Once a voice associated with different teams across two different states, Ted Byrne’s voice now is strangely quiet. For more than 30 years, Byrne’s broadcasts might open with “from Johnson Hagood Stadium” or “it’s time for Cougar basketball.” These days, his voice is scratchy and a little weak, a by-product of too many tubes in his throat, surgery and chemo treatments.
Though the voice has lost some resonance, it still carries a message and all Ted wants these days is a few chances to tell his story.
This time, a year ago, Byrne was a self-described boy in a bubble. He’d already had surgery and left MUSC with a port imbedded in his chest that would allow a series of chemo treatments to be administered to kill the cancer in his body.
His immune system was so weak, he couldn’t see his grandchildren or simply go to movies or restaurants where he’d be exposed to other people. He was so susceptible to catching other germs, he had to even wear a mask while moving around the hospital.
That first morning he noticed patches of hair accumulating in the shower tub was the low point. He fell apart. He broke down and wondered if this journey would be too difficult to complete.
But then he remembered a dear friend, Nick Harvey, whom he stood by 17 years ago in similar circumstances. He recalled the positive and upbeat approach his best friend took and decided he’d face it the same way.
Miles and milestones
Byrne, 65, felt the only way he’d make it would be by setting goals.
First goal: to be sitting at somebody’s Thanksgiving table last year. He didn’t care if he was the most boring person there, he would be there. After that, other goals would present themselves.
As part of the broadcast crew of the ’92 Citadel football championship team, he agreed to walk on the field at halftime 12 months ago, as the team celebrated its 20th anniversary.
Last December, he was invited to a radio station office party. After losing all his hair and so much weight, he still attended and spent much of the night re-introducing himself to co-workers who barely recognized him.
After all those years of pulling cable through drafty press boxes and searching for a phone line in old arenas, Byrne realized the field goals and touchdowns and tip-ins and jump balls were just a small part of the journey to get him to this point in his life.
What he wants most now are opportunities to use his voice in another play-by-play experience.
Dinner and dignity
Byrne arrived in Charleston in the early 1980s. He’s worked at various radio stations and called games for The Citadel and College of Charleston. In the mid-’90s, he left to do Georgia Southern games for 10 years before returning to work for Kirkman Broadcasting in 2005.
His cancer is in remission and he’s part of a new drug trial study at MUSC. His broadcasting days are behind him. He believes “the good Lord forced me into retirement and I said here are the keys, you drive.”
He still has goals though. He wants to get in front of men’s groups, civic clubs and church organizations to let people know there is hope after a cancer diagnosis. He believes his voice is strong enough to deliver that message.
Cancer took his hair, his energy, his strength and even some of his voice. Cancer patients don’t want to lose their dignity, though, and that’s what is driving Ted’s desire to share his journey.
His next short term goal? This year, he’s not just sitting at somebody’s Thanksgiving table, he’s cooking the turkey. My guess is that he’d love to tell you, as only a broadcaster could, every detail about how that turkey will taste.
Reach Warren Peper at firstname.lastname@example.org.