Parents pay tribute to Charlene’s brave battle with cancer

Charlene Campbell.
Charlene Campbell.

The parents of Charlene Campbell – who died last week from cancer – say they understand her decision to opt for holistic rather than traditional treatment.

Garry and Geraldine Lawson fought every step of the way along with their beautiful 33-year-old daughter, after she was told earlier this year she had contracted a virulent strain of breast cancer.

Just five years ago, Charlene’s daughter Myla died in her arms, 12 days after her first birthday.

Myla had been diagnosed with brain cancer soon after birth, and Charlene dedicated herself to her gravely ill baby for that entire year.

Said Geraldine, “It took a terrible toll on all of us.

“Charlene was so profoundly affected – both by Myla’s death and her own illness – that she couldn’t bring herself to say the word ‘cancer’.

“Myla’s death was such a hammer blow, and now that we have also lost Charlene, we deeply understand exactly how she felt by the death of her cherished baby.”

Garry told how they tried every holistic treatment available, adding, “Charlene lived every day watching what Myla had to bravely suffer, and she simply couldn’t face the conventional treatment. Myla’s death knocked an awful lot of spirit out of us all. We’ll never get over this.”

It simply did not reflect the circle of life, highlighted on September 16 past when the extended family – four generations – celebrated the 60th wedding anniversary of Charlene’s grandparents (Myla’s great-grandparents) Kenny and Dorothy Lawson.

Charlene was there with the rest of the family, and grandmother Dorothy recalled how beautiful she looked that night. “We had our photo taken and I had my arm around her,” said Dorothy. “It was a treasured occasion. She looked like a model.”

The double cancer story began in Saudi Arabia, where Charlene and her husband David worked for a period – she was the PA to a school principal in Al Khobar and when she became pregnant, decided to return to Portadown, so that her new-born could have British citizenship.

But devastating brain cancer was diagnosed within weeks and Charlene spent the next year at Myla’s side. “She showed total dedication,” said Geraldine. “She was never the same after Myla died.”

Charlene and her sister Louise were brought up at Killicomaine Park – she attended Edenderry Primary School, Killicomaine JHS and Portadown College, attaining excellent A-levels.

She worked in the Inland Revenue, firstly at Marlborough House and then Belfast, and life seemed sweet when she and her husband David moved to Saudi Arabia, where her talents and intelligence were a tremendous asset.

For the past three years, she worked as a valued sales negotiator with Michael Hannath’s Estate Agency in Bridge Street, and the family has been deeply grateful, both for Michael’s compassion and leadership during the crisis.

He said the company had lost a beautiful, dedicated expert at her job – and the crowning glory on the Hannath Facebook site was a brilliant video by Charlene giving advice on selling houses. Her latest project was the new Hannath homes at Lurgan Road, many of which she had sold.

She worked on, even though cancer was ravaging her body and, as it spread, she was admitted to Craigavon Area Hospital where she died at 1.40am on October 7, a profound loss to the community, to her extended family and to the Hannath organisation.

Garry said, “Charlene was a smart, articulate woman. We are so proud of her. We don’t know whether conventional treatment would have worked, but we have grave doubts. It was an aggressive type of cancer, and she is now at peace with her Myla.”

There were poignant parallels. Charlene’s funeral service was at the same Tandragee Baptist Church from where Myla’s burial service took place five years ago and the same Pastor Billy Reid helped conduct the service, along with Pastor David Patterson.

The support of family and community was palpable – Michael Hannath was one of many who delivered tributes, and the family hardly knows where to start in their grateful thanks. There is, of course, the extended family, with Charlene survived by Garry and Geraldine, sister Louise (partner Dwyane and nephew Carter).

Also grieving are grandparents Kenny and Dorothy Lawson, grandad Gerald McClean (Granny Sadie is deceased), special aunties Liz, Angela and Linda, and the wide family circle.

Garry and Geraldine especially thank the Tandragee pastors – “They paid a wonderful tribute” – the Hannath team, Andrew Walker solicitor, Ward 2 North of Craigavon Area Hospital, the doctors and nurses, Dr Claire Evans, George McNabb undertakers and the Macmillan Nurses.

And they are gratified that Teresa – a friend from Charlene’s Saudi days – travelled all the way from the Middle East to Portadown (along with baby Dylan) to sympathise with them.

The service at Tandragee followed a private service in the Lawson home and the funeral was to Kernan Cemetery where Charlene was laid to rest beside Myla.

Donations in lieu of flowers are to Macmillan Nurses and Tandragee Baptist Church via George McNabb funeral directors, Bridge Street, Portadown.