Rollesby mum shares heartbreak after death of her seven-year-old daughter

Alex found it hard to accept or understand when she first found out her little girl had terminal cancer. 

Anastasia Hazell (left) with her mother, Alexandra. - Credit: Alex Hazell

A mother has described her heartbreak after her seven-year-old daughter died from an inoperable brain tumour.

In 2021 - weeks after her sixth birthday - "funny and creative" Anastasia Hazell was diagnosed with Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG) - a high-grade tumour affecting children that has no cure.

Alexandra, Anastasia, Ryker and James Hazell

The Hazell Family: Alexandra (left), Anastasia, Ryker and James. - Credit: Danielle Booden, Archant Norfolk 2021

Anastasia died on Sunday.

Anastasia's mother, Alexandra, said the cancer - which affects between 20 and 30 children a year in the UK - came as an "absolute shock". 

"The cancer was so pervasive. Over the past year, she was fighting so hard. She was so driven to not let it knock her down," Mrs Hazell said.

Along with her husband James, 35, and her three-year-old son Ryker, Mrs Hazell had spent the past 14 months building a "palliative paradise" at their home in Rollesby, near Great Yarmouth, so Anastasia could enjoy the final months of her life.

Anastasia is a huge fan of colour and drag and hopes to see some of the cities top drag queens at her birthday party 

During Anastasia's final year, her family strived to create a "palliative paradise". - Credit: Alex Hazell

The family had installed a wheelchair lift so Anastasia could still access her rainbow-decorated bedroom and they had also built a steam room so Anastasia could bathe while also helping her breathe.

Six months after her diagnosis, Anastasia's condition worsened. She became unable to communicate verbally, instead relying on British Sign Language and Makaton - the UK's leading language programme for adults and children with learning or communication difficulties.

In December, Anastasia's health deteriorated further and, committed to giving their daughter a memorable Christmas, Mr and Mrs Hazell turned their home into a winter wonderland.

The parents of terminally ill Anastasia Hazell, six, tried to ensure Christmas came early by throwing a festive celebration.

Anastasia Hazell had an early 1980s-themed Christmas party last year. - Credit: Supplied by Hazell family

Following the party, Mrs Hazell said Anastasia seemed to be getting better.

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However, Anastasia soon began losing more of her abilities and eventually was unable to eat without the use of a feeding tube.

"When she was unable to eat entirely, that was the most heartbreaking thing," Mrs Hazell said.

"You're always trying to be positive, but there's nothing you can do.

"You watch your daughter's body die around her."

Anastasia Hazell who was diagnosed with Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Giloma (DIPG), A high-grade tumour

Anastasia Hazell who was diagnosed with Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Giloma (DIPG) - Credit: James Linsell-Clark / SWNS

Mr and Mrs Hazell continued to strive to provide their daughter with the best quality of life - even while coping with high increases in heating bills. Anastasia was thrown a big birthday party in March and her back garden was transformed into a venue for an Easter egg hunt.

"We wanted to keep making things more exciting for her - we had a huge Easter party, but by that point, Anastasia couldn't eat chocolate or she would aspirate," Mrs Hazell said.

"We really expected her to recover this time."

By April, Anastasia's condition had declined to the point where she was unable to speak, eat, or even hold a pencil.

Mrs Hazell said: "Anastasia was unable to do anything meaningful. We couldn't even give her tastes of food anymore."

Alex, Anastasia and James Hazell have enjoyed many trips together. 

Alex, Anastasia and James Hazell have enjoyed many trips together. - Credit: Alex Hazell

Throughout the family's ordeal, Mrs Hazell said she became very close with her faith and resorted to prayer.

"In May, it became very evident it was her time to go," Mrs Hazell said.

"We were watching it get worse and worse and there was nothing we could do."

Anastasia died on Sunday, May 22.

Mrs Hazell said Anastasia's final moments were "such a gift".

"As she passed, we were holding her and talking to her. We told her how proud we are and how much we love her," Mrs Hazell said.

"When you think about the children in Ukraine, or the victims in the Robb Elementary School shooting - those parents didn't have this.

"At the moment Anastasia passed, I was sitting there and thinking how much of a blessing this incredible time with her has been."

Alexandra Hazell, left, and husband James with their daughter Anastasia after she was born.

Alexandra Hazell, left, and husband James with their daughter Anastasia after she was born. - Credit: submitted by Hazell family

Anastasia's death was said to have been "sudden and very painless".

Mrs Hazell thanked The Nook and The NHS.

"Their support was incredible," said Mrs Hazell.

Anastasia's funeral will be held in Ludham in June.

in July, the Hazell family will hold a big party celebrating Anastasia's life.

Mrs Hazell said the 14-month journey with Anastasia has made her feel closer to her daughter.

"We are soulmates and we will always be bonded together," Mrs Hazell said.

"I know she's happy and she's free."

Anastasia has always loved drag queens and all things camp and colourful 

Anastasia has always loved drag queens and all things camp and colourful - Credit: Alex Hazell