A Heaton teen will start 2022 in the best possible way after his latest MRI scans showed he was completely cancer-free.
Charlie Card, 13, was diagnosed with a type of brain tumor called medulloblastoma on Easter Monday in 2019.
The youngster was treated for months and his latest scans have shown that he is cancer free and there is no sign of the disease two years after he finished treatment.
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Charlie is a Newcastle United super fan and started watching his beloved Magpies when he was just 18 months old. He is now preparing to celebrate the New Year with his family.
Charlie’s father Gary, 44, said: “The weeks leading up to a scan are horrendous. Your mind goes through every scenario possible.
“But this one felt like a big milestone as I remember the consultant saying when he was first diagnosed to be good two years after treatment and five years even better. Charlie has now reached those two years and it feels unbelievable.”
Charlie was just 10 years old when he started experiencing changes in his vision, seeing black spots and having episodes of uncontrollable gagging.
Heaton younger Charlie Card at the start of his treatment for a brain tumor discovered when he was just 10 years old (Image: Handout)
Gary, who worked in removals before Charlie was diagnosed but looked after him, said: “Charlie was a really fit and healthy lad and he had just had a year or so before he really took over my love of football and we started watching Newcastle together.
“But not long after that, he started having several problems with his eyes and he was gagging for hours on end, but nothing happened.
“It was horrible to see him like this, but several GP visits and health checks did not indicate anything was wrong and it was more likely that it was a virus.”
With no improvements, Gary decided enough was enough and took his son to the emergency room.
He added: “His mum Rosie had made a lovely roast dinner over Easter and we were looking forward to arranging this and going home to eat. Little did we know that we would be there for hours and end up with a life-changing diagnosis.”
Charlie Card with his dad Gary and mum Rosie (Image: Handout)
Charlie was sent to the hospital for an eye exam as part of the tests done on him, and it was she who requested a CAT scan after noticing pressure on the optic nerve.
The results showed that Charlie had a mass in his cerebellum, the lower part of the brain, and that he needed urgent surgery to try to remove it.
Gary said: “He had a CAT scan at 7:30 PM and the next morning at 10:00 AM he had to have surgery to remove a brain tumor. It was a terrifying experience, but the surgical team and advisors who spoke to us that night and guided him through it were so confident they could handle this that we knew we were in the best hands.
“The situation had left us even more heartbroken as a family, as we were in the same hospital where our baby Hayden had died of a kidney problem when he was 6 months old. It brought with it all kinds of fear and anxiety.”
Charlie had a seven-hour surgery to remove the tumor and recovered in hospital, before undergoing 31 grueling radiotherapy treatments at Freeman Hospital.
Charlie Card undergoes radiation therapy to treat a brain tumor (Image: Handout)
He then began intensive chemotherapy — something Gary describes as “horrible.”
He continued: “When the doctors said that Charlie would receive the most intensive treatment to do everything to get rid of the cancer cells, we underestimated how much of an impact it would have on him.
“Within a few days he went from looking like Charlie to really bad and wiped out. It really took its toll on him. But he just kept going and was so resilient.”
The treatment lasted seven months and since then he has had scans every five months.
After his most recent results, the difference will increase to every six months.
Charlie still has to eat through a feeding tube because of the impact on his taste buds, and gets daily growth hormone injections and tablets for low thyroid levels because of the impact of the radiation therapy on his pituitary gland, which stops him from producing a growth hormone.
Charlie’s all-time favorite player is Ronaldo, and he hopes to meet his hero one day, having already met a number of Newcastle United stars.
In February 2020, he had the chance to walk to St James’ Park as a mascot with club captain Jamaal Lascelles, who took Charlie under his wing after hearing his story and going to meet him in hospital with first-time physiotherapist, Sean Beech.
Charlie Card walks off as mascot in St James’ Park with Newcastle United captain Jamaal Lascelles (Image: Handout)
Gary explained: “It all happened thanks to a friend of mine, Andy Hirst, who reached out to Sean Beech. Jamaal discovered Charlie from there and they all went out of their way to help.
“It was one of the proudest moments of my life to see him as a mascot that day. I have loved football and Newcastle all my life and it was incredible to see my son walk away with the team.
“I will never forget what Jamaal did for Charlie. He was wonderful with him at the hospital and took the time to get to know him and find out about his treatment.
“He really cared and it made a world of difference to Charlie, who was quite withdrawn in the hospital.”
Charlie Card in hospital with Newcastle United captain Jamaal Lascelles and physio Sean Beech (Image: Handout)
Charlie received a Cancer Research UK for Children and Young People Star Award for all he has been through, as well as the courage he showed during his diagnosis and treatment.
Each nominated child receives the award and there is no jury as the charity believes that every child diagnosed with cancer deserves special recognition.
The awards are open to all children under the age of 18 living in the UK who have been treated for the disease in the past five years.
Awarded in partnership with TK Maxx, the award is supported by a host of celebrity faces, including Nanny McPhee star Dame Emma Thompson, celebrity chef Jean-Christophe Novelli and TV personality Dr. ranj.
In addition to a star-shaped trophy, Charlie also received a £50 TK Maxx gift card, a T-shirt and a certificate signed by the celebrities.
Charlie Card with his Cancer Research UK for Children and Young People Star Award which he received for his bravery during his diagnosis and treatment (Image: Handout)
Gary said: “Charlie is truly a star to everyone who knows him and he is our hero. He did a great job and we couldn’t be prouder.
“I’m looking forward to him putting his boots back on and having his energy back to play with the boys like any other teenager.
“But first we’re just going to enjoy a great start to the new year with the weight lifted and knowing he is still cancer free. We’ve already had a great Christmas and watched Ronaldo play in St James on Monday.
“And who knows, maybe his next party will be meeting the man himself.”
Charlie and Gary spend New Years at home with mom Rosie and sisters Ebony, 19, and Talliah, 17.
Charlie Card ringing the bell to signal the end of his brain tumor treatment (Image: Handout)
Every year, about 75 children in the Northeast are diagnosed with cancer — but research is helping to transform survival.
The Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle is one of several centers in the UK participating in groundbreaking clinical trials coordinated by Cancer Research UK’s Children’s Cancer Trials Team.
The trials will make innovative new treatments available to children with cancer in Newcastle and across the region.
With the Star Awards, the charity hopes to shed light on some of the challenges children like Charlie face, and which scientists are trying to address.
Lisa Millett, Cancer Research UK for Children & Young People spokesperson for the Northeast, said: “Charlie is a true star who has been through so much at such a young age. It was an absolute privilege to celebrate his bravery with a Star awards.
“Cancer in children and young people differs from cancer in adults, from the types of cancer to the impact of treatment – and many young people can experience serious long-term side effects. That’s why we support dedicated research to ensure that more children and young people have cancer survive with a good quality of life.
“We are urging people in Newcastle to nominate other inspiring children so that many more children affected by this devastating disease can receive the recognition they so richly deserve.”
The Star Awards are presented in partnership with TK Maxx, the largest corporate supporter of Cancer Research UK’s work on childhood cancer. Since 2004, the retailer has raised more than £40 million for essential research to help improve survival and reduce the long-term side effects of treatments.
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