Stories of progress, inspiration, and information in overcoming osteosarcoma.

Izzy Martin sitting down at the beach wearing a white dress and jean jacket

A Vibrant Life, a Tenacious Cancer Advocate: Izzy Martin’s Story

During a two-year battle with osteosarcoma, Isabelle “Izzy” Martin (February 7, 2010–July 29, 2022) maintained her characteristic spunk and selflessness, using her voice to inspire others.

On February 13, 2020, 10-year-old Isabelle Martin, nicknamed Izzy, was doing what she loved most: dancing. Izzy had been dancing in competitions since she could walk. Just two weeks earlier, she had placed in the top 12 in an international dance competition.

At her regular dance lesson, only a moment into her routine, Izzy collapsed. X-rays at Children’s Medical Center Plano revealed that her femur was broken.

“Bones, especially femurs, do not just break,” says Izzy’s mom, Christine Martin. The pediatrician explained that Izzy’s bone was compromised from what looked to be a tumor.

After multiple scans, doctors confirmed the family’s worst nightmare. Izzy had osteosarcoma, the most common form of childhood bone cancer. For the next two and a half years, she underwent medical tests, procedures, medications, surgeries, and therapies to treat both the original osteosarcoma in her femur, and, later, a relapse in her jaw. She passed away the morning of July 29, 2022. Her osteosarcoma story and passing were covered in news outlets such as NBC Dallas Fort Worth.

A Focus on Others

Izzy cared deeply about fairness and helping those in need — even before her osteosarcoma diagnosis. “She constantly asked questions about the homeless in her community, questioning the fairness of their situation and how she — and by extension, her family — could help,” says Izzy’s dad, David. “Her Roman Catholic faith informed her sense of justice — driving her to constantly strive for more. It was not enough to donate one pair of shoes to a clothing drive. She had to donate four.”

When osteosarcoma came into her life, Izzy faced it with that same ferocious energy. She was not just focused on fighting her own cancer. She wanted to do everything she could to help other kids. “Kids deserve more hope,” she said.

In honor of her birthday on February 7, 2021, Izzy and her family started the #TeamIzzy Osteosarcoma Science Fund with the Osteosarcoma Institute (OSI) to raise funds for a new and innovative clinical trial or study. “All Izzy wanted for her birthday was to make a difference for other kids,” says Christine. That year, Izzy fund raised $100,000 for osteosarcoma research.

“Research and trials are necessary to help kids like me. None of it can happen without money. The more we talk about it, the more people will know and the more they can help.” — Izzy Martin

“Research and trials are necessary to help kids like me,” Izzy said at the time. “None of it can happen without money. The more we talk about it, the more people will know and the more they can help.”

In December 2021, Izzy made headlines when she was named “Person of the Year” by People Newspapers, beating out Mark Cuban. In response to the loss, Cuban donated $25,000 to Izzy’s fund at the OSI, calling Izzy’s win “well deserved.”

Izzy’s own experience with the world of clinical trials underscores the critical need for osteosarcoma research. Since many cutting-edge trials are only open to patients 12 and older, Izzy marked her 12th birthday not with a celebration but by traveling to start a new clinical trial.

“Izzy was diagnosed just as she turned 10, and it was disheartening that she had to wait two years to enroll in a clinical trial,” David says. “We need to broaden research efforts so that younger patients have timely access to potentially life-saving treatments.”

Izzy’s Advocacy Continues

Izzy kept advocating for children with cancer and their families during the final months of her life. Her cancer advocacy laid the groundwork for what would become the TeamIzzy Foundation, which was incorporated in 2023. The foundation advocates on behalf of children with cancer through awareness, research, and familial support.

As of March 2024, the TeamIzzy Foundation had contributed a total of $450,000 to the Osteosarcoma Institute to advance research. “So much of that was generated while she was with us and during her treatment, and we really want to honor that and now associate it with her foundation,” says Christine. In 2024, Izzy’s fund at the OSI was renamed the TeamIzzy Foundation Research Fund to underline the incredible impact that Izzy made alongside the community that supported her.

The Martins chronicle their family’s experiences on their blog, Izzy’s Adventure. In one post, they shared a few of the book reviews Izzy wrote for her English class, including a review of Wink by Rob Harrell. Reflecting on how the book’s main character, who has eye cancer, handles his diagnosis, Izzy wrote, “It is possible to live with cancer and not have to make everything about yourself.”

It is a sentiment Izzy embodied in her own life.

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