It is every parent’s worst nightmare, to hear that their child is seriously ill.

But that is exactly what Henry Charles’s mother and father had to face during the summer of lockdown in 2020. 

And while the teenager is now in remission following three years of treatment, his family is calling for more action to help others.

When Henry, then aged 10, first began to show symptoms of leukaemia it was in the depths of Covid-19 uncertainty. 

But so subtle were the changes in him, mother Tajana Charles revealed how it took a long time to notice them.  

The 43-year-old, who also lives with husband Chris and Henry’s younger brother George, said: “I put his symptoms down to all sorts of things, but never thought he was seriously ill until he was diagnosed. 

“He had temperatures on and off at night and bleeding gums which we thought were from wobbly baby teeth.  

Eastern Daily Press: Henry Charles

“But then he started to become much more withdrawn.  

“He used to play a lot with George, who was eight at the time, but that slowed down. He also started losing weight which I thought was his age and that he was growing.”  

Following a phone call to their GP, Henry was given an appointment at the children’s assessment unit at the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital.  

Less than an hour later, following blood tests and an x-ray, he was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia. 

Henry was immediately transferred to Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge to start treatment in intensive care.  

Mrs Charles added: “I will never forget that as we were getting into the ambulance I noticed one of the nurses giving me a sad look. Like she was feeling sorry for me. It really struck me.

“I wondered why she was looking at me like that. I now know why she did that - she knew what we’d have to go through and how hard it was going to be.  

Eastern Daily Press: Henry Charles

Henry and his mother were placed in a ward with three other children. 

“Henry didn’t like being left alone so I didn’t shower for days,” she added. 

“My bed was next to his but we had machines constantly going off and nurses and doctors coming in all day and through the night.

“Sleep isn’t the thing that you think of. You don’t get a break at all.” 

Henry was discharged from hospital after ten days for his chemotherapy to continue at his home near Norwich

Mrs Charles continued to care for him and drove him back and forth to Cambridge and then Norwich several times a week for tests and medicines. 

“He lost his hair twice, which was awful for him as Henry liked his hair longer. But it came to the stage where he was so sick he didn’t care anymore.  

“Watching your child being that ill is really distressing. 

“I think you only realise how hard this is if you’ve been through it. No one else really understands.” 

Mrs Charles had to give up her job at a pre-school in order to care for Henry, while her husband found a job working from home. 

Henry has now finished chemotherapy and is in remission. 

With support from the charity Leukaemia UK, Mrs Charles is now calling for more research.

Leukaemia is the most common type of childhood cancer, accounting for around a third of all cancers in under 15s.  

And while nine out of ten children survive, treatment has remained largely unchanged since the 1960s.