IU Health Simon Cancer Center

What brings a Florida couple to Indiana in the winter?

Patient Stories

March 07, 2019

They live in the “Sunshine State” so why would a Florida couple spend the coldest months of the year in Indiana? The answer is: Dr. Lawrence Einhorn.

They live about a mile and half from the Atlantic Ocean and just a short walk from the Indian River Lagoon. But when Steve and Renee Rennick were looking for one of the best oncologist in the country, they headed 1,000 north to IU Health Simon Cancer Center.

“Back home we go boating. We like to go to the islands and look for marine life. We call it the ‘salt life,’” said Steve, who was born and raised in Florida. He played defensive end on his high school football team and went on to play at Randolph-Macon College in Virginia, where he met his wife Renee. They’ve been married for 15 years and have made their home back in the Sunshine State where Steve works in real estate and they are raising daughter GiGi, 10, and twins Colton and Caitlin, 8.

“We were married in Virginia the day the ’04 Hurricane hit Florida and we didn’t know if we’d have a home to go back to. Instead of a honeymoon we headed back to Florida loaded up with generators and fans to give away,” said Steve.

That generosity is what he’s known for throughout his community.

“Steve is admired by everyone who knows him. When you meet him, he is instantly likeable and trustworthy. He radiates goodness in the purest, simplest form, simply by being himself,” said his business partner, Katie Oess. “He is a top-selling real estate agent in town and people relate to his down-to-earth demeanor coupled with his expertise.” He has been involved with “Autism Speaks” and his local “Dancing With the Stars” committee that benefits the Healthy Start Coalition. He even won the dance contest a few years ago.

It’s no surprise to his friends and family that one of the first things Rennick did when he arrived in Indianapolis was purchase a guitar to give to another patient.

“He’s different than anyone I ever knew – always worried about others around him, generous and kind. I noticed him before he noticed me,” said Renee Rennick.

On a recent afternoon as he played on a ukulele, accompanied by music therapist Adam Perry, Rennick talked about his love of music and the path that brought him to Indianapolis. Music therapy is part of the Cancer Resource Center’s CompleteLife program offering creative therapies that also include, yoga, massage, and art.

“I’m a novice guitar player. I started playing when I was 12. I have a lot of downtime while I’m in the hospital so this gives me a chance to reconnect with the instrument,” said Rennick. “I know how much joy the music therapy has given me so I bought a basic classic guitar to leave in the hospital lounge when I go back to Florida. Some future patient might find the same joy.”

His connection to IU Health and Simon Cancer Center started with a late stage tumor in his chest – the mediastinum – the primary area of his thoracic cavity. Tests showed the tumor had spread to both lungs with some additional tumors the size of a golf ball. An MRI showed the cancer was starting to migrate to his brain.

“We caught it just in time,” said Rennick. “The symptoms initially appeared to be more heart related than anything else with chest pains and shortness of breath. The first walk-in clinic I went to chalked it up to stress or anxiety and sent me home.” A few days later when things didn’t improve, he went to ER and a chest X-ray revealed late stage Choriocarcinoma germ cell cancer.

“This type of ‘germ cell cancer’ is similar in many ways to testicular cancer, despite not having a tumor in my testes. With that knowledge, Dr. Lawrence Einhorn’s name was constantly brought up on Internet forums,” said Rennick. Dr. Einhorn is known around the world for his successful treatment of germ cell tumors using a mix of high dose chemotherapies and peripheral stem cell transplant.

At the time, Rennick was too sick to travel to Indiana so his brother, Ron flew to Indianapolis and they scheduled a video chat between Dr. Einhorn and Rennick.

“This was my first encounter with Dr. Einhorn and IU Health. At the time, Dr. Einhorn recommended a specific course of treatment from my hometown - VIP chemotherapy, which is a platinum-based chemotherapy that he is renowned for fine-tuning and essentially discovering a cure for countless men with germ cell cancer,” said Rennick. The plan worked for about 12 weeks. Then around Christmas Rennick’s checkup revealed a critical tumor serum marker was making a comeback.

“During those 12 weeks, I went from coming close to breathing my last breath to being declared in remission. It was literally a prayer come true, but unfortunately was short lived,” said Rennick. The next step was to come to Indianapolis where he received high-dose chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant.

“I’m starting to feel better but it’s been a long road to getting there,” said Rennick. In addition to weathering the side effects of his treatments, Rennick and his wife missed their three children – staying with friends and relatives. The community has rallied to support them with a “Steve Strong” campaign.

“I haven’t had a lot energy. They warned me it wouldn’t be easy, but I consider myself lucky to be here. For my specific diagnosis this is the world’s best place to go.”

-- By T.J. Banes, Journalist, IU Health.
Reach Banes via email tfender1@iuhealth.org.

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