When cancer strikes – Big brother comes to the aid

When Florida resident Steve Rennick received a cancer diagnoses and was too sick to travel it was his big brother who came to Indiana to meet with IU Health Dr. Lawrence Einhorn. His brother continues to travel back to the Midwest with Rennick for check ups.

By IU Health Senior Journalist T.J. Banes, tfender1@iuhealth.org

There’s a picture that says much about the relationship between Steve Rennick and his older brother Ron Rennick Jr. On one of the coldest days of 2019 – a day people were calling a “polar vortex” – Ron Rennick and his 5-year-old son James stood outside in frigid temperatures looking up at Steve Rennick’s hospital room at IU Health Simon Cancer Center. Young James wore blue foam Colts #1 on his hand and waved up at his uncle.

It was flu season and Steve Rennick was in isolation, but he could see that blue hand waving in the snow and the smiling faces of his brother and nephew. It meant the world to him.

It wasn’t the first time or the last time that Ron Rennick traveled from his Florida home to support his younger brother. In fact, when the late stage tumor was discovered in Steve Rennick’s chest, spreading to both his lungs and beginning to migrate to his brain, Ron Rennick helped research the best doctors and hospitals for treatment. That research led them to IU Health Simon Cancer Center and Dr. Lawrence Einhorn known around the world for his successful treatment of germ cell tumors using a mix of high dose chemotherapies and peripheral stem cell transplant.

Specifically, Steve was diagnosed with late stage Choriocarcinoma germ cell cancer, a rare form of testicular cancer that typically affects men between the ages of 20 and 40 years old. He was 39 when he was diagnosed.

Six and half years separate the brothers but growing up they played a little tennis and threw a few footballs. Later in life, they served as best man in each other’s weddings and now work together at the same real estate firm. When Steve was named “Realtor of the Year” his older brother was one of his biggest supporters. And recently when Steve Rennick was recognized at the American Cancer Society Treasure Coast Hope Gala, his older brother shared a video of Steve talking about his cancer journey.

Over the years the brothers often passed through Indiana heading to a family home in Missouri. They often returned with their families and the brothers enjoyed bird-hunting trips.

“We’ve made a lot of nice memories with those trips north over the years,” said Ron Rennick. There were more to come.

When Steve was too sick to make the trip to Indiana Ron came armed with a phone book size stack of his brother’s medical records. Steve was unable to talk because the tumor was pressing against his voice box. Ron connected Steve and his wife Renee with Dr. Einhorn via Face time. The Rennicks are the parents of a daughter GiGi, 11, and twins Colton and Caitlin, 8.

“Thank heaven for Dr. Einhorn and his life’s work. His dedication to his patients and his expertise (and that from his team) have earned his gratitude of survivors’ families worldwide,” said Ron.

When Steve was strong enough he and Renee traveled the 1,000 miles north to Indiana where he began high dose chemotherapy followed by a bone marrow transplant. A side effect of the high dose chemo was hearing loss. He now has a chochlear implant.

Since last March Steve has returned to Indiana every two months for follow up visits with Dr. Einhorn. In December Ron was back in Indiana with his brother when they heard the news – his blood tests were normal.

“Dr. Einhorn did see some scar tissue on my lungs but the only concern he saw was on my left lung about the size of a shirt button,” said Steve. “I’m in remission and I’m back to coming every four months in 2020.”

The families celebrated Steve’s road to recovery and his 40th
birthday in July with a dinner on the beach at Costa d’Este Resort. As a bonus the resort’s owner Gloria Estefan joined them for part of the celebration.

“I feel good. I think I’ve beat it and I have Dr. Einhorn and IU Health to thank,” said Steve.