MUSC Head and Neck Tumor Center

head and neck tumor center

Patient Story

Smoke was a part of Ed Bostain's life.

A Beaufort fireman for 19 years, he’d inhaled substances “even the chemists couldn’t figure out.” He had been on cigarettes for a quarter century. He heated his place with a wood-burning stove.

Still, when the soreness around his jaw turned out not to be a clogged salivary gland, as doctors originally thought, but throat cancer, Bostain was stunned. “It just didn’t seem real,” his wife, Sheila, says.

But it was, and Bostain had to decide where and how to get treatment. MUSC and the Hollings Cancer Center were his first choice. “They were the experts,” he says. “I just felt more comfortable there.”

The initial plan was to surgically remove the tumor. But the procedure would have been complicated, requiring partial removal of the jaw, taking out his teeth, and eating through a tube. Ed Bostain – tough, strong, and blessed with great personal warmth inside and out – could have handled that part. What bothered him was the fact that he’d have to quit two things he loved: his job as a firefighter and his hobby as a scuba diver.

“All I wanted to know from the start was when I could go back to work and when I could get back in the water,” he says. “And I kept hearing that both of those would be gone.”

But Bostain, who was diagnosed at age 53, was in good shape. So, the HCC Tumor Board – a multidisciplinary group of specialists that routinely reviews cases – decided he’d be a good candidate for non-surgical treatment.

So he was enrolled in a clinical trial involving tirapazamine, an experimental drug that sensitized cancer cells to radiation. Rather than treat his cancer with cisplatin, a more conventional therapy, Hollings specialists used a combination of tirapazamine with radiotherapy.

“It was like shooting the tumor with a .44 instead of a BB gun,” Bostain says. The therapy regimen was demanding. He underwent treatment five days a week, returned home on weekends, and was back at HCC Sunday night. While there weren’t a lot of serious side effects – mild nausea and “hardly a hair lost” – he had a continuing problem with leg cramps. When the pain struck, Sheila massaged it away.

Through it all, the Bostains were guided by an unyielding faith in God and the support of family and friends. Their children held yard sales and car washes to help cover expenses, and created a “Friends of Ed Bostain” account at a local credit union.

“We didn’t suffer as far as bills go,” he says. “We didn’t lose anything.” One thing that did disappear, however, was the tumor – after three weeks. Four weeks later, Bostain was released. A month after that, he was back on the job.

Today, he’s back diving. All of which confirms Ed Bostain’s initial decision to come to HCC.

“The treatment was as good as any I could have gotten out of state, if not better,” he says.

Yet for all the compassion, expertise, and advanced therapies that HCC provided, perhaps the most important benefit was also the most intangible.

“They gave us hope,” Ed Bostain says. “And we never lost it.”


© Medical University of South Carolina | 171 Ashley Avenue, Charleston, SC 29425