Patient StoriesMarch 5 2024

Patient Story - Kent Bostick

As a former professional athlete and competitive cyclist, Kent Bostick is used to facing strenuous challenges. So, two years ago, when a small lump formed in his shoulder, he toughed it out. However, in just three weeks, the lump grew so large that it began to stick out from his armpit. Kent began to experience extreme fatigue, nightmares and delirium. His skin became inflamed and started to peel. Kent’s wife, Rhonda, insisted that he see his primary care physician. That led to a referral to Dr. James McLoughlin, a surgical oncologist at UT Medical Center, who performed a biopsy and delivered Kent the news: he had Stage IV melanoma.


He was stunned. “I did everything right. I always lived healthfully and ate well,” he said. Kent joined the US National Cycling Team in 1977 and raced professionally for more than two decades. Among his wins: a team championship and individual gold in track racing at the 1987 and 1995 Pan American Games. Kent followed that by winning the Olympic Trials and achieving his personal best time — placing 9th in the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta. He retired professionally in 2000 but still competes in masters’ championship races all over the country.


Thankfully, Kent soon discovered that there are lots of doctors in the cycling community. They helped guide him and Rhonda through the journey that lay ahead. His case was referred to Dr. Neil Faulkner, and Kent was impressed by his credentials and approach. 


“He told me exactly what was going to happen, the kind of treatments I’d have,” he said. “He gave me no false hope, because of course, not everyone is cured.”


After a surgery that removed 24 of Kent’s lymph nodes, the treatment plan consisted of chemotherapy and an infusion treatment for the next 13 months. During treatment, Kent had ongoing CT scans to track the progress. “The tumor was a fist-sized lump in my armpit,” he said, “extending up to my clavicle and neck area. After three months, the fist was hollowed out and registered no new activity, and it continued to diminish over time.”


A team of doctors that included oncologists, neurologists and surgeons reviewed Kent's case regularly. As the cancer shrank, there was a concern that — due to the removal of his lymph nodes — Kent could be more susceptible to lymphedema, a blockage in the lymphatic system that can cause swelling and fluid retention.


Dr. Stefanos Boukovalas, trained in pioneering surgical techniques in the field of lymphedema treatment, performed an hours-long microsurgery to reconnect lymph ducts in his body. “I was surprised I didn’t need painkillers because the wound was put together so smoothly,” Kent said. “It was pretty amazing … it was an almost immediate recovery.” 


In February 2023, he received his first all-clear CT scan in 15 months and was declared cancer-free.


Today, Kent says he feels great. “I went from almost certainty of death to being alive,” he said. “Stage IV is especially serious when you hear that news. I consider it a modern miracle. I got cancer and a pretty serious one, and I’m alive and healthy.”


Even during chemotherapy, Kent would get out on his bike and ride, to test his endurance. Earlier this year, he began competing in masters’ championship races again as part of the CTS NWN Cycling Team. In August, at the age of 70, Kent won four events at the Masters National Track Cycling Championships at the Giordana Velodrome in Rock Hill, South Carolina.