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Whitstable: Fundraising campaign to save life of Poppy Martin

By Lowri Chant

The aggressive growth, which cannot be operated on in the UK, has already robbed Poppy Martin of her sight in one eye.

Now, mum Elle, 21, faces a race against time to raise funds for surgery abroad before the tumour causes any more permanent damage.

Elle Martin with her daughter

Elle Martin with her daughter

Since the devastating diagnosis in July last year, when Poppy was just 16 months old, the toddler has endured 58 rounds of chemotherapy and visited 10 different hospitals.

Former Archbishop’s School pupil Elle is aiming to raise £300,000 to fund travel, accommodation and surgery to remove the tumour in the United States.

The single mum, who is a full-time carer to Poppy, described the moment she realised her daughter was poorly.

She said: “On July 5 last year she had a cold and I noticed her eyes looked a lot heavier than normal.

"It turns out the pressure of the tumour was pushing her left eye forward and making her squint.

“I took her to the children’s centre at Kent and Canterbury Hospital, who referred us to the William Harvey where a specialist looked at Poppy’s eye with a torch.

Cheeky Poppy Martin

Cheeky Poppy Martin

“The doctor said she had an elevation behind her left eye. I didn’t know what it all meant.

"I assumed they meant a cyst or something, but the doctor looked at me and said ‘we’re not talking about a cyst’.”

An MRI scan at the QEQM in Margate two days later revealed the severity of Poppy’s condition, prompting medics to refer her to specialist cancer hospital The Royal Marsden, in London.

Elle explained: “Walking into the Royal Marsden was gobsmacking. We didn’t understand the extent of Poppy’s diagnosis at that point.

“We walked in and saw children with no hair and tubes attached to them. I thought 'is this what Poppy has ahead of her'?"

"The tumour has already taken most of the sight in Poppy's left eye and is now growing towards the right eye" - Elle Martin

The tumour was caused by a genetic condition Poppy was born with called neurofibromatosis type 1, which causes an overproduction of cells.

Elle, who lives in Spire Avenue, Whitstable, with her parents, Joy and Reg, and her sister, Rebecca, continued: “The tumour has already taken most of the sight in Poppy’s left eye and is now growing towards the right eye.

“It is sitting on Poppy’s right temporal lobe, which affects memory, speech and non-verbal communication.

“We no longer have time on our side before the tumour does yet more irreversible damage, so we need to act fast.

“We are desperately seeking help from doctors outside the UK who have more advanced treatments and are more specialised in surgery.

“This country can’t offer any more treatments that aren’t dangerously toxic.

“The two drugs we’ve been offered are both for adults.

“Poppy would have to have them if the next scan shows it’s growing, and it would be a miracle if it’s not.”

Poppy Martin and mum Elle

Poppy Martin and mum Elle

She added: “Please help my little princess live a life free from this evil disease.”

The appeal has already raised more than £7,000 in a week.


Neurofibromatosis type 1 is a genetic condition that causes usually non-cancerous tumours to grow along nerves. It affects one in 3,000 births.

The severity of the condition varies from person to person, but usually causes pale patches or soft bumps on the skin.

It can be associated with learning difficulties and, less often, a type of cancer called malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumours.

The condition, caused by a genetic mutation, means the growth of nerve tissue is not properly controlled.

There is no cure, and treatment involves monitoring and treating problems as they occur.

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