A mother whose daughter tragically died after a year-long battle with a rare form of cancer has revealed she’s going to parliament to fulfil the 10-year-old’s bucket list.
During an appearance on ITV’s This Morning, Charlotte Fairall, from Stubbington, Hampshire, explained that she didn’t know what the symptoms of cancer were before her daughter Sophie was diagnosed with rhabdomyosarcoma – a rare type of cancer that forms in children’s soft tissue – in September 2020.
She said Sophie had been having consistent stomach pains, nausea and abnormal bleeding that are ‘real red flags’, but doctors suggested the symptoms could be her period.
As she began treatment, Sophie created a bucket list with the aim of creating greater awareness of cancer symptoms, more toys in hospitals and better foods for people visiting their loved ones in hospital.
The House of Commons debate on childhood cancer outcomes being held tomorrow will be the first time the subject has been discussed in parliament.
Charlotte Fairall, from Stubbington, Hampshire, reflected on the death of her daughter Sophie (both pictured) ahead of going to parliament
Charlotte said Sophie (pictured) had been a ‘happy’ child, before complaining of being unwell around July 2020
Charlotte (pictured) said Sophie’s stomach pains, nausea and abnormal bleeding became consistent in August 2020
Charlotte explained that going to parliament next week is her way of fulfilling Sophie’s final wishes.
The mother-of-three’s appearance on the daytime show comes just months after she and Sophie visited the set to tick off an item from her bucket list before her death.
Presenter Holly Willoughby admitted that she felt ‘lucky’ to have had the opportunity to speak to Sophie.
Charlotte said: ‘She was really positive, happy, always had a smile on her face. Very friendly, bubbly, full of life. She would light a room up and lots of people have said you wouldn’t have forgotten her if you met her.
‘She was just that sort of character.’
Charlotte revealed that Sophie began complaining about feeling unwell around July 2020, saying: ‘She was complaining of stomach pains, feeling sick and struggling to eat in the morning when she woke up.
‘That was on and off from July and more consistent in August. She started bleeding and we had seen the GP before that, but was told it was other things.
Charlotte told presenters Philip Schofield and Holly Willougby (pictured left) that she previously didn’t know the symptoms of childhood cancer
What is rhabdomyosarcoma?
Rhabdomyosarcoma is a type of soft tissue sarcoma (tumour).
Fewer than 60 children are diagnosed with rhabdomyosarcoma in the UK each year. Most of them are younger than 10 years old. It is more common in boys than girls.
‘You hear that childhood cancer is rare, so as a parent you think if it’s rare it’s never going to happen to us.
‘You think of all the other signs and symptoms, and think, “Oh it will be other things”. Now I know it’s one in 450 children that get childhood cancer I would’ve probably been different.
‘She had some of the real red flags. Abnormal bleeding is definitely a red flag, stomach pain and consistent pains in the stomach was another one, and that feeling of nausea.
‘We know all children feel sick but it’s the persistence of it. Those were all flags but I didn’t know the signs and symptoms.
‘I asked lots of people, “Do you know if your child had cancer, would you know the signs and symptoms to look out for?”.’
Sophie had initially hidden the bleeding, which began while staying with her grandparents for summer, because she felt embarrassed.
Presenter Philip Schofield told viewers how Charlotte took Sophie to A&E after being unhappy with her GP diganosis.
Charlotte continued: ‘They asked me in the hospital, “How long has she had this lump for?” and I said “What lump?”.
Charlotte said a 12cm tumour was found in Sophie’s abdomen once taken to A&E, after her GP misdiagnosed her symptoms
‘They found a 12cm tumour in her abdomen. Abdomen is quite a tricky area to locate.’
Philip admitted that he could not ‘imagine how horrific’ it would have been to see Sophie rushed into surgery.
Because covid, mother and daughter had to spend weeks away from Charlotte’s other two daughters and Sophie’s dad Gareth.
Charlotte said: ‘They said to me it’s cancer and they’ve managed to remove 95 per cent of the tumour but they couldn’t remove it all, so then we started treatment with chemo.
‘She was quite adamant that they were going to make her better. She kept saying ‘”Doctors make you better and I know they will for me”.
‘She just had that positive outlook all the way through. She painted ceramics while in hospital because she wanted more toys and activities.
‘So she raised £6,000 selling ceramics.’
Charlotte said Sophie didn’t want to be left alone and would question why she was being fed by the hospital
Charlotte revealed making a change for other families who have a child with cancer was the most important thing on Sophie’s bucket list.
The life plan was written after Sophie underwent several surgeries, chemotherapy and radiotherapy but relapsed.
‘She wanted parents to be fed and kept saying to me, “Why aren’t you being fed mum, you’re here and don’t have a choice to be here. You’re here because I’m ill, why are they not feeding you?”.
‘She just couldn’t understand that,’ Charlotte said.
Charlotte explained that the 10-year-old didn’t want to be left alone, and so she didn’t leave her side to get meals.
‘I know there’s parents out there right now who won’t be eating because they won’t be able to leave or they actually can’t afford to eat in hospital,’ she added.
Charlotte revealed what she hopes to achieve by going to parliament, saying: ‘We want the way children are diagnosed quicker. A lot of children are diagnosed stage three and four.
Charlotte said she’s going to parliament to campaign for quicker diagnosis of childhood cancer and a national campaign to raise awareness of symptoms
‘They need to be diagnosed quicker, we know that the outcome if they are diagnosed earlier is better.
‘We want a national campaign of the signs and symptoms of childhood cancer, so that the public are aware, alongside training for GPs and nurse practitioners, because once they qualify there is no current course on childhood cancer that they can access. There’s a huge loophole in that.’
Charlotte admitted that she was surprised by the massive amount of people who watched Sophie’s funeral online after her death on 18th September.
A tiara that Holly Willoughby previously gave Sophie was placed on top of her coffin.
Charlotte said her other daughters Amelia and Lucy are struggling with the loss following Sophie’s funeral on 18th September
Charlotte explained that they had started writing a blog to keep their friends and family updated on what was happening but it spiraled much bigger.
Charlotte said: ‘It gave us comfort. When I asked her about the blog, she said, “Yes, I want to be famous”, and she got that but it felt for the wrong reason.
‘I don’t want any parent to be in our position to have to sit and watch their child die, knowing if research had happened and investment been put in for cancer.
‘There has been so little change in sarcomas and brain tumours in decades and this has to start changing.’
Charlotte revealed her daughters Amelia, nine, and Lucy, 15, are struggling with the loss of Sophie.
‘Amelia is probably struggling the most outwardly, it’s a hard thing seeing your sister there and then they die and you live,’ she added.
Viewers admitted they were ‘heartbroken’ by the segment as they tweeted words of comfort for Charlotte.
One person wrote: ‘It’s unimaginable that a 10-year-old has a bucket list. Sophie sounds like she was a wonderful little girl.’
Another said: ‘To the mum talking on #ThisMornng about her beautiful daughter’s fatal cancer: You and your daughter are absolute superstars. The best of luck on Tuesday in parliament.’
A stream of viewers took to Twitter to share their support for Charlotte’s campaign