Ann Woodward’s life fell apart in June when her three-year-old daughter died after battling a rare cancer.

Now, five months later, she is ready to face life again, spurred on by a fundraising effort which has won support from Oxford United.

Chintzia Mills, from Blackbird Leys, Oxford, was diagnosed with advanced neuro-blastoma, a childhood cancer which affects just 100 children a year, on January 16.

What started off with symptoms like a cold, soon revealed itself to be more serious and, just weeks after the family celebrated her third birthday, the toddler passed away in her sleep.

Ms Woodward said: “That evening I lay in bed with Chintzia, rubbing her back, which gave her comfort.

“As I held her in my arms she took her last breaths and fell asleep peacefully and with love and dignity.

“I told her over and over again that I loved her very much and it was time she flew high with the angels.”

Ms Woodward has now raised more than £3,500, spurred on by the memory of her brave ‘big girl’, to thank a little-known charity for the help it gave to her daughter.

Oxford United, the David Lloyd gym in Cowley, and Stokes Fruit and Veg at Cowley Centre, donated to a charity fancy dress night at the Prince of Wales pub, in Horspath Road, Cowley, last weekend.

The money will be donated to Families Against Neuroblastoma (Fan), which organises days out for children and their family and funds research into the disease.

Ms Woodward said the help from Fan and family friend Janet Dyer helped her pull through.

She said: “Fan was a lifeline to me, to be honest, and Janet and Chintzia just loved each other.

“I have got a lot of friends but sometimes you need to be around people who have walked in your shoes and know what it feels like – and that’s what Fan can do.

“I want to keep on fundraising and making something positive out of this, partly because I want to raise awareness of the disease and the research the charity funds.

“If Chintzia had been diagnosed a year earlier, she could be here today.

“But I also will not stop because I want to keep Chintzia’s memory alive.

“She was a happy, cheeky, fun-loving girl, who just drew everyone to her.

“Everyone fell in love with my daughter as soon as they met her.

“She was, and still is, a massive part of my life, and I never want her to be forgotten.”