Universities around the country are welcoming their newest wave of students as September comes to a close.

For 18-year-old Charlotte, who lives in Stoke-on-Trent with her family, studying for her degree was far from certain growing up.

She was diagnosed with neuroblastoma as a young child, a rare childhood cancer that mostly affects children under the age of five – there are only around 100 new cases each year in the UK. Fewer than 40% of children survive for longer than five years.

Play Therapy

Charlotte is one of the lucky ones. Now she’s moving to Yorkshire to study Early Childhood Studies at the University of Hull – a degree choice influenced by what she went through earlier in her own life. She hopes to become a Play Therapist, working in hospitals with children, playing and creating distractions from what is happening around them.

“I’m really looking forward to starting University,” says Charlotte. “I feel like it will give me a sense of independence, but I am quite nervous about meeting new people!”

“I don’t remember much about my treatment, but when I was in hospital I did see how the Play Therapists interacted with the children and families to distract them from what’s happening and what they’re going through. Growing up I’ve looked back at what they’ve done for me and my family and seen how their jobs help so many people.”

Attending the Solving Kids’ Cancer conference

Every year Charlotte attends the Solving Kids’ Cancer Neuroblastoma Parent Education Conference with her parents. Because the chance of relapse was always very real, they wanted to have as much knowledge of the disease and the advancements in treatments.

“I like how the conference is set up. Doctors and professionals are able to talk to parents and answer the majority of questions. When I was younger it was good I had a place to go and play but once I was old enough I did like sitting in parts of the conference. It helped me to understand more about what I went through.”

Proud family

Charlotte loves reading and playing computer games with her younger brother, although she won’t own an XBOX at University to continue playing with him. She’ll be 133 miles from home and says “it will be hard not to be with my family because every day I sit and talk to them. Even if I am in my room I know they are only downstairs. Now I can only ring them. It will be hard.”

Her family might now be far away, but they are proud of the young woman she has become.

“My husband and I are so very proud of Charlotte and excited for her future. I’m going to miss her every single day but then I think to myself, how good is this?! And how amazing is it that Charlotte has come this far?” says Lisa, Charlotte’s mum.

“As a family, we hardly dared hope that Charlotte would get to high school and now she has a University place, and a whole exciting life ahead of her. At times she has had her struggles but she has persevered and grown into a lovely human being.”