Brookline teenager fighting leukemia

Courtesy photo Niko Martin, 17, poses with his sidekick, Ponyo. Martin has been battling leukemia for the last two years.

BROOKLINE – For Giving Tuesday, some may have given to nonprofit organizations or larger charities, but what if you could give back to something a little closer to home? Or better yet, someone who is close to home.

In particular, a young boy who has been bravely battling leukemia: 17-year-old Brookline resident Niko Martin.

He received the diagnosis two and a half years ago when he was only 15 years old and his battle has been anything but pleasant. Niko receives chemotherapy treatments every day with an additional type of chemotherapy weekly and an intense treatment once a month that requires his family to trek more than 100 miles to Lebanon.

Due to the excessive use of steroids during his treatments, Niko has also developed avascular necrosis, which is the death of bone tissue due to a lack of blood supply. Avascular necrosis has essentially caused the bones in Niko’s legs and one of his elbows to disintegrate, so he is no longer able to walk. He also has bone chips that have broken off and are floating around in his knees. Niko will not be able to have surgery on his legs until after his chemotherapy treatment is finished. He is in pain constantly.

But his mother, Shelley, said he has stayed positive no matter what.

“He has been such a light during such a dark time,” Shelley said.

During the beginning of his treatments when he spent more time in the hospital, Shelley said he made a lot of friendships with kids who were sick.

“He’s an incredible human being,” Shelley said.

Aside from being a light in other people’s life, Niko found a light of his own — and that comes through a companionship with his Corgi, Ponyo. Shelley said the Corgi has been great company for her son, who spends much of his time in bed.

One thing that Shelley said Niko loves to do and is still able to do is play video games.

“He’s quite a gamer, like most 17-year-olds,” Shelley joked.

Niko is a bright teen. He took and passed a test which allowed him to graduate from high school when he was in 10th grade.

Due to his need for treatments and pain, Niko’s mother has had to stop working to make sure she can get him to the hospital in case of an emergency.

“We’re having a tough time,” Shelley said. “He needs constant care. He has trouble with the simplest of things. The neuropathy from the chemotherapy makes it difficult for him to walk so he’s in a wheelchair because of his legs. His hands don’t work the way they should work.”

Niko’s aunt, Angela Collins, set up a GoFundMe page with a goal of $50,000 to help with Niko’s expenses.

“They are in dire need of gas to make these trips to Lebanon, food, and the immense payments for the non-insurance covered required medications and equipment. Paying for essential items of survival has caused them to now be in danger of losing their home,” Collins wrote.

Since 2016, they have raised $34,480 of the $50,000 goal. Shelley said the Hollis and Brookline communities have also been amazing in their support of Niko.

“This holiday season, if you’re thinking of making the world a better place, I ask that you consider starting close to home, and help a young man who desperately needs assistance. I thank you, whether you give, pray, or share this post,” Niko’s family asked on their GoFundMe page.

To make donations, go to

To follow Niko’s journey, visit Niko Strong on Facebook.

Grace Pecci can be reached at 594-1243, or at