Renelle’s Journey of Battling Breast Cancer While Pregnant Led Her to Donate to St. Joseph’s Hospitals 

In 2021, Renelle Narine and her husband were ecstatic with the news of their first pregnancy. After experiencing a couple of miscarriages, this baby was truly a celebration.

Then at the 12-week mark, their lives were turned upside down. Just two weeks after Renelle’s 40th birthday, her breasts began to hurt her more than usual. She knew this was a typical pregnancy symptom, but something felt off. Soon after, she found a small lump in her right breast. During her 12-week ultrasound, she brought her concerns about the lump up to her doctor, who, immediately after the ultrasound, sent her to get a mammogram. Then, the unimaginable happened. After four hours of testing and a biopsy to confirm, Renelle was diagnosed with breast cancer.

What was supposed to be one of the happiest times of their lives quickly turned into one of the most devasting. “I just remember thinking, ‘What is going to happen to my baby?” explains Renelle. “I felt so alone.”

Renelle remembers this time as being a whirlwind of appointments and emotions. “It was a very emotional time. No one close to me had ever had cancer, so I didn’t know what to expect.”

For a couple of months, Renelle went back and forth between St. Joseph’s Women’s Hospital and St. Joseph’s Hospital–South to continue receiving treatment.

This situation was also rare for the St. Joseph’s Hospital–South doctors. But right away, all of Renelle’s doctors and nurses went to work to ensure she received the best possible care and outcome. Her oncologist, Dr. Saranga-Perry played an especially large role in creating the treatment plan that was safest for her and her baby.

Renelle also did her own research online but was struggling to find information about her exact situation. So, she joined Facebook groups and began sharing her journey on social media in hopes to help others going through similar circumstances. “Joining these groups and sharing my story made me feel not so alone,” explains Renelle. “I was able to connect with other women who went through or were going through the same experiences. Other women saw my story and I was even able to connect some to my doctors at St. Joseph’s.”

Then in July 2021, Renelle received lumpectomy surgery to remove the tumor. The surgery was a success, and the cancer did not spread. However, her journey wasn’t over yet.

Following the surgery, Renelle started the first of four rounds of chemotherapy. She was also 23 weeks pregnant at the start. The combination of chemotherapy side effects and pregnancy symptoms left her incredibly weak.

Renelle also recalls this being one of the most challenging times during her cancer journey. Feeling so many different side effects at once was taking a toll on her physically and mentally.

Losing her hair was also incredibly hard for her to go through, “I had beautiful long hair, so losing it all and becoming completely bald was super emotional for me. But during this time and throughout my entire journey, I had my family and friends’ support every step of the way.”

Support from her family and the staff at St. Joe’s is what kept Renelle fighting every day. “My team of doctors and nurses were absolutely phenomenal,” recalls Renelle.

Dr. Saranga-Perry and the Infusion Center nurses at St. Joseph’s Hospital-South even threw her a surprise baby shower complete with balloons, gifts, and cupcakes. They knew she couldn’t have one of her own since she didn’t want to take the risks of being around large groups of people, so the gesture meant the world to her.

“I was truly grateful for the love and support the staff showed towards me. This wasn’t just a job to them. They genuinely cared about me, my baby, and every patient that came through those doors.”

In November 2021, Renelle received the last infusion for her first rounds of chemo. One month later, she gave birth to a beautiful and healthy baby boy. A universal sigh of relief was heard throughout as her son was born without any complications. Today, Renelle shared that her son is hitting all his typical milestones and is entirely perfect to her and her husband, “He completed our family.”

Proceeding with the birth of her son, Renelle received a final six rounds of chemotherapy and 24 rounds of radiation at St. Joseph’s Hospital’s Cancer Institute. And on July 21, 2022, Renelle rang the “cancer-free” bell. She also did a second bell ringing at St. Joseph’s Hospital-South while holding her baby and surrounded by the doctors and nurses who had been with her from the start.

“The celebration was incredibly emotional. Everyone on the staff became family to me. Day by day, they were the ones doing all the important coordination to ensure both me and my baby had the best possible care.”

Today, Renelle and her son are doing well, and she is enjoying every moment she has with her son and husband. She goes in once a month for check-ups and continues to be grateful, happy, and healthy.

Renelle also gives back to St. Joe’s. She recently donated to the new AngelEye NICU Camera System at St. Joseph’s Women’s Hospital.

“I wanted to give back because I am so grateful to St. Joe’s. I knew things could’ve gone the other way during this journey, but because of the team at St. Joe’s, my son and I are alive and healthy.”

Renelle feels so grateful that her son was born healthy and loves giving back to any cause that helps better the lives of children. “I felt compelled to find some way to say thank you, and when I heard about the AngelEye program, I knew I wanted to give and help other parents.”

To Renelle, St. Joseph’s Hospitals are a special place. Thinking back to the start of everything, she knew she wanted to be treated in an environment where there was trust and where the people cared for one another like family. And she found that in St. Joe’s.