The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

January 15, 2013

Something good from bad

Bostick appreciates everything more after ordeal with prostate cancer

By Dan Stillwell
Register-Herald Sports Writer

— It’s not been an easy season for Woodrow Wilson girls basketball coach Bernie Bostick.

His Flying Eagles, a young team struggling against a tough MSAC schedule, have won just three of 10 games.

Yet Bostick is taking it all in stride. You see, just over a year ago, he found out he had prostate cancer.

Scary stuff.

“I know of four guys who got it around the same time as me, and I’m the only one who’s still alive,” he said. “You realize there are more important things than sports.”

Bostick’s cancer was caught early and was treatable. He had surgery to remove his prostate, and it was successful to the point he didn’t have to have chemotherapy or radiation treatments.

While he had to turn over his team to assistants John Quesenberry and Chuckie Diggs for most of the 2011-12 season, he was able to return and coach for a few games at the end.

It was a tough decision — Bostick could have postponed the surgery — but he’s glad he didn’t.

“I probably could have waited, but who knows?” he said. “Once it gets out, it goes into your hips and femur.”

Back in the fall of 2011, Bostick had felt some pain in his lower regions. Blood tests, an ultrasound and finally a biopsy confirmed his fears, and he was told he had prostate cancer Nov. 2.

“My first thought was I was a little young. Most people who get it are 10-15 years older than me,” he said. “My second thought was I was not happy about it, but I was sure if it was God’s will, something good will come out of it. That was my outlook the whole time.”

Recovering from the surgery was an ordeal in itself. Bostick had to wear a catheter for 10 days, and problems lingered for some time.

But the experience also taught him some lessons.

“It made me appreciate my family more, and people in general,” Bostick said. “I began to see things in a more positive light.”

Word got out around the conference, and coaches began calling to say they were praying for him. He also began running into people who had undergone the surgery themselves, and it was like a brotherhood.

“It was real comforting to know you were getting a lot of prayers,” Bostick said.

He discovered he wasn’t the only person at his school with cancer. Woodrow student Lars Swanson was battling Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

“They had a blood drive and and Lars and I became the spokespersons for it,” Bostick explained. “We did a neat little video where we said, ‘We both like music, we’re both good looking and we’re both smart.

“‘But what people don’t know is we both have cancer. We can’t donate blood now, but we might need it, so if you can, please do it.’”

When Woodrow played Nicholas County, the Grizzlies came out in white T-shirts with light blue writing (for prostate cancer) on the back that said, “You can beat this, Coach Bostick. We’re behind you all the way!”

He’s glad he saw a doctor when he first had problems, and he has a message for other men in their late 40s or older.

“Keep an eye on your PSA test (a urinary test that is a good predictor of prostate disease) and be aggressive in watching,” he said. “And if you’re undergoing surgery, I’ll talk to you about it.”

He will have quite a story to tell.

Woodrow, now in his 10th season under Bostick, will play tonight at Nitro.

— E-mail: dstillwell@register-herald.com