'Fighter' loses her bout with cancer

Mary Todd

Mary Todd, a teacher whose long, public battle with cancer helped raise awareness about the disease, died early Tuesday. She was 44.

Todd, wife of WTMA's "Morning Buzz" talk show host Richard Todd, died in her sleep at a hospice in Mount Pleasant.

Friends and colleagues hailed the Charleston native as a strong, kind and courageous woman who openly shared her fight with breast cancer to help others and champion efforts to find a cure.

Donna Rosa, wife of Citadel President Lt. Gen. John Rosa, recalled how Mary, Richard and their 9-year-old son, Tyler, performed the coin toss at a Citadel football game in October in celebration of breast cancer survivors. It was a struggle for Mary just to be there, but she bravely faced the crowd and never let on how sick she really was, Rosa said.

"She was just a sweet girl, and anybody who knew her could not help but love her and be inspired by her," Rosa said. "She was a fighter. She never gave up."

Todd, who taught fifth grade at Charles Pinckney Elementary School in Mount Pleasant, was diagnosed with breast cancer in July 2008. She underwent treatment and was able to return to work the following year.

But in 2010, shortly after her 10th wedding anniversary, doctors determined the cancer had returned and spread to her lungs and bones.

"We really thought we had it beat," Richard Todd said. "But it came back with a vengeance. Over the last 18 months, she put up a heck of a fight."

Mary Todd had to leave teaching to undergo aggressive cancer treatments. Mary Zena White, a fellow teacher at Pinckney, said the school lost a teacher with boundless enthusiasm and a deep passion for history and students.

"When Mary had to give up teaching last year to battle cancer, she grieved because being a teacher wasn't what she did; it was who she was," White said.

Richard Todd, a testicular cancer survivor, interviewed Mary on his show in October on the eve of the Susan G. Komen Lowcountry Race for the Cure. She told listeners the treatments left her feeling like a deflated balloon at times, but she was determined to shoulder the burden and help others to the best of her ability.

"I'm here and I'm grateful for that," she said. "It's been three years, and I wake up and I'm thrilled to see the sun coming up every morning and still be on the planet. As long as I'm here, I'm grateful to have every day I have."

Mary urged people to support cancer research and predicted a cure was close.

"I plan on being around and dancing at the party the world is going to throw when we cure cancer."

Taffy Tamblyn, executive director of Komen Lowcountry, said the Todds' efforts have helped educate people about the need for screenings, and she believes more women in the area have gone for mammograms as a result of Mary's willingness to share her story.

Mary's health continued to decline as the cancer spread. A decision was made to suspend further treatments at the beginning of December. Nothing more could be done.

The couple labored to give their son a good Christmas, and then Mary's health quickly declined until her death, just shy of her 45th birthday, Richard Todd said.

"She is at peace, and she is no longer in pain," he said. "Nothing about it makes sense. Nothing about it is fair, but that is life."

Reach Glenn Smith at 937-5556 or on Twitter at @glennsmith5.