Terry Todt has seen comebacks. Whether it has been a three-pointer at the buzzer, an extra-inning RBI base hit or a last minute go-ahead touchdown, Todt has witnessed nearly everything in his four decades behind the microphone at WSMI Radio and has some how made thousands of others feel like they were there too, even if they weren't.
The most impressive comeback Todt has been a part of though didn't happen on a basketball court or a baseball field or on the high school gridiron. It happened in a University of Cincinnati Hospital room this past October, when doctors removed a cancerous mass the size of a loaf of bread from his abdomen.
And the comeback continues seven months later. Todt, who will go back for a CAT scan, blood work and a doctor's visit on June 9, will share his comeback story with dozens of other cancer survivors as the Montgomery County Cancer Association's honorary chairman at their Celebration of Life event on June 11 at the Hillsboro KC Hall.
Registration for this year's event is due by June 8. Tickets are $12 each, and may be reserved by calling Shelley Halleman at (217) 412-8598.
"The docs said 'Six months from now, you'll be fine,'" Todt said. "Every prediction they've made so far has been spot on."
Todt's comeback story actually starts well before he had any idea what Pseudomyxoma Peritonei, more easily known as PMP, a cancer of the appendix, was. After falling on the ice several years ago, Todt suffered from persistent back problems. Lumbar injections would provide temporarily relief from the pain, but in late 2014, a better fix was needed.
His doctor prescribed Celebrex for the pain, which seemed to help, at least for a while.
"I'd been taking Celebrex for a week and on Thursday, Oct. 23 (2014), I collapsed out here," Todt said, referring to the offices of WSMI between Hillsboro and Litchfield. "That was the day they thought I had this massive stroke."
Rushed to Hillsboro Hospital, Todt was given the clot busting drug used to stop strokes and was flown to St. John's Hospital in Springfield for more scans.
"As I like to say, 'Head examined, nothing found.' They could not find evidence of a stroke," Todt said.
After the scare, Todt would return home and eventually went back on Celebrex. Within a few days, he suffered a bout of vertigo at work, which led him to the conclusion that the "stroke" was actually a reaction to the medicine. He would try another medicine similar to Celebrex, but that too had adverse affects, so he and his doctors looked for a different route, aquatherapy at Fusion Fitness and Aquatics in Hillsboro.
"That worked really well and I felt much better," Todt explained. "In the meantime, I had this alien growth. A lot of guys get bellies and they hang over our belts, but I had this little protrusion right above my diaphragm."
The protrusion and some pain that Todt compared to a pulled muscle led his doctors to believe that it may have been an exercise induced injury, but after the pain failed to go away, they decided to get a scan of the area.
On Sept. 4, 2015, the word came back that the large, unfamiliar growth was cancer.
"My reaction basically was let's deal with it. We were going to fight this thing," Todt said.
The problem was how. None of Todt's doctors had really seen anything like this before, and with good reason as PMP is thought to occur in one out of every 500,000 people according to the Appendix Cancer Pseudomyxoma Peritonei Research Foundation.
Plans originally called for Todt to go to Springfield, where the mass would be cut out, but Todt's family looked for other options at places that were more experienced with the cancer that they still didn't know what to call at that point.
During their search, they came across Dr. Jeffery Sussman at the University of Cincinnati Cancer Institute.
"My wife, Brenda, shot an email to Dr. Sussman that said, 'Please help my husband,'" Todt said. "Two hours later, on his personal cell phone, he called back."
What Todt is to radio in central Illinois, Dr. Sussman is to PMP. At his first appointment, Dr. Sussman told Todt that he sees similar cases once a week and that he knew what needed to be done to fix it.
"He said 'You may have had this thing for ten years and not even have known it. It's about the size of a loaf of bread,'" Todt said of the meeting. "And he says, "And I'm going on vacation for two weeks. But there is good news, it's not going to grow very fast. It's not going to kill you. And we're going to come back in October and take care of this thing."
On Oct. 23, 2015, one year after his collapse at WSMI, Todt went under the knife and the comeback process began.
"I have a giant zipper from my chest to below my belly button. They peel you open. They cut out the cancerous growth, the appendix, the gall bladder, ten inches of the colon and scraped my diaphragm," said Todt, who added that Dr. Sussman is one of the few doctors in the United States that uses the HIPEC method.
HIPEC delivers heated chemotherapy directly inside the abdomen to help destroy any remaining cancer cells and very small tumors that cannot be seen by the surgeon after the larger tumor is removed. The chemotherapy circulates inside the abdomen, hopefully reaching more places and preventing cells from growing into new cancers.
"They basted me for two hours with chemotherapy. They basically filled up the abdomen with chemotherapy and kind of shook me around a little bit to make sure it seeped in," Todt said. "Like they said, it was kind of like basting a turkey. Basically the thought was that they do this now and you don't have to do other chemotherapy later."
The surgery lasted six to seven hours, followed by a few days in intensive care and four weeks in the hospital. He and Brenda, who had been in Cincinnati the whole time with him, spent a few more days at the Hope Lodge, which is run by the American Cancer Society.
"She was Super Woman. She was there everyday," Todt said of Brenda. "When I needed comforting, she comforted me. When I needed bucked up, she bucked me up. I credit her with a lot of the reason I got out of there in four weeks. She went above and beyond the call of duty."
The Wednesday before Thanksgiving, the Todt family returned to their home for the first time in over a month. After a few weeks of working to build up his strength and suffering through daytime television ("They'll give anybody with a robe a judge show."), Todt was feeling the itch to get back to WSMI.
On Dec. 10, he sat in with Tim Mize on the WSMI's broadcast of the IESA Seventh Grade Class 3A State Girls Basketball Championship between Gillespie and St. Agnes and by Dec. 16, he was back to work for good, with his first solo play-by-play duties coming two weeks later in the girls championship game of the Carlinville Holiday Tournament.
"That was kind of nerve wracking, because you just don't know if you still have it or not. It's really silly now that I think about it. Why would I lose it. I mean, I've been doing this for 40 years," said Todt, who added that getting back to work aided in his recovery. "That was good therapy for me. Brian (WSMI President and General Manager Brian Talley) was very good to me. He just wanted me to get better."
And for the most part he is. His sleep cycle is still messed up, in part from being checked in on in the hospital at all hours of the night. He has also had some issues with memory, an after effect of the anesthesia. In addition to the physical side, there is also the emotional side of cancer and how it affects those who have it.
"It does affect you. I think if you ask anyone who will be at the dinner if they think about it coming back, they'll say yes," said Todt, who said that some of the emotional gloom and doom of the experience in the hospital was one of the things that surprised him the most. "Once a day, at least I do, there's a thought of what if it comes back. But the doctor said we'll deal with this."
On the bright side, his doctors tell him that there is only a five percent risk that the slow growing cancer would come back and the prognosis for ten, and even 20, years out is very good.
God forbid it does comeback, Todt knows that there is no place like his community to help get him through such an ordeal. While in the hospital, he received dozens of cards and letters, some of which came from the teams that he has covered at WSMI. That support gave him the opportunity to brag on the area where he was born and raised and that he loves so much.
"We're in one of the most impoverished counties, as far as employment is concerned, but when the cause is just, I defy anybody else to find a group of people like the ones that live around here," Todt said. "I tried to get that across to them. If you have the right kind of people, you can get things done. We have some remarkable people doing some remarkable things."
Remarkable people, doing remarkable things. Sounds like a comeback story worth telling.