The family of a brave four-year-old Rishton schoolgirl diagnosed with a rare brain tumour have an extra reason to celebrate this Christmas.

Bella Greenwood was 18 months old when doctors told her parents their only child had cancer.

The toddler had surgery to remove the 7cm tumour and spent Christmas Day 2020 in Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital away from her family.

Now after 13 months of treatment and a further year of monitoring, Bella is in remission, and her family have been told that her scans are clear - just in time for Christmas.

To celebrate the festive season even further, for the courage Bella has shown throughout her treatment, she has also received a Cancer Research UK for Children & Young People Star Award, in partnership with TK Maxx.  

Bella’s mum, Nicola Whalley, 39, nominated Bella for the award.

She said: “I woke up one morning and heard my baby girl making a strange noise, and realised she was having some sort of seizure in her cot.

“She was rushed to Royal Blackburn Hospital and initial tests showed what they thought was a cyst on the right-hand side of her brain, but further down the line an MRI scan confirmed it was a high-grade tumour.

“I remember feeling sick when they said it was more aggressive than they first thought.

“Bella had brain surgery a few days before Christmas 2020. It was the longest day of our lives waiting to find out how it had gone and if our little girl was okay.

Lancashire Telegraph: Bella with mum, Nicola, and dad, DanBella with mum, Nicola, and dad, Dan (Image: Cancer Research)“The pain inside was unbelievable. Thankfully the surgeon said they had managed to remove the tumour and Bella was recovering well, which was such a relief.

“It was during Covid so myself and my partner, Bella’s dad, Dan, had to take it in turns to be with Bella at the hospital.

“It was Christmas, and nobody could visit due to the restrictions.

“The staff tried to make the best of it, and the few children that were in on Christmas Day were given gifts, but it was like being in a little bubble of doom.”

The next 13 months consisted of trips back and forth to Manchester for chemotherapy and regular blood transfusions at Royal Blackburn Hospital.

Nicola said: “Dan’s employers, Utilita, were so supportive throughout the whole time and even donated gifts to the children on the wards.

“Bella never complained once, she didn’t know any different really, she just got used to being in her hospital cot for weeks on end. She’s been amazing and she’s now in remission.

“She was able to start school in September, and she loves it. She’s not talking yet and has global developmental delay, but she has all the support she needs and she’s doing well.

"Her teachers and all the staff are just fantastic, and the children really look after Bella.”

Lancashire Telegraph: Bella shaking the bellBella shaking the bell (Image: Cancer Research)Now in remission, Bella, who attends Rishton Methodist Primary School, has regular scans to make sure the cancer hasn’t returned.

Nicola, a litigation executive added: “We live four months at a time, in between surveillance scans, but we’ve just had a clear one so we’re all looking forward to Christmas this year and will be enjoying it with all the family. 

“After Christmas in hospital, we make extra sure that Bella is surrounded by love and fun and trust that Santa will be extra kind to her this year.

“Bella is well and she’s happy, what more could anyone want than that? We couldn’t be prouder of our beautiful little superstar, and she deserves the world.”

Cancer Research UK spokesperson for the North West, Jemma Humphreys, said: “Bella is a real star who has been through so much at such a young age.

"It has been an absolute privilege to be able to celebrate her courage with a Star Award.  

“Cancer in children and young people is different to cancer in adults, from the types of cancer to the impact of treatment - and many youngsters may experience serious long-term side effects.

“That’s why we’re supporting dedicated research to ensure more children and young people survive cancer with a good quality of life.  

“We’re urging people in Lancashire to nominate inspirational children like Bella for a Star Award now, so that many more affected by this devastating disease can receive the acknowledgement they so richly deserve.” 

The Cancer Research UK for Children & Young People Star Awards, and stories like Bella’s, shine a light on the unique challenges still faced by children like her.

Calling for more nominations, children’s TV presenter, Phil Gallagher, from Mister Maker, said: “The strength these young people show when faced with a cancer diagnosis is remarkable, and that’s why I’m supporting the Cancer Research UK for Children & Young People Star Awards again this year.

“Their courage and resilience needs to be honoured, and the Star Awards are such a lovely way of doing that and showing them how special they are.”   

There is no judging panel because the charity believes every child diagnosed with cancer deserves special recognition. Everyone nominated receives a trophy, a £50 TK Maxx gift card, a t-shirt and a certificate signed by the celebrities. Their siblings also receive a certificate. 

The awards are open to all children under 18 who live in the UK and have been treated for the disease within the past five years. 

To nominate a star, visit

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