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Renee has spent the last year running fitness challenges in her local town of Onslow to raise money to help others affected by cancer, after her own diagnosis of stage four breast cancer. She is currently training for an 80km ultramarathon and plans to continue her fundraising efforts.

Receiving a cancer diagnosis

Renee shares that she has always had her regular breast checks, so when she went to the GP about some lumps on her left side, she wasn’t expecting to hear the news that she had stage four breast cancer.

“I went to the GP because I felt some lumps on my left side, but these were just normal hormonal lumps. However, they checked my right side and found three little pea sized cancer spots. They diagnosed me with stage four breast cancer in March 2023”, Renee says.

She adds, “it was a shock, especially to be told that you had to have a double mastectomy basically straight away. Three weeks later the news came back that I had tumours in my lymph nodes. They had to take my lymph nodes out of my right arm and then I went through a round of chemotherapy as well. The cancer had spread, so I have a tumour in my hip now and I will have to be on treatment indefinitely”.

“You don’t really ever think about being sick, but thankfully I had a lot of support behind me which helped,” she says.

A home away from home during cancer treatment

Living in Onslow, in the Pilbara region of WA, meant travelling to Perth for her treatment. Renee has stayed at our Crawford Lodge during the past 12 months and continues to stay there when she comes to Perth.

Renee shares “I had a million things go through my head like, ‘What am I going to do? Where are my kids going to stay? How are we going to cope?’ Once I found the Lodges, a lot of that worry was put to ease, even if I had to stay for a long period of time. There was once when I had to go by myself, and the staff checked on me every day. I’m not from the city, so being away from my family is difficult, but little things like that really helped.

“The same time I was going through this, my father was diagnosed with prostate cancer. He had to do eight weeks of radiation therapy, so he stayed at Milroy Lodge and has stayed at Crawford Lodge as well. We’ve stayed there at the same time sometimes for our treatment.”

She adds, “the Crawford Lodge also has a really special place because my 19 year old son is called Crawford. So when I heard there was a Crawford Lodge, I wanted to stay there because it almost felt like an omen.

“Without Crawford Lodge, it wouldn’t be financially feasible to have the treatment, because sometimes you have to be in Perth for a prolonged period of time. Without these places, I don’t know what we would do.”

From a Rottnest virtual swim to training for an 80km ultramarathon

Renee states that “sometimes it takes a tragedy for you to realise certain things”. Having spent so much time at the Crawford Lodge, she decided she wanted to give back. As someone who has always loved fitness and being the admin of her own social run club in Onslow, she decided to start fundraising. Soon after her diagnosis, she kicked it off with a Mother’s Day event and has continued with a weekly run, a virtual Rottnest swim and will be doing an 80km ultramarathon later this year.

“I was already running a social run club – the Onslow Gazelles – so we were able to get together and set out different challenges to raise money. Every week we map out a track and we run that part of the street. There’s about fifteen of us, we have mums with prams, a couple with their dog, and my son hops on his electric scooter and plays music for us. There are some people who wait outside on their deck chairs and put in money as we go past, or we have cars that drive past and give us money”, she says.

She adds, “I’ve also recently done the virtual Rottnest swim. I hated water, so that was something that I’ve overcome. We had a team of ten and I swam 2.5km. I’m currently training for an ultramarathon which will be 80-100km within one day.

“Even though I have stage four cancer, I’m a very fit, healthy person, so I am able to do this. It’s a good feeling that people are listening to us and wanting to get involved by donating. It’s great to raise awareness.”

Providing accommodation for country cancer patients

The funds Renee and the Onslow Gazelle’s have raised will be used to Adopt a Room at Crawford Lodge. This will provide accommodation and support services to country cancer patients, like Renee. She’s hoping to make this a long-term commitment and do something every year to keep this room as an Onslow Gazelle room.

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