Vestavia Hills High School senior Charlotte Baker has already settled on a college major. Admitted to the fall 2018 freshman class at Auburn University, she will study human development and family studies with a concentration in child life – a decision inspired by her own medical journey at Children’s of Alabama.
In December 2016, Charlotte was diagnosed with anaplastic astrocytoma, a rare malignant brain tumor. “It was heartbreaking,” she said, recalling the moment of her diagnosis. “I was normal, having a good time and enjoying my life. It was all so surreal.”
Charlotte underwent two surgeries to remove the tumor, located in a “tricky spot” on the right side of her brain. She awoke from the second surgery unable to feel the left side of her body and spent six weeks in inpatient physical therapy. She continued physical therapy after her hospital release, along with chemotherapy and radiation treatments.
“I had to learn how to walk again – basic things we take for granted,” she said. “With the help of my physical therapists and occupational therapists, I was able to get pretty much everything back.”
Charlotte was familiar with Children’s prior to her diagnosis. Her father, Mark, is a doctor in Children’s Emergency Department, and he and his colleagues kept her spirits high throughout her hospital stay and beyond. Today, she continues bi-weekly checkups and infusions, and monthly chemotherapy and physical therapy. She has also discovered a new passion in barre fitness – a combination of ballet, yoga and Pilates that has aided in her recovery.
“My Dad and his coworkers would visit me after their shifts,” Charlotte said. “We could not have been in a better place.”
She continued, “Children’s has been amazing. All of my doctors from the very beginning were so kind and made sure I understood everything. They don’t just care about the medical stuff; they care about me personally.”
Charlotte’s classmates also continue to show an outpour of support not only for her, but also her fellow peers battling cancer. As part of its annual Relay for Life fundraising efforts, Vestavia Hills High School will host its Rebel Run 5K in 2018 in Charlotte’s honor with proceeds benefitting the Alabama Center for Childhood Cancer and Blood Disorders at Children’s. Charlotte, who was heavily involved in Relay for Life fundraising prior to her diagnosis and remains so, said showing gratitude to those who uplift her is a welcome opportunity.
“When I found out about [the Rebel Run], I could not have been more ecstatic,” she said. “Knowing we can give back to everyone who has given to us is amazing.”