Young woman remains positive as she waits for bone marrow transplant

Diane Crocker dcrocker@thewesternstar.com
Published on January 18, 2014
Renée Martineau.
Submitted photo

CORNER BROOK  Renée Martineau had only just been settling into life in a new home and new job when the 23-year-old Corner Brook woman was hit with what she describes as a bump in the road.

Martineau found out in November that she has blood cancer, a rare form of leukemia only curable by a bone marrow transplant. But as she waits for the call on a match, Martineau is determined not to let her disease get the best of her.

“I’ve had a couple of days where I’ve cried and stuff and I just don’t see the point of dwelling on it. It’s not going to go away,” said Martineau from St. John’s earlier this week. “It’s a curable cancer ... and once I get the bone marrow everything should be fine.”

Martineau and her partner of nearly four years, Laura Brake, had only moved to St. John’s this past fall to pursue employment opportunities. Her parents Ann Martineau and Sylvain Martineau and many extended family members still live in Corner Brook.

Martineau said she had been working in the offshore catering industry for about two months, but had only been with Offshore Recruiting Services (ORSI) for six days before getting sick.

In early November she started work on what was supposed to be a five-week turnaround on the offshore.

“I was working probably for about two days and I developed a red blotch behind my left knee and within two days it was swelled up probably twice the size of my other calf.”

Two days later Martineau was back to St. John’s and in the Health Sciences emergency room. Everything from cellulitis to a blood clot was mentioned as a possible cause for her infected leg. But just four hours into the hospital visit, and before she could even be admitted, Martineau was told she had cancer of the blood.

“I didn’t believe it really at first because the word was so, like, foreign to me,” she said. “I was perfectly healthy when I went to work.”

In fact, a full medical completed for work a couple months prior didn’t pick up that anything was wrong. She now knows though that she developed the infection in her leg because her white blood cells were high.

She spent six weeks in hospital and for the first week received chemotherapy “24-7.” On Dec. 10 the results of a bone marrow biopsy showed she was in remission.

Martineau will continue to undergo chemo treatments every two to three weeks until a bone marrow donor can be found.

Her sister Nicole has been tested, but unfortunately wasn’t a match, and she said her parents wouldn’t have the right DNA.

The search for a donor will start nationally but if that doesn’t turn up anything, it will go international. She said it could take 2-3 months to find a match and anyone can be tested to become a donor.

While she waits for the call, Martineau said she’ll continue to remain positive. She said the hardest part right now is not being able to be active. A bodybuilder, Martineau said she is missing the training and getting to the gym and being active in the outdoors.

Once a match is found Martineau will have to travel to Halifax twice, once for a consult and the second time for the transplant. Because she can’t work and Brake is on leave from her job to care for her, financially, Martineau knows it’s going to be hard.

To help, Brake set up a fundraising campaign through the website gofundme.com.

“I didn’t want to be asking people for money, but we’re definitely going to need it,” said Martineau.

The goal for the gofundme is $2,000 and, as of Friday, $1,035 had been raised.

“Oh my God, it’s amazing,” she said of the support. “I was overwhelmed with the generosity and kindness. I wasn’t expecting it, really.”

She said it relieves a lot of stress.

“The last thing we want to be worrying about is financial stress at a time like this. It’s been wonderful.”

Back home in Corner Brook other events are also being planned to help her out.  

On Jan. 25 there’ll be a Texas Hold ’em poker tournament at the Curling Ranger Lounge with half the proceeds slated to go to Martineau. And on Feb. 23 there’ll be a fundraiser, complete with music, prizes and a 50/50 draw at the Red Rock Lounge.