Olivia was 33, a mum-of-three and married to her high school sweetheart. Then she found out her bad ‘stomach ache’ was something else entirely: ‘The worst day of our lives’

High school sweethearts Olivia and Josh Renga welcomed their twin daughters 18 months ago and were thriving as a young family. 

But in mid-January their world was turned upside down when Olivia was diagnosed with ‘rare and aggressive’ terminal cancer at just 33. 

The mother-of-three received the tragic news her liver was riddled with neuroendocrine small cell carcinoma. The cancer is deemed ‘rare’ because it’s typically found in the lungs, not the liver. 

Fast forward five and a half months and the couple, from Ballarat, are ‘hoping for a miracle’ while Olivia undergoes chemotherapy treatment. 

Josh told FEMAIL the pair are taking it ‘one day at a time’ and are trying remain positive throughout the challenging ordeal. 

Olivia Renga (pictured with her husband Josh and their three daughters) was diagnosed with terminal liver cancer in mid-January 

The cancer is deemed 'rare' because it's typically found in the lungs, not the liver

The cancer is deemed ‘rare’ because it’s typically found in the lungs, not the liver

Olivia started experiencing nausea and abdominal discomfort in late November last year which at first was ‘nothing of concern’.

But on Christmas Eve she crumpled in sudden and extreme pain and was bedridden for the rest of the day.

Since it was the festive period, no clinics or pharmacies were open so Olivia had to push through the agony for a couple of days before finally seeing a GP.

There were no signs of anything sinister in test results, and her symptoms weren’t considered serious because she doesn’t have any family history of liver cancer.  

Luckily Olivia sought a second opinion from another GP who ‘wasn’t confident’ about sending her home despite seeing the test results. 

‘We had a family holiday to Queensland booked for the following week – it was going to be our first big trip together as a little family – but Olivia was sent to emergency to get tested property,’ Josh recalled.

Doctors then conducted a biopsy for further testing. 

Olivia spent a week in hospital, the family holiday was cancelled and the pair still didn’t have any results for another week.

Luckily Olivia sought a second opinion from another GP who 'wasn't confident' about sending her home despite seeing the test results

Luckily Olivia sought a second opinion from another GP who ‘wasn’t confident’ about sending her home despite seeing the test results

Josh, who runs his own business, recalled Olivia visiting him at work to share the dreaded news after she had visited the doctor. 

‘It was the worst day of our lives. It all happened so quickly over the space of a month. We both cried and were distraught,’ he said. 

‘Neither of us thought it was going to be this. It was all such a shock. Then we went together to the oncologist appointment. 

‘I didn’t want to believe it was true – and still don’t want to believe it’s true. It still doesn’t feel real. It was a very difficult thing to take in and not something we were expecting at all,’ he said.

Doctors found one main tumour and multiple smaller ones in Olivia’s liver. Her specific cancer is ‘difficult to stop’ and chemotherapy only works for a certain period of time.

Olivia started chemotherapy immediately after she was diagnosed but a month ago it stopped working effectively so doctors have moved on to a different drug.

The couple met in high school and first got together when they were 16 then tied the knot in 2016

The couple met in high school and first got together when they were 16 then tied the knot in 2016 

Doctors cannot accurately predict an amount of time Olivia has left

Olivia started chemotherapy immediately after she was diagnosed but a month ago it stopped working effectively so doctors have moved on to try a different drug

Olivia started chemotherapy immediately after she was diagnosed but a month ago it stopped working effectively so doctors have moved on to a different drug

The couple started seeing each other when they were 16, tied the knot in 2016 and had their first daughter, Neve, four years ago.

Now they’re struggling with the thought the Olivia may not win her battle with cancer, leaving Josh a single dad.

Doctors cannot accurately predict the amount of time Olivia has left – it could be weeks or years as it’s a ‘case by case basis’. 

She’s spending as much time as she can at home with her children and Josh, but goes to hospital as needed. 

‘We want to do things as a family as much as possible. Life is very different to how it was six months ago,’ Josh said.

‘I’m hoping for a miracle everyday. It burns me inside thinking about what our future might look like.

‘Especially with our girls. They need their mum, they need her at their weddings, every Mother’s Day… we just don’t know what’s going to happen and the unknown is really hard to deal with.’ 

'I'm hoping for a miracle everyday. It burns me inside thinking about what our future might look like,' Josh said

‘I’m hoping for a miracle everyday. It burns me inside thinking about what our future might look like,’ Josh said

Josh also shared a heartfelt message he wants all Australians to know. 

‘Life is fragile, so don’t waste it. It can be really cruel sometimes but you need to push through an look on the bright side,’ he said.

The couple hope sharing Olivia’s story will highlight how life can change in an instant and no-one is immune to cancer.

‘A positive mindset is the best tool you can have. It’s the only thing you can control,’ Josh added.

If you’d like to contribute to Olivia’s GoFundMe, click here.

What are neuroendocrine tumours?

The neuroendocrine system is a network of glands and nerve cells that make hormones and release them into the bloodstream. These hormones help control normal body functions, for example digesting food.

Neuroendocrine cells are found throughout the body, but mainly in the gastro-intestinal tract (including large bowel and small bowel), pancreas and lungs.

Neuroendocrine tumours (also referred to as NET) are an uncommon type of tumour that forms in these cells. The type is generally defined by where the abnormal cells come from and can range from low grade (slow growing) to high grade (fast growing). 

Neuroendocrine tumours that produce extra amounts of hormones can cause certain symptoms and are referred to as functional tumours. However, not all neuroendocrine tumour produce extra hormones (non-functional).

Source: Cancer Council

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