Tuesday 18th April 2017
"I was only 4 when Christie was diagnosed with cancer, so it's all a bit of a blur...
At 13 she started getting horrendous headaches, so her mum took her to the opticians thinking she might need glasses. Immediately the optician spotted something serious and suggested she saw a doctor straight away – she'd actually been blind in one eye without realising. She was referred to Addenbrooke's Hospital and then to the Royal Hallamshire Hospital in Sheffield where specialists did a biopsy and told her she had a malignant melanoma in her right eye. They explained they didn't think it had spread, but she'd need the eye removed and replaced with an artificial one.
Of course everyone close to Christie was left in a state of shock, but despite it all she never once complained and went straight back to school with her new eye, made from intricately hand-painted glass covering a piece of coral.
She never wanted any special treatment and was determined having only one eye wouldn't hold her back – and it didn't. She carried on playing sports at school, she had boyfriends, she went to parties and even completed an art A Level, a subject she loved. In a way that cancer diagnosis and the loss her eye made her stronger, more determined than ever to live life to the full. That artificial eye moved naturally, so you’d only know there was something different about her if she told you – I didn't know she had a fake eye until I was 12 when one day she got it out at home to clean.
Christie had to go back to Addenbrooke's and the local hospital in Saffron Walden every year for scans to make sure the cancer hadn't come back, knowing that after 10 years she would officially be in remission.
But at that 10th anniversary scan, just when we all hoped the shadow of that cancer would finally be gone, she was told the oncologists had found 8 tumours in her liver – the cancer had spread from her eye, unnoticed. And it had spread so wide and deep that she had just 6-12 months to live. She could have treatment, they said, but that would just delay the inevitable.
While we were all reeling from the news, Christie typically stayed positive and found her own way to deal with this horrific prognosis. She talked with several specialists, and to the Teenage Cancer Trust unit at Addenbrooke's Hospital, all of whom gave what advice and support they could at what was obviously a most difficult time.
The moment she stepped on to the Teenage Cancer Trust unit she knew she wasn't alone, that she didn't have to lay down and die. The staff there made lots of time to talk, and simply being around other young people meant she didn't feel isolated. Christie didn't want anyone outside of her immediate family and close friends to know her news because she didn't want anyone to feel sorry for her – in fact, it wasn't until 5 years later, a year before she finally died that she shared this burden with more people. She carried on partying, going on holidays, seeing friends, and even had a few boyfriends. To see her carry on like this, knowing what she was dealing with, was nothing short of inspirational.
Radiotherapy and chemotherapy would have no positive effect and most likely shorten her life, she was told, but through her specialists she managed to get on some new drug trials. So she threw herself at those, some of which seemed to have an immediate positive effect, stopping the cancer in its tracks, others which were less effective. There were endless trips to a range of specialist cancer centres around the UK, and every time it seemed one drug wasn't having an effect, Christie would just bounce back up and start another.
She started a relationship with a guy called Chris in 2012, then in 2014 told us she was pregnant.
We couldn't believe what we were hearing. She was supposed to be dead by now, and with all the drugs she had through her body, none of us imagined she could ever conceive. The doctors told her clearly the baby would either suffer great harm or be killed by the drugs Christie was on, and if she came off the drugs it was very likely the cancer would come back. It was her or the baby, they said.
I clearly remember that conversation we had with her on this, Christie saying in her usually strong-minded way that she wouldn't let this cancer take away such an amazing chance of being a mum. 5 years before that, those same doctors had told her she might not live more than 6 months, she said, so she had to stay strong and do what felt right for her. To lose two lives would be a travesty, and even if she did die, that baby would be a part of her who would carry on, a reminder to everyone of who she was. Of course we were all worried, but supported her choice 100 percent.
So she had made her decision and carried on just as normal, became engaged to Chris and set a wedding date, but as predicted by the doctors, the cancer came back fast and aggressive. Christie put on a lot of weight – on top of what you'd expect from the pregnancy – because her liver had started to grow and expand with the tumours. So in August 2014, at 26 weeks pregnant, Christie had a planned C-section, when the baby should just about be strong enough to survive, giving Christie the chance to get back on to a new drug trial as soon as possible.
Baby George was born weighing 3lbs and he went into intensive care for several months, while Christie went into the dependency unit at the maternity hospital so that she could be close to George - she was simply too ill to leave hospital.
But every time I went to see Christie in hospital, looking sicker than I'd ever seen her, not once did she hesitate at the choice she made. She was put on another cancer drug trial, but it was painfully apparent to all of us that this might really be the beginning of the end. By Christmas that year, when George was just 4 months old, she was told she had just a week to live and transferred back to the Teenage Cancer Trust ward where she'd found so much support and peace before, a port in a storm.
But then, miraculously, the new trial drug turned this all around, her cancer stopped growing, her liver was seeing positive signs and within two weeks she was discharged from hospital.
It just seemed like a dream, this insane rollercoaster. Christie was home with her fiancé and a beautiful, healthy little baby boy.
But sadly over the coming months that incredible news turned out to be short-lived. The cancer did come back and the strain that put on their relationship meant Chris and Christie broke up. That autumn she started to become unable to get around and life started to become very hard for her. Discussions around further treatment took place, but this time she said she couldn't do it, she couldn't face going back to hospital. Seeing her with baby George in her arms saying she had to finally say goodbye shattered my heart into a million pieces. She was just so tired and her previously unquenchable fight had finally gone.
Christie finally died at home on 16 December 2015, aged 28, leaving a massive hole in all our lives. George is being cared for now by Chris, although we get to see him a lot and he's an amazing reminder of his mum's spirit, her selflessness, her positivity. Of course right now George has no idea what an inspiration his mum was, but I'm in no doubt that as he grows up he'll be so proud of her and what she did for him and everyone who was lucky enough to meet her.
All through her treatment Christie did runs and walks to raise money for the Teenage Cancer Trust, knowing it was a beacon of hope for people like her who needed it the most. So now I’m taking on my first ever London marathon to raise money for the same charity which transformed Christie’s and in turn all our lives in such an incredible way."