SE: Decathlete Defeats Cancer, Arrives at K-State

Devin Dick finished sixth in the pole vault at the K.T. Woodman Classic on Saturday.

April 15, 2012

EDITOR’S NOTE: Saturday was an emotional one for K-State track athlete Devin Dick, who competed in the pole vault and hurdles in action at K.T. Woodman Classic in Wichita.  It’s the school where Dick started his career, but also a time where cancer created havoc in his body. Sunday is the second of a two-part story on the rugged road of cancer that Dick has traveled in the last three-plus years to arrive at K-State.

By Mark Janssen

When we left the Devin Dick story yesterday on “Sports Extra,” in his words, “My life was like a train wreck.”
 
At the age of 19 in the spring of 2009, the Hutchinson, Kan., native learned he had testicular cancer.  Like cycling sensation Lance Armstrong, it was Stage 3 when Stage 4 is the highest.
 
Serious stuff.
 
After four rounds of extreme chemotherapy treatments, he was back to attending Wichita State on a track scholarship when sickness body-slammed him again.  The cancer had spread to his abdomen and lungs.
 
For the better part of two years, Dick enrolled, and dropped out … enrolled, and dropped out of Wichita State as a bout of depression followed the year-plus of chemo treatments, followed by surgery to rid his body of cancer.
 
In the fall of 2010, in his words, “Mentally, I was fried.”
 
Dick dropped out of Wichita State for a year of recuperation, mentally as much as physically, on his family farm near Buhler, which leads us to how he arrived at Kansas State last fall.
 
BECOMING A WILDCAT: To Dick, the timing of the depression was tough to understand.
 
“I had just gone through chemo, and then the operation.  I should have been feeling great.  I literally had just beaten cancer!  Why wouldn’t I be up?” said Dick.  “But I was depressed.  My body was so chemically imbalanced that I couldn’t deal with it.”
 
Dick was forced to drop out of fall classes in 2010, and then spent the spring semester away from WSU, as well.  He worked on his dad’s farm, which is when he decided to leave the Shockers and become a K-State Wildcat, so he could pursue a major in agriculture economics.
 
“Being at home, doing farm chores and being around the animals was a needed stress reliever,” said Dick.  “I didn’t know how much I needed it, but I needed it.”
 
A former placer in the hurdles, long jump and pole vault at the Kansas State High School Track and Field Championships, Dick had taken a visit to meet Wildcat track coach Cliff Rovelto out of high school, but scholarship money was not available.  That’s how he initially ended up at Wichita State majoring in sports management.
 
Of his prep career at Buhler High, Dick said, “I never had an event where I was spectacular, but I did almost everything pretty darn good.  I just wasn’t sensational in any event, which didn’t make me overly marketable to a school like K-State.”
 
For what he went through physically, Dick’s brief track career at WSU was pretty darn remarkable.  Dick was eighth in his freshman year in the heptathlon at the 2010 Missouri Valley Indoor Championships with a personal best of 4,803.  Outdoors, he was fourth in the Valley decathlon with a 6,149 point total.
 
It’s now 2011-12, and as a Wildcat, Dick posted a personal record of 5,440 points in the heptathlon at the Big 12 Championships, with Rovelto thinking he’s capable of the “7,400 range” in the decathlon.
 
With lingering effects of the continuous medication, nausea hit Dick in the middle of the heptathlon competition at the recent Big 12 Indoor, which resulted in a no-height in the pole vault.  Had he cleared one bar in what’s one of his better events, he would have likely placed third in the competition.
 
Entering this outdoor season, Dick’s PRs include: 11.35 in the 100, 23 feet-8 inches in the long jump, 43-6 in the shot put, 6-6 in the high jump, 51.2 in the 400, 186 feet in the javelin, 186 in the javelin, 145 in the discus, 16-0 in the pole vault and 4:45 in the 1500.
 
Today, Dick says, “My goals in track aren’t what they used to be.  I feel that mentally, if I can beat cancer, there’s nothing I can do that’s better than that.”
 
Pausing, “Honestly, it’s a miracle that I’m running like I am.  I have only 85 percent of a functioning lung because of the surgery.  The recovery has been that slow.  It really is a miracle that I’m running what I am against athletes with a 100 percent functioning lung.” 
 
While Dick has bigger goals in life today, track remains as a vital lane to those missions.
 
“It all goes back to cancer and overcoming odds,” said Dick, who will petition the NCAA for an extra year of eligibility.  “Track is one thing I’ve been pretty good at, so there was a motivation to do it again.”

Pausing to reflect, Dick said, “After four rounds of chemo … man, it was so awesome to get back on the track.  It made you smile.  I had overcome something huge and I was competing again.  If not physically, I’m so much stronger mentally.”
 
Dick says today that doctors have yet to give him “… a clean bill of health, but it’s clean enough.”  He still takes injections every two weeks, blood work every three months, and check-ups ever six months. Doctors are still watching the nodules in his lungs.

But Dick says, “Three years later they’re not bigger, but they’re also not smaller.  They’re there, but I’m going to refuse to worry about them unless they say that they’re growing.  I’ve been through enough.”