It is a nightmare for any parent: the chance you may never spend another Christmas with your children.
But this is reality for Charlotte Harris, a mother of four from Angmering who was given a year to live in October when she was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer.
Despite the odds, and two failed types of chemotherapy, the 43-year-old is determined to fight the disease so she can raise her family.
She said: “I need to keep going for the kids. I’m not ready to give up. You hear that some older people know when it’s their time and when they are ready, but that is absolutely not me. I will probably still be saying that on my last breath: ‘I’m still not ready’.”
The village has rallied around her to raise more than £3,000 towards a £57,000, last-hope session of proton beam therapy in Prague.
Charlotte said she was ‘overwhelmed’ by people’s support, and hopes the therapy could buy her some more precious time with her husband Neil and their children: Jolene, 16, Cain, 15, Libby, nine, and Huxley, seven.
You hear that some older people know when it’s their time and when they are ready, but that is absolutely not meCharlotte Harris
Jolene, who is home-schooled with her siblings, said her mum was ‘incredible’, and Cain added: “She is our foundation to everything.”
Charlotte said she had been suffering from heavy and painful periods, but in July the pain continued so she saw her doctor, who thought it could be irritable bowel syndrome.
After she became unable to go to the toilet, ultrasound scans showed what was thought to be a large fibroid – a non-cancerous growth in the wall of the uterus.
On September 1 at Worthing Hospital, surgeons removed 40cm of bowel and a six-pound tumour from Charlotte, a former nanny.
But further tests revealed it was a neuroendocrine tumour – a rare form of cancer usually found in the over-60s which had spread to her lymph nodes and liver.
Charlotte described her diagnosis as ‘devastating’ and ‘the hardest thing we have ever had to deal with’.
When asked what drove her to keep going, Charlotte said it was her children. “Watching them grow up; watching them succeed. Taking them to London and the Isle of Wight; just things I did as a child that I want to share with them. Seeing more birthdays and having more time together.”
To donate, visit gofundme.com/charlottes-fund-to-beat-cancer.
A fundraising event will also be held in Angmering Village Hall on March 26 from 10am to 2pm.