Kosciusko native Ben Terry faces cancer battle with strong support.
With the COVID-19 pandemic raging last Spring, Kosciusko native Ben Terry, 37, a weatherman on KPLC-TV in Lake Charles, LA, postponed his annual colonoscopy.
Terry, who has suffered from ulcerative colitis — an autoimmune disease — for the past 15 years and his doctor thought it best to delay it to avoid potential exposure to COVID-19.
“This year, with COVID, and the fact that I was feeling better than I've ever felt, the doctor said I may be better to kind of put off the colonoscopy,” he said.
By the time they realized the pandemic was not going anywhere, Lake Charles was hit by Hurricane Delta, a storm Terry both forecast on television and experienced personally as his workplace and home were destroyed.
Even his doctor’s office was seriously damaged in the storm.
So it was not until November when he started having “weird little symptoms” that caused him and his doctor to schedule the screening for the week before Thanksgiving.
When the doctor brought Terry’s parents into the consultation room after the test, Terry knew something was very wrong.
“When the doctor brought my parents into the consultation area, I thought, ‘This can’t be good,’ because they weren't letting anybody in the building unless you were a patient,” he said. “They were making the parents and stuff wait out the car.”
Terry’s doctor told him that the test had revealed a tumor in his colon. He was referred to a colorectal surgeon at Houston Methodist Hospital and learned of a likely treatment path where all or a portion of his colon would need to be removed and rerouted during two separate surgeries.
“They did an evaluation on me for the surgery, all while we were still waiting on the pathology results to come back from the tumor because, at that point, we still didn't know if it was benign or malignant,” he said. “We were just kind of getting ahead of the game here.”
The day before Thanksgiving, Terry learned the tumor was not only malignant, but an unusual form of cancer to find in the colon. A second colonoscopy confirmed the cancer type. The colon surgery was postponed until an oncologist could be consulted. A case review board at the hospital recommended chemotherapy to shrink the tumor before attempting to remove it surgically.
Last Friday, Terry went to Houston to undergo the first chemotherapy treatment. He is on a 21-day cycle, taking other medications between those treatments. He is hopeful that the tumor will shrink enough during the preliminary three months of treatment that he can then have the surgery and be cancer-free, but it is possible chemotherapy will continue for as long as six months.
“You don’t ever think it will affect you. It was hard for me to deal with for a long time,” he said of the cancer diagnosis. “It hit me in the doctor’s office and I almost had a breakdown.”
But Terry said he is grateful he had those little symptoms that pushed him toward being tested, even during the COVID-19 pandemic. He said he hopes others will hear his story and schedule their regular screenings like colonoscopies and mammograms despite concern over potentially contracting COVID-19 in the process.
As a television personality , Terry said he chuckled a little when he learned the form of chemotherapy he is taking does not usually cause hair loss. Doctors expect he will be able to work a reduced schedule throughout his treatment. Terry has relinquished only his morning show responsibilities — which required him to get out of bed at 2 a.m. each day — to conserve the energy he needs to get well.
“I’m not giving up at all. You’ve got to be a fighter,” he said. “I’ve got a very big support group where I live and my viewers. So many people have reached out.”
Since he announced his health situation on-air last week, there has been an outpouring of support from his entire viewing area in Southwest Louisiana.
One fan, Lauren Morris, who is in the promotions industry, has created t-shirts, umbrellas and mugs to raise funds to help Terry meet any uncovered expenses during treatment. Morris even developed versions of the shirts for various locations, including one specifically for people from Terry’s hometown of Kosciusko. Family, friends and fans can purchase items until midnight Jan. 22, 2021, at https://lclovesbenterry.itemorder.com/sale or donate funds through a GoFundMe page at gf.me/u/zfujgz. There is also a facebook group at https://www.facebook.com/LC-SWLA-Love-Ben-Terry-104649331594858. Morris also set up a bank account for those who would like to donate via check. Checks can be made out to “Ben Terry FNBD” and mailed to FNBD, 5245 Nelson Rd., Lake Charles, LA 70605.
The Sip in Kosciusko, owned by Terry’s former KHS classmate Corey McElwain and his wife Kristi, will be selling the mugs and will serve as a local pickup location for those who order shirts or other items in support of Terry.
Terry said while he appreciates the support, he realizes how fortunate he is and will help others with some of the funds raised.
“I almost feel like I have an unfair advantage because I’m on TV. So many people don’t have that (support). I have insurance and I have a job, but this has been an overwhelming blessing for me,” he said. “I almost feel guilty accepting all of this. I will find a way to pay this forward. I’m definitely going to look for ways to bless someone else.”