"Staying alive, feeling alive": why Charlotte Hodgson ran the Norwich 10k for Leuka

Charlotte Hodgson and Abi Burrell

09th November 2017

Charlotte Hodgson ran the Norwich 10k to raise money and vital awareness for Leuka’s work. 

In 2003, when Charlotte’s sister Olivia was just 16 years old, she was diagnosed with Chronic Myeloid Leukaemia. Contracting CML at sixteen is rare, it is more common in children and the elderly, but Olivia was lucky: a stem cell donor match was found for her and, a year after being diagnosed, Olivia underwent radiotherapy and a transplant.

Charlotte and Olivia Hodgson

Happily, after more than a decade, the donor stem cells are working brilliantly and today Olivia is classified as having negative levels of leukaemia in her system. But it hasn’t all been smooth sailing. Along the way Olivia suffered with Graft Versus Host disease, where the body reacts to the transplanted stem cells as ‘foreign’ and the donated cells attack the body.

It took several years of medication and treatment for Olivia’s disease to be controlled, including her having to try several variations of the drug Imatinib, plus having several stem cell “top-ups” from her donor, who kindly made himself available to Olivia after the initial transplant.

When Charlotte and her friend Abi Burrell decided to run the Norwich 10k for Leuka it was their hope that after hearing Olivia’s story they would be able to inspire their supporters to give generously.

Charlotte Hodgson at Norwich 10k

“I’ve seen my poor sister unbelievably sick,” Charlotte said, “during her transplant, fighting Graft vs Host disease, and suffering daily side effects like exhaustion and an upset stomach. She is a fighter, so strong and so brave. I’m grateful every day that she is with us. Without the staff and researchers at Leuka and the Hammersmith Hospital, Olivia wouldn’t be here today.”

Inspired by her running success, Charlotte said, “I’m hoping to build on this and keep on fundraising. Family and loved ones are so important – you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone and I’m truly grateful to Leuka for helping keep my beautiful, strong, brave, courageous sister alive. 

Olivia’s motto is “staying alive – feeling alive”. She said, “I want to do whatever I can to raise money and awareness for your vital leukaemia research, to prevent more families from having to go through the pain and suffering inflicted by leukaemia.”

Charlotte raised a fantastic £577 for Leuka, which helps fund work like the IMPACT clinical trials network – the first large-scale programme of its kind in the UK aiming to improve outcomes for stem cell transplant patients. Read more about IMPACT here.