Missing Cyclist's Cancer Relapse an 'Emergency'

Mark Bosworth's wife asks the public to call 911 if anyone sees him.

ByABC News
September 29, 2011, 3:14 PM

Sept. 30, 2011— -- The Portland, Ore., family of missing bicyclist Mark Bosworth is desperate for leads now that his doctor says a recurrence of lymphoma may have spread to his brain, causing disorientation and, eventually, immobility.

The missing map expert and two-time cancer survivor had been touring the countryside as a volunteer with Cycle Oregon, a weeklong bike event that raises money for each of the small communities where the 2,300 riders travel.

On the night of the 16th, one day before the bike ride would end, the group pitched tents in Riddle, Ore. Around 11:15 p.m. his wife, Julie Bosworth, said her 54-year-old husband told friends he didn't remember where his tent was. A friend offered to show him, and handed Bosworth a bike headlamp.

"He took the light, he said 'No, I'll be fine,' and that was the last time he was seen," said Julie Bosworth.

Now, two weeks later, the search for her husband has become even more urgent because Mark Bosworth's non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (NHL) may have returned.

Bosworth was first diagnosed with the most common form of NHL, diffuse large B cell lymphoma, in the summer of 2007. The cancer went into remission after he underwent chemotherapy, but in the summer of 2009, the same cancer returned, this time spreading to his eyes and crossing the blood-brain barrier, which works to prevent foreign substances from entering the brain. After eight months of treatment he had a bone marrow transplant in April 2010 and appeared to be in remission.

Mark Bosworth's lymphoma has a three to five percent chance of spreading to the brain, said Dr. Paul Barr, who treats lymphoma patients at the Wilmot Cancer Center in Rochester, N.Y. But the risk increases when patients relapse.

"When lymphoma is in the brain or nervous system, we consider that situation to be an emergency requiring immediate therapy," Barr said. "Once you have a headache, it suggests there's enough cancer to increase pressure inside the brain -- that's where you get headaches, nausea … if it increases it doesn't take that much extra pressure to make someone unconscious."

About three weeks before the bike event, Bosworth complained to his wife about severe headaches, but he told her they were probably due to a pulled muscle in his neck.

"He wasn't his usual enthusiastic self. He was repeating himself, forgetting he told me things," she said.

He made appointments with his doctors but scheduled them for the days following Cycle Oregon, insisting he was well enough to volunteer.

During the ride participants said Mark Bosworth seemed confused. As a volunteer, he was supposed to drive a van every day but he stopped when it became clear he had trouble following the traffic signs. Sometimes he would just stand alone and stare. During a phone conversation with his wife around 8 a.m. on Sept. 14, he told her he was on the East Coast and was excited to be there, and then, during the same conversation, he told her he was in Canada.

"I said, What are you talking about? He said, 'Oh, they flew us here.' He said it was a surprise. I said, 'Mark, you're crazy -- what are you talking about?'" Julie Bosworth, 57, recalled. "When we connected later in the day, he said he must have been waking up from a very vivid dream and wasn't that funny. Again, he was covering up that he was experiencing confusion."

His family now worries he could be anywhere -- especially because three credible eyewitnesses saw a person who looked like Mark Bosworth hitchhiking and shining an LED light erratically near the I-5.