Hollings doctor joins patient’s peloton for LOWVELO21 celebration

November 10, 2021
Scott Wentzky with Evan Graboyes and his wife and three kids at the Lowvelo Why I Ride wall
Scott Wentzky, Dr. Evan Graboyes and his family celebrate at the Why I Ride wall after finishing their ride at LOWVELO21. Photo provided

Scott Wentzky flashed a big smile alongside Hollings researcher Evan Graboyes, M.D., and his family at the Why I Ride wall, after crossing the finish line of LOWVELO 2021 on Nov. 6. It was a well-deserved moment to pause and celebrate at the annual event that raises money for lifesaving cancer research at MUSC Hollings Cancer Center.

Scott formed a team called Riding for Rayna weeks before the event in honor of his sister, Rayna Wentzky, a Hollings patient. What he didn’t know at the time he signed up for LOWVELO was that one of Rayna’s surgeons, Evan Graboyes, M.D., a Hollings head and neck cancer oncologist and researcher, would join the team. The two rode together for part of the 10-mile Island route despite brutal winds, rain and cold temperatures.

“Dr. Graboyes joining our team shows that this is more than just a job for him,” Scott said. “Doctors and patients form a bond, especially when it comes to cancer. I think it is cool to have participated in LOWVELO with one of the surgeons working with my sister.”

Rayna, 45, has already dealt with more than most people will during their entire lives. Rayna was first diagnosed with brain cancer when she was just 8 years old. Twenty years later, the cancer returned. To this day, doctors continue to monitor her brain tumors to ensure they don’t grow.

Scott and Rayna Wentzky with their father and Dr. Evan Graboyes in an exam room 
Graboyes with Rayna Wentzky, Scott Wentzky and their father. Photo by Josh Birch

Scott said there is a running joke in the family about how lucky he is never to have had cancer. Scott and Rayna’s mother died of small cell lung cancer in 2016, the same type of cancer their dad also battled — but beat. They’ve had uncles with cancer, aunts with cancer, cousins with cancer and friends with cancer. “Cancer touches everyone,” he said. “Sometimes you don’t even know it.”

Rayna’s cancer journey brought her from her home near Rock Hill, South Carolina, to Hollings in 2020 after developing skin cancer on her head. The skin cancer was removed, but there have been complications due to Rayna’s scalp having been through so much trauma already, with numerous surgeries and radiation treatments over the years to treat her brain cancer.

“It’s been difficult, but we’ve been so impressed with Hollings,” Scott said. “From the nurses to the doctors to the ladies who work at the scheduling desk — everyone has been incredible.”

It was either during one of Rayna’s treatments or one of the six-hour round-trip car rides from their home to Hollings that Scott felt called to do something more. He wanted to show his support for Hollings, so he signed up for LOWVELO. “Knowing some of that money can benefit some of Rayna’s surgeons and doctors makes me want to do even more,” he said. So far, he has raised more than $1,500 for Hollings through this year’s event. “If this is a small thing I can do to help out, why wouldn’t I?”

During a visit with Graboyes, Scott mentioned that he was riding and had formed a team in Rayna’s honor. Weeks later, Graboyes, his wife and their kids joined him out on the LOWVELO course. It’s a personal touch and a way to support a patient beyond his or her actual cancer care, Graboyes said.

Scott Wentzky and Evan Graboyes riding bikes during Lowvelo21 
Wentzky and Graboyes ride the 10-mile Island route together at LOWVELO21. Photo provided

“A lot of my patients are really at their lowest points when they meet me,” Graboyes said. “They’ve been diagnosed with cancer. Some have already gone through months of treatment and extensive surgeries. To be able to serve as a support system for them is important to me. That’s one of the reasons why I chose this profession.”

It’s also what he tries to model for his three young children, who also came out in the rain and cold for LOWVELO21. Graboyes said he’s lucky to get dropped off every day with them in the car, and they tell him as he leaves, “Papa, go be with your people.”

Graboyes has been involved with LOWVELO since its inception in 2019, but this was the first year he rode in it. As a researcher, he felt he needed to get involved.

“Research is impossible to do without funding,” he explained. “The innovative research happening at Hollings translates into better treatments and new medications to help our cancer patients. I’ve received funding from Hollings for some of my startup research projects that wouldn’t have been able to get off the ground otherwise. Sometimes all that researchers need is a little boost of support and funding to lead to the next big breakthrough in cancer care.”

While Rayna’s cancer journey is ongoing, Scott said the support his family has already received from Hollings has been incredible. He said Saturday’s ride with Graboyes goes to show how invested in their patients the care team at Hollings is and how hard the doctors and researchers work every day to find a cure for cancer.

“I am just really inspired. Rayna’s journey has been long for all of us, but there isn’t another option but to move forward,” Scott said. “The other option is giving up, and we aren’t going to do that.”