Family battling cancer treatment completes 231 River Run

Alexander Sinn • Oct 29, 2018 at 7:00 AM

A whirlwind.

That’s how Grand Haven resident Alicia Reenders describes the past seven months since her husband, Seth, was diagnosed with brain cancer.

Alicia, Seth and their three children crossed the finish line of Ottawa County’s 231 River Run on Saturday with shirts reading “Fight for Seth,” a fight that continues after treatments began in spring.

Alicia and Seth participated in the first-ever River Run in 2015, before the M-231 highway opened. Seth, 37, has completed five marathons, but wasn’t sure until recently he would be in good enough health to participate this year.

In April, Seth, who wears glasses and contacts, went in for a routine eye exam. He received a stronger prescription contact, but couldn’t see clearly out of his left eye, and underwent further testing.

At the end of April, the Reenders flew to Atlanta, Georgia for a church conference. In the gift shop of an aquarium, they got a phone call, and Seth got a cancer diagnosis.

The trip was an opportunity to process the news and the journey ahead, the Reenders said.

“It was raw, and real, having people pray over us,” Alicia said. “It was an awesome time. Despite the bad news when we got down there, it was one of the best trips we’ve had.”

The Reenders met with a neurosurgeon in Grand Rapids, and four days later, Seth underwent a craniotomy to remove a jelly-like tumor over his left optic nerve that had grown to about 5 centimeters. Seth was light sensitive for over a month after the operation, and his vision remains incomplete.

A series of chemotherapy treatments followed this summer, in and out of hospital. 

While Seth’s tumor had shrunk to about 3 centimeters after initial chemotherapy, an at-home pill series of the treatment failed, and it has regrown to its original size.

Seth began a new treatment Thursday that specifically targets the blood supply to the tumor.

The Reenders have been surrounded by community support, and crossed the 231 finish line this weekend with friends and family by their side. 

Members of the Hope Reformed Church in Grand Haven have hosted fundraisers and pitched in. JR Automation, where Seth works in Holland, held company-wide benefits, and coworkers rotated picking Seth up to drive him to work.

A massive outpouring from the community has helped the Reenders financially, but they say the emotional support has been more important. 

“The money is great. Obviously that’s helping. But to see all these people rally around us, that means so much more than the financial aspect of it,” Alicia said.

Faith has been a bedrock for the Reenders. The “Fight for Seth” shirts feature the Bible verse Exodus 14:14 -- “The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”

To support the Reenders family, visit gofundme.com/reenders-family-cancer-costs. Follow their journey at caringbridge.org/visit/tumortalk.

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