Pottery classes ‘brighten up the toughest days’ for five-year-old cancer patient

Five-year-old cancer patient Lana Nixon in hospital (Gemma Haswell/PA)
Five-year-old cancer patient Lana Nixon in hospital (Gemma Haswell/PA)

Pottery classes and story sessions provided by a charity “brighten up the toughest days” for a five-year-old cancer patient, her mother has said.

Lana Nixon, who was diagnosed with a brain tumour at the age of two, has been able to enjoy activities during her treatment thanks to children’s cancer charity Henry Dancer Days.

Gemma Haswell, Lana’s mother, said: “When Lana knows it’s pottery day she lights up and eagerly waits to paint presents for her siblings and grandparents.

“It’s so lovely to see Lana happy and smiling, even whilst she isn’t well.”

(Gemma Haswell) Lana doing crafts with Jo Ratcliffe

Lana, who lives with her family in Sunderland was diagnosed with a cancerous brain tumour in November 2018.

She underwent lifesaving procedures at the Great North Children’s Hospital, including surgeries, chemotherapy and a stem cell transplant, and then had to learn how to walk again while being fed through a gastric peg.

Lana was offered support by Henry Dancer Days, which runs pottery workshops led by artist Jo Ratcliffe in a bid to provide “escapism” for those going through cancer treatment.

Ms Haswell said: “Lana recently made a lovely handprint plate, which is such a beautiful keepsake for us to treasure forever.

“The days can be very long in hospital and activities such as the story book reading and pottery painting really do brighten up our days.

“It’s so heartwarming to see our daughter happy and engaging with other people doing normal childhood activities.”

(Gemma Haswell) Lana ringing the treatment bell to indicate her condition is stable

Ms Ratcliffe said: “Arts and crafts can provide a rewarding piece of escapism to the often draining routines within daily hospital life.

“We offer a diversion from the procedures and treatments and try to normalise life even if it’s only for a short while.”

Ms Haswell said Lana made several presents for her parents and siblings while she was in treatment, so ill that she had to spend Christmas and Easter in hospital after she was first diagnosed.

“Even on days where Lana wasn’t well during her treatment she would still not pass up on the chance to paint… instead she would instruct me what to paint for her and which colours she wanted,” she said.

“It was lovely to have those few hours painting together and making lovely keepsakes that we will cherish forever.”

(Gemma Haswell) Lana and her family

Ms Haswell added that, while Lana has rung a hospital bell signalling an end to her cancer treatments, the family are still spending a lot of time in hospital due to the youngster still suffering from infections.

“Her little body has endured a barrage of treatment over the past three years, and her recovery time has increased with each round,” she said.

“All the staff at the Great North Children’s Hospital have been amazing in our journey and we are forever indebted to them for all they have done for our beautiful girl.

Charities such as the Henry Dancer Days provide escapism for the children and parents whilst in treatment.

“They brighten up the toughest days, bringing fun and smiles to the faces of the children and their families.

“Lana is such a strong, independent little character with a fabulous imagination and has a really funny personality; she always has a smile even on the hard days.”

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