LAST December Renee Martin, 18 weeks pregnant with her second child with husband Chris, had every reason to be excited about life – until a shocking cancer diagnosis threw everything into turmoil.
The former Sale woman, whose husband Chris grew up in Traralgon and still has family ties to the area, was diagnosed with stage four kidney cancer, which had spread to some lymph nodes.
Doctors delivered her the devastating news it was incurable.
Renee’s close friend Kim Czosnek spoke with The Express recently about the Martin family’s heartbreaking plight in an effort to encourage as many local residents as possible to support a fundraising campaign spearheaded by a committee of Renee’s best friends since their schooling days.
She told of how the 37 year-old, mother to four year-old Grace and now newborn Albi, delivered at 31 weeks, weighing 1.7kg and “a little fighter”, had her world upended with just a few words uttered by a specialist only five months ago.
Renee’s cancer is rarely seen in young women and, upon diagnosis, doctors were unable to determine its extent without an MRI – an impossibility given Renee’s pregnancy.
“So Renee was dealing with some impossible decisions with limited information,” Kim said.
She said her “incredibly brave” friend “forged on”, focusing her energies on “growing her baby and concentrating on living well”.
“She meditated, ate super foods and did anything to achieve and maintain a healthy mind and body.”
Sadly, despite her best efforts, a scan in early March revealed Renee’s main kidney tumour had grown, requiring treatment to start “sooner than hoped”.
Kim said a decision was made to deliver Renee’s baby quickly and three days later she gave birth to Albi, “a beautiful baby boy”.
Albi was discharged from hospital in recent weeks but Renee faces a series of challenges far more demanding than those experienced by most new mums.
Kim explained once Albi was born doctors were able to conduct full CT scans on Renee, revealing spots in her lungs, more lymph nodes behind her oesophagus and the growth of existing nodes.
Two weeks after giving birth, Renee began an intensive chemotherapy treatment and blood thinning injections which have seen her deal with severe kidney pain, nausea, depression and extreme fatigue.
For the young Martin family, the life they once took for granted is now plagued with uncertainty and close friends have struggled with their own sense of helplessness.
“So many people have wanted to help but there are only so many lasagnas you can make,” Kim said.
“As much as we are going through things ourselves with all of this, even though Renee is one of my closest mates it is so hard for me to understand how she must be feeling in that quiet moment first thing in the morning.
“We can’t help with that, but we have found another way and that’s why we are pouring all our energies into (the fundraiser),” Kim said.
Friends Under the Stars is the brainchild of some of Renee and Chris’s closest friends.
The group of girls, including Kim and three other former Sale Catholic College students, share a blend of useful skills and formed a committee to raise money aimed at easing the financial burden on the Martin family as they face their toughest battle.
“We just decided we would do everything we could to help Renee,” Kim said.
A cocktail party and auction, with live entertainment and food and beverages provided, will be held at the Rosina Function Space in Abbotsford, Melbourne on Saturday, 25 May from 7pm to 11pm.
Kim, a radio program producer, has secured the hosting services of radio personality Jules Lund for the night and the committee hope to sell as many tickets as possible.
For those who would like to support the Martin family but cannot attend the function, donations can be made via banking details on the website www.friendsunderthestars.com.au