Christmas magic star for Martha

Brave Sutton schoolgirl, aged four, receives award as she starts tough new cancer treatment

A four-year-old from Sutton Coldfield who is facing chemotherapy over Christmas has received a CRUK for Children & Young People Star Award in recognition of her courage.

Martha Givans was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia just before she started school in July. Now she’s on the toughest phase of her treatment yet but her family are determined to make this Christmas extra special.

For the bravery she’s showed throughout her treatment so far, she has received a Cancer Research UK for Children & Young People Star Award, in partnership with TK Maxx.

Every child nominated receives the accolade, which is backed by a host of famous faces including celebrity chef Jean-Christophe Novelli, Nanny McPhee actress Dame Emma Thompson, This Morning’s Dr Ranj and children’s TV favourite Mister Maker.

To see Martha’ s video visit https://youtu.be/JhqTmkrs1Q4  

There is no judging panel because the charity believes every child diagnosed with cancer deserves special recognition. The awards are open to all under-18s who have been diagnosed with the disease in the last five years.

As well as a star shaped trophy, Martha also received a £50 TK Maxx gift card, t-shirt and a certificate signed by the celebrities. 

Martha, a pupil at Holy Cross School, received the award just as she was about to start her most intense round of treatment to date. The treatment involves three different chemotherapy drugs with side effects including sickness and extreme tiredness.

Mum Natalie Givans, who nominated Martha for the award said: “I can’t put into words how amazing she is. Some days she has to have 15 different tablets a day but she never moans and she’s always smiling. She has twin cousins aged two and she just mothers them, she’s so loving and caring.”

Martha was diagnosed at Birmingham Children’s Hospital in July after her mum took her for a blood test on the advice of her GP.

“My mum kept saying she’s really pale,” said Natalie. “She didn’t have any other symptoms but eventually I called the GP. I didn’t want to go into hospital because of COVID but the doctor advised me to take her to the Children’s Hospital for a blood test. We got there at 9am and I got a call while I was shopping three hours later telling me to bring her back.

“I was in a complete panic. I knew it must be cancer but they couldn’t tell me until we had the results of more tests.”

Results of initial tests were inconclusive so Martha and Natalie had to stay in hospital for another three days before finding out what was wrong.

“I refused to Google anything,” said Natalie. “After three days I was told it was leukaemia. It all felt like a dream but I was just thankful she had the most treatable type.”

Although prognosis was good, Martha still needed immediate chemotherapy and her treatment won’t finish until 2022.

“Everything seemed to happen at once,” said Natalie. “She was really poorly with the first lot of chemo because she had to have a high dose of steroids for six weeks. That meant that was wanted a proper dinner every two hours.

“What was worse was that she didn’t want to play and she didn’t smile for weeks. It was like the lights were on but there was no one home. It was horrendous.”

Natalie was told that Martha would lose her hair but, so far, it’s only got thinner on top.

“She’s been lots better since she came off the steroids but she’s just started her intense phase of treatment so we have to see what the next few weeks bring,” added Natalie, a part-time accountancy lecturer at Sutton Coldfield College.

“She’s due to be in hospital Christmas week so we haven’t been able to plan anything but we’re hoping we can be at home on Christmas day and make it special.

“Getting the award was a lovely surprise. She knows she’s special now because she has a certificate and star to prove it.”


Around 160 children are diagnosed with cancer in the West Midlands region every year.* 

Paula Young, spokesperson for Cancer Research UK for Children & Young People in Staffordshire, said: “Martha is a real star and it’s great to see her smile is back. It’s been an absolute privilege to be able to celebrate her courage with a Star Award.

“Cancer can have a devastating impact on children and young people and many of those who survive may experience serious long-term side effects from their treatment.

“We’re encouraging people to nominate inspirational youngsters for this year’s Star Awards, so we can recognise more children like Martha.”

More children and young people are surviving cancer than ever before, thanks in large part to the work of Cancer Research UK. 

But, the disease still claims the lives of around 510 under 25s in the UK every year.**

Cancer in children and young people is different to cancer in adults – from the types of cancer, to the impact of treatment. That’s why Cancer Research UK for Children & Young People is supporting dedicated research to improve survival and reduce long-term side effects for youngsters like Martha.

For example, Birmingham is home to Cancer Research UK’s Children’s Cancer Trials Team, the only one of its kind in the UK. The team coordinates groundbreaking clinical trials in many centres across the UK, including Birmingham Children’s Hospital and Queens Medical Centre in Nottingham. These trials make innovative new treatments available to young cancer patients.

The Star Awards are run in partnership with TK Maxx, the biggest corporate supporter of Cancer Research UK’s work into children’s and young people’s cancers. Since 2004, the retailer has raised over £40m for the charity. Over £37m of this total has supported research to help ensure more children and young people survive cancer with a good quality of life.

To nominate a Star visit cruk.org/starawards.

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