Mum Charlene Campbell dies of cancer five years after it killed her baby girl
A young mother from Portadown whose baby daughter died from cancer five years ago lost her own short battle with the disease early yesterday.
Charlene Campbell (33), who was diagnosed with breast cancer in March, passed away in hospital at 1.40am yesterday.
In February 2010, Charlene was shattered when her beautiful baby daughter Myla died in her arms aged just one year and 12 days.
The little girl was diagnosed shortly after birth with brain cancer and Charlene nursed her through a tough battle.
After the loss of her daughter, Charlene developed a fear of cancer and in a cruel twist of fate her worst fears were realised when she was told earlier this year that she had breast cancer.
Having witnessed the terrible side effects of the treatment her baby went through, she refused medical help and instead opted for a holistic approach.
Last night, Charlene's aunt Liz Beggs said the family was numb with grief at the loss of their beautiful, vibrant and very brave Charlene.
"No one knows what we have lost, but our loss is heaven's gain," said Liz, who added: "Charlene is with her wee Myla now. We called her our lady with the crown and she was a wonderful person."
The death of Charlene, who worked as a sales negotiator for Hannath Estate Agents in Portadown, has shocked her home town where she was known for her beauty and her vibrant personality.
Charlene had attempted to fight the cancer with holistic remedies and through a strict organic diet, but finally underwent surgery to have her breast removed in August when it was obvious that the tumour was continuing to grow rapidly.
She had just returned from a short break in Barcelona with her aunt Liz last month when a scan to explore the cause of pain in her back revealed the shocking news that the cancer had spread to her liver. A week later it had spread to her spine.
Charlene shared a very special bond with her aunt Liz, who she affectionately referred to as "The Number 1 Boss Cat", and last night Liz told of her niece's courage in dealing with her baby's illness and her own.
She said: "Myla was diagnosed shortly after birth and Charlene spent the first weeks of her baby's life with her in the Royal Children's Hospital.
"It did take its toll on her and was traumatic but from the beginning she was determined that we would all be positive around Myla, because she didn't want her to feel frightened.
"Myla smiled the whole way through her illness and we all called her 'Smyla Myla'. She passed away in Charlene's arms on February 23, 2010.
"It had a terrible effect on Charlene and after it she couldn't even bear to hear the word cancer mentioned. Because she had cared for her baby, this terrible fear engulfed her that she too would get it.
"She put on a great front. She was a very beautiful, vibrant person and very grounded."
There was more pain for Charlene when her marriage broke up, but again she remained strong and was getting on with her life.
Liz was with her when she was told the shattering news on March 4 this year that she had a cancerous tumour in her right breast and three lymph nodes. It was suggested that she needed an urgent mastectomy followed by chemotherapy and radiotherapy, which she refused.
Liz says: "She was adamant from the start that she would not take the treatment.
"She had seen what Myla had suffered and what the treatment did to her and she was determined that she would not put herself through it and that she would do it her way.
"I can still see her standing in that car park with her long blonde hair and six foot stature, saying: 'I'm doing it my way'."
Follow-up scans revealed that the tumour was growing and finally, on August 6, Charlene agreed to a mastectomy.
Within hours of surgery her aunt says she was sitting in her hospital bed with full make-up on, looking radiant and positive.
Just five weeks later she enjoyed a weekend city break with Liz in Barcelona, only to be told on the day she returned from her holiday that she had multiple tumours in her liver.
Within a week the cancer spread to her spine.
Liz says: "We had an absolutely fantastic time in Barcelona, laughing all weekend, it was brilliant craic.
"Sitting beside her on the plane on the way home, her skin was glowing and her big blue eyes were sparkling and she looked so healthy and beautiful. The news that the cancer had spread knocked us all for six."
Just over two weeks ago, Charlene became bedridden with pain and finally last Sunday was admitted to hospital, where she passed away.
Liz added: "Charlene was so intelligent and bubbly. She was a bling girl and she loved attention and she loved giving attention. She was like a breath of fresh air. We just can't believe she has gone."
A private service will be held for Charlene in her parents' home in Portadown tomorrow morning followed by a service at Tandragee Baptist Church at 11am. She will then be laid to rest beside her baby Myla in Kernan Cemetery, Portadown.
Charlene is survived by her parents Gary and Geraldine Lawson and sister Louise.