royal Albert Hall, at a series of concerts which raised almost £1m for the charity.
The Teenage Cancer Trust (TCT) has built 28 specialist cancer units in NHS hospitals throughout the UK, including two in Leeds, two in Sheffield and one in Hull. The units allow young people to be treated together, with people of their own age, so they don’t feel alone.
Charlotte, of Alwoodley, Leeds, said: “I’m indebted to them for the role they played in saving my life. They place of comfort they provided made my whole cancer journey a lot easier.
“I don’t think anyone can quite fathom what you are going through in such a terrible experience, but we had shared experience, we were all young people, our social lives were affected.
“We were able to help one another through it, and that was down to the Teenage Cancer Trust constructing these wards.”
During her treatment, Charlotte underwent eight cycles of chemotherapy before scans revealed the cancer had spread to her lymph nodes. She then had surgery to remove a tumour lying in soft tissue between her bowel, bladder and womb, followed by a stem cell transplant, chemotherapy and six weeks of radiotherapy.
And she puts her recovery down to the specialist treatment she received at the Teenager Cancer Trust ward at St James.
The charity reached new levels of awareness earlier this year due to the fundraising of Stephen Sutton, who was diagnosed with colorectal cancer when he was 15. Through his Facebook page, Stephen documented both his cancer battle and the fundraising he did for Teenage Cancer Trust. Since his death in May, the figure he has raised has grown beyond £4.3m.
As they were both ambassadors for the charity, Charlotte spoke with Stephen many times.
She said: “Telling our stories is so important. Stephen was absolutely inspirational in the work that he did.
“These stories need to be highlighted, not only are we fighting these diseases, but we’re fighting to return to normality.
“The Teenage Cancer Trust does something completely different, it provides a place for us all to be treated together. It instils a positivity that the cancer can take away - that hope, determination and confidence that can all be eroded during treatment.”
It was that positivity that saw her return to university as soon she was physically able. Having deferred her law degree for two years, she graduated with a first last summer and is coming to the end of a legal practice course.
“I did better than I could’ve expected. My cancer experience instilled a work ethic I didn’t have before,” said Charlotte.
Later this year, she will start work as a trainee solicitor at Stowe Family law in Harrogate.
“I’m a bit apprehensive but thoroughly looking forward to the challenges ahead,” she added.
Since starting work with the Teenage Cancer Trust, Charlotte, with the natural eloquence she has telling her story, has been approached by a number of charities, many of which she has worked with, like Yorkshire Cancer Research. She was recently asked to take part in the Yorkshire Children of Courage Awards, which take place at the Royal Armouries in Leeds in October. She will be handing out an award at the ceremony, which honours brave and courageous young people.
“I hadn’t heard much about the awards, but just reading about it I was completely overwhelmed,” she said.
“For me it was a real honour to be asked to take part in these monumental awards. I have overcome adversity in my life but the tenacity and strength of these children and their ability to just enjoy life is totally inspiring.
“When I was diagnosed I was at an age when I was able to fully comprehend what was going on, but these children have such resilience in the way they deal with the challenges they are facing. ”
Stephen Mitchell, representative of the St James’s Place Foundation, which organises awards, said they were “honoured” to welcome Charlotte as a ‘Friend’ of the award.
He said: “Charlotte’s own very well publicised story underlines her tenacity, bravery and determination as she confronted and beat her illness, and these qualities are exactly the ones that we see in so many of the children who are nominated to win Awards.
“Charlotte is a true inspiration – just like all the Yorkshire Children of Courage Award nominees and winners.”
Anyone can nominate a child for an award in a number of different categories, including young carer and sporting achievement, via the Yorkshire Children of Courage website.
The organisers of the awards are also taking a special nomination box on tour throughout the summer. It has already visited Birstall, Sheffield and Harrogate. On Wednesday will be at award sponsors Arrow Cars, at Leeds Bradford Airport. Visit www.yorkshirechildren.co.uk for more information.
Choosing Charlotte to be the ‘face’ of the Teenage Cancer Trust last year was a first for the charity.
It had never embarked on such a big advertising campaign, with the posters, featuring Charlotte’s picture alongside the quote ‘I was terrified. All I heard was cancer. But thanks to the Teenage Cancer trust, I knew I was going to be ok’, placed in tube stations across London. The experience was quite overwhelming for Charlotte, who continues to work as a charity ambassador.
“It’s been a whirlwind, “ she said. “I was completely overwhelmed when the posters went out. Because I was wearing a wig in the image, people have asked me is I was actually ill. But for me, it’s a very poignant photo. It represented where the Teenage Cancer Trust got me, back to normality.
“It was a fabulous way to end such a traumatic journey - end it on such a high. Now my role as an ambassador takes on more of an education platform, talking in schools and businesses so people can see what their money is going towards.”