In 2004, Bruce Rendina began having trouble reading the letters on his Blackberry. During a golf outing, he kept misjudging the distance of the roof of his golf cart and hit it with his head every time he stepped on or off the cart, Richard M. Rendina, his oldest son, recalls.
On a doctor’s advice, Bruce Rendina, a major developer of medical offices, hospitals and other spaces, had an MRI. A surgeon and an imaging specialist spotted an advanced-stage brain tumor pressing against his optical nerve.
“They told him get your affairs in order,” Richard Rendina said from the Jupiter offices of Rendina Cos. Doctors told his father, diagnosed with an aggressive type of cancer called glioblastoma multiforme, that he had just one or two months without treatment.
Bruce Rendina, however, lived another 17 months before succumbing to the disease in December 2006.
Richard Rendina said his father gained several months of life because he had access to specialists and drugs in a clinical trial at Massachusetts General Hospital. “It gave my dad inspiration and hope. He never let on to us that there was zero chance of survival. He always wanted that positive energy around him,” Rendina said. But treating brain cancer is tricky.
“You can only remove certain parts of the brain without losing function, but if you don’t get every cancer cell, you’ll never be cured. You’ll be in remission, but you can never cure it,” Rendina said.
Following Bruce Rendina’s death, the direction of the Rendina Family Foundation changed. The primary mission of the foundation, which started in 1997, is supporting cancer research and programs that aid people who have been affected by cancer. Before, the foundation was more focused on children’s charities.
The foundation’s sixth annual “Raising the B.A.R.” Bruce A. Rendina memorial golf tournament is slated to kick off Friday evening with a reception on The Breakers’ ocean lawn. The tournament will get under way on the hotel’s golf course at 8:30 a.m. Saturday.
Richard Rendina, a 32-year-old Jupiter resident, became CEO of the Rendina Cos. after his father’s death. Like his father, he knows how it feels to battle cancer.
In February 2011, he was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Rendina, understandably, was scared. And he was afraid he would not live to see his son Luke, then less than a year old, grow up. “It kind of takes your breath away,” Rendina said.
He turned to the Palm Beach Cancer Institute and had his case reviewed by Mass General. Doctors there added Methotrexate, a chemotherapeutic agent to his regimen. “The lesions were close to my hip and my spine, and I didn’t want to risk a spinal tap and contamination,” Rendina said.
Doctors perform lumbar puncture (a spinal tap) to determine whether lymphoma has spread to the central nervous system.
Rendina underwent three cycles of Methotrexate, which slows the growth of cancer cells, and six cycles of R-CHOP, a therapy that adds the drug Rituximab to a group of four chemotherapeutic drugs given by infusion.
That treatment ended last June, and he has to get through more than four years to be considered cured. The type of blood cancer he had has a cure rate of around 80 percent. “Being a blackjack player where your odds are 47 percent, I’ll take that,” Rendina said with a laugh.
Helping to improve rates of survival and the quality of life for people with cancer is the foundation’s mission, Rendina, its vice chairman, said.
In the past three years, the foundation has made $650,000 in donations, including $300,000 to the Massachusetts General Cancer Center, $225,000 to Scripps Florida to support glioblastoma brain cancer research by Dr. Derek Duckett, $40,000 to Hospice of Palm Beach County and $35,000 to the American Cancer Society. About 21,000 adults in the United States will be diagnosed with malignant glioma, according to Duckett, who said his laboratory is focused on understanding how to manipulate signaling pathways that promote tumors. Changes to a single gene can lead to a 90 percent reduction in tumor growth, Duckett said.
Palm Beach restaurateur Frank Coniglio, husband of Mayor Gail Coniglio, is on the Rendina Family Foundation board of directors.
Coniglio and Bruce Rendina served together on the board of Cardinal Newman High School.
“There’s so much they do,” Coniglio said of the Rendina family. “They are really dedicated.”
For more information on the foundation or golf tournament, visit RendinaFamilyFoundation.org or call 628-3058.