The Wearside toddler who is battling an incurable brain cancer - but just look at what she has achieved

Meet Lana Nixon, the amazing Wearside girl who started nursery this week despite a 14-month battle with an incurable cancer.

By Chris Cordner
Tuesday, 14th January 2020, 6:00 am
Updated Tuesday, 14th January 2020, 9:25 am

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Lana loves to smile and play despite everything she has been through.
Lana loves to smile and play despite everything she has been through.

The courageous three-year-old has gone through a painstaking ordeal ever since she was found to have a rare brain tumour just over a year ago.

Her parents sold the family home and gave up their jobs to make memories and spend precious time with their daughter.

And today, Lana has been nominated for a Best of Wearside Award by a family friend who said: “She has stolen the hearts of so many people.”

Lana in hospital in November last year.

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Lana, from Houghton, has a fast growing ATRT (Atypical Teratoid Rhabdoid Tumor). It was diagnosed in November 2018 when an MRI scan found a large mass on her brain.

Her family was told to make memories and mum Gemma Haswell, 35, quit her job as a pharmacy manager to spend as much time as she could with this little fighter.

It’s been a constant drama for the family and Gemma said: “From the day we went into hospital, we were pretty much in for almost nine months. The tumour was so big it was blocking the spinal fluid ”

Lana first faced eight hours of surgery when experts removed as much of the tumour as they could. Further surgery followed.

Lana pictured in 2018 before her diagnosis.

Then came the aggressive intravenous chemotherapy, the fitting of a peg, a reservoir created to drain fluid from Lana’s brain, and a stem cell transplant.

She lost a quarter of her body weight during the ordeal and medical experts told her parents – mum Gemma and dad Andrew Nixon, 40, – that there was only a 10% chance she would survive the next 12 to 18 months.

But this little miracle is currently doing well and started at Hetton Lyons nursery this week.

Gemma added: “We did not think she would make it to this stage and she has bounced back so quickly. She was ready to go to nursery and she wants to make new friends.”

Big sister Neve pictured with Lana as they get ready for prom night.

Mum praised her daughter’s amazing courage and said: “She is funny and outgoing and loves to play for hours. She loves Disney, she loves George Ezra and she loves chatting about anything. She loves helping out and being involved and she is very independent.”

And despite everything she has been through, nothing keeps this little battler down for long. Gemma added: “She is not a crier and she has never let it get her down. She proves us wrong at every stage and we are overwhelmed with how she deals with it.”

Her parents know that Lana’s remission may not last long and she could relapse at any time. ATRT is very aggressive and Gemma said: “Lana has to have scans every 12 weeks but they do anticipate that it will return. If it does, there might not be anything they can do.”

Lana went to her 16-year-old sister Neve’s prom last year as she may not live to see her own. Also in the family are Lana’s siblings Jonah, 8, Ellie, 18, and Mia, 23,

Courageous Lana Nixon who is starting nursery school this week despite her battle with brain cancer.

And now Lana has been nominated for a Best of Wearside Award and the nomination said: "Her mam and dad have recently had to sell their family home as a result to them both having to give up their full time jobs so that they can spend every precious second with their daughter and make special memories with her.

“She is such a brave little girl and always has a smile on her face despite what she is going through. She has stolen the hearts of so many people.

“I’d like to nominate Lana as I think she deserves to be recognised for being so brave and courageous throughout her fight with this awful disease.”

In another show of incredible inspiration, Lana also learned to walk again. She stopped walking during her nine months in hospital when she began to go dizzy.

But after returning home – and before proper physiotherapy had even started – Lana took her first steps.

Gemma said it would be ‘amazing’ if Lana won a Child of Courage award but she added: “It is just lovely that she has been nominated. She has been so brave and she just finds happiness every day.”

Brave Lana in intensive care.

Lana becomes the latest in a list of incredible nominees for this year’s awards – so far. We want more.

This year’s competition has backing from headline sponsor BGL, partner sponsor Utility Alliance, partner sponsor Gentoo, and category sponsor Marelli.

We thank them all for getting on board, and now comes your turn to get involved.

We hope you will inundate us with entries and make the job of the judges that much harder.

Take a look at the categories, read the entry instructions, and your favourite cause will be a step closer to hopefully winning a Best of Wearside title.


:: Community Group of the Year.

:: Student of the Year.

:: Green Champion of the Year.

:: Child of Courage.

:: Child of Achievement.

:: Young Voice of Wearside.

:: Fundraiser of the Year.

:: Volunteer of the Year.

:: Sporting Achievement of the Year.

::Community Champion Award.


To nominate, just send your name, address and telephone number, as well as your email address, if applicable. Remember to include the category you are putting your nominated cause into.

Also send the name of the person you wish to nominate, along with their address, telephone number and email (if known).

Send all of that to Lynn Wild by no later than March 2. Judging of all the entries will be held that same week with the finale at the Stadium of Light on Wednesday, April 1.

There are three ways to nominate.

l Email those entries to [email protected]

l Post them to Lynn Wild, North East Business and Innovation Centre (BIC), Wearfield Enterprise Park East, Sunderland, Tyne and Wear, SR5 2TA.

l Visit the website at https://www.bestofwearside.co.uk.

Despite it all, Lana still finds time to smile.
Brave Lana pictured during treatment in hospital last year, with her brother Jonah, 8, by her side.
The Best of Wearside Awards.
Lana Nixon with mum Gemma Haswell and sister Neve Nixon (16).