Cheeky Charlie Taylor is like any other three-year-old boy.
He loves Minions, Peppa Pig, annoying his big sister Grace and cuddles with his mum Charlotte Marriott.
But in July, their lives were turned upside down when Charlie was diagnosed with stage four neuroblastoma, a highly aggressive form of childhood cancer.
The Leigh Observer is today launching a campaign - Charlie’s Journey - to raise funds for Charlie as his family rally around him.
His plight is laid bare for the first time today by family and friends desperate do all they can for a little boy they describe as “full of love”.
His mum had been concerned about Charlie’s health for about a year as he had regularly been suffering from what doctors thought were viral infections.
In March, Charlie developed a limp and despite Charlotte taking him to hospital, she was again told it was due to a fluid build up because of a viral infection. At the start of July, Charlie’s eye began to droop and Charlotte again took him to a walk-in-centre where he was referred for a hospital appointment which would likely have taken weeks to come through.
But it was just two weeks later when Charlie was attending another hospital appointment where he was diagnosed with autism and ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) that his consultant noticed his eye drooping.
He sent Charlie for a scan straight away and it was then that a tumour was discovered behind his eyebrow.
Family friend Kirstie Unsworth, speaking on behalf of Charlie’s mum, said: “He was transferred to Manchester straight away.
“They did a week of tests, lots of different tests, and that’s when they also found that he had a large tumour at the base of his spine and it had spread to his bones and his bone marrow.
“It is in quite a few of his bones and that’s when he was diagnosed with stage 4 neuroblastoma in August.”
Charlie is currently at Manchester Royal Children’s Hospital undergoing a trial treatment that involves six sessions of intensive chemotherapy that doctors hope will shrink his tumours.
“He has had two sessions of chemo and he was due to start another one last Monday but he is far too poorly so they have had to delay it,” said Kirstie. “We had the choice whether to put him on the trial or not but the doctors told us he had nothing to lose. He is on morphine and he was on ketamine, They were talking about sedating him because they couldn’t get his pain under control.
“It is hard for Charlie as well because he is autistic he can’t communicate. It is really difficult for Charlie to understand what’s going on because he can’t ask questions.
“He needs special interactive toys - they have an amazing playroom there but Charlie can’t play with them because of the autism, it is really difficult.”
But friends and family, including Kirstie, Charlie’s nan Veronica Marriott and aunt Natasha Marriott have rallied around Charlie and are hoping to raise as much money as possible for research and for his treatment.
They have already organised a charity day and are setting up a fund-raising campaign with Solving Kids’ Cancer to make sure Charlie has the support he needs.
But Kirstie is also asking for anyone who can help them come up with fund-raising ideas or make Charlie’s fourth birthday next week extra special. She said: “Before any of this happened to Charlie he was just like any other three year old boy. He is the most loving boy you could ever meet, a real mummy’s boy full of kisses and love.
“He was like a whirlwind ripping through the house with endless supplies of energy. Before being diagnosed he had started nursery and he would run into the place with his Minion bag on his back without a backward glance and everyone fell in love with him.
“Charlie had energy that rubbed off on all around him. His sister Grace loves him to distraction, Charlie could do no wrong even when he was pushing her out of bed turning the TV over in the middle of her favourite film or just being a pesky baby brother.
“He had a laugh that was infectious and a smile that could light up a room. Yes, he was a handful, he was stubborn and threw tantrums like a volcano erupting but he would only have to look at you with that cheeky smile and your heart would melt.”
The family are in the process of setting up a Just Giving page and post regular updates on a Facebook page called Hand in Hand with Charlie or to contact the family email email@example.com
l If you’re planning a fund-raising event for our Charlie’s Journey campaign, we’d love to hear from you. Contact reporter Sophie Arnold on 01942 506394.