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The Terry McCann Story

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Terry McCann had always been trim, fit and upbeat. A former not-for-profit executive associate who grew up in Chicago, Illinois, Terry is renown for his wrestling success, his philantrophy, his voluntarism and his drive to be the best, and help others around him be their best. His wrestling career began in 1952 when he won the Illinois High School State Wrestling Championships. After receiving recognition for his tremendous accomplishments, Terry went to the University of Iowa to continue wrestling. He maintained his winning-ways and record, becoming a three-time All-American and a two time NCAA Champion in 1955 and 1956.

While working and living in Tulsa, Oklahoma in the late 1950s, Terry trained for the 1960 Rome Olympics. He had many sponsors who at the time were hell-bent to make sure the Americans beat the Russians. He got up before dawn and ran five miles. He then worked 8-10 hours a day. At night, he wrestled. His wife, Lucille -- happily -- took care of the 5 kids at home (with two more on the way!). Lucille all but ordered her husband to pursue his dreams. They were married their freshman year at Iowa and had their first child one year later. Terry wanted to quit wrestling and go to work to support his family but Lucille insisted that he continue to pursue his Olympics dreams. He actually made the 1956 Olympic Team but did not go because he was in school and wanted to complete his education.

Terry McCann taking down his opponent, 1950s
He won three consecutive AAU National Championships and posted the only undefeated international record of his time, as the only man to go undefeated against the Russians. The road to Rome was rocky for Terry due to a knee cartilage injury a month before competition. However, his stellar record made the USOC committee more lenient, and he was allowed to tryout later, but had to defeat several men consecutively to earn a spot, which he did with ease. That was only the beginning of an amazing journey. The first day of competition in Rome was postponed by rain, and unbeknownst to Terry, rescheduled for the same evening. Let back at the village sleeping, Terry woke up just in time to race to his event where he had no time to warm up or prepare. He fought bravely, but the judge decided against him. Now, he was faced with a much rockier road to the gold medal.

He next match was against a very skilled Russian named Chechov. Fighting through the injury as well as an illness a week before competition, Terry amazingly managed to win this match and other crucial matches, pinning his opponents in shockingly short times. After his second match pin in 18 seconds, he couldn't be stopped, and received a1960 Olympic Gold Medal for Wrestling.

Terry McCann. Olympic Gold - Rome, 1960Terry McCann. Olympic Gold - Rome, 1960
Returning from Rome with Olympic gold, Terry remained involved in the wrestling community. In the 1970s, he coached several All State wrestlers, 42 Freestyle National Champions, and five Greco Roman National Champions, none of them for any money. Terry says that his payment for coaching was seeing each young man win his own championship. After achieving great coaching success, Terry co-founded the United States Wrestling Federation which later became USA Wrestling, the governing body of wrestling across the world.

Terry is a member of the U.S. Wrestling Hall of Fame, the International Wrestling Hall of Fame, the Amateur Wrestling Hall of Fame, and the United States Olympics Hall of Fame.

Terry's surfing

Click here for Terry's surfing webpage.
In the mid 1970s, Terry moved his family to Southern California. He was not in California very long before he took up surfing. Using the same traits that made him an Olympic Gold Medalist, Terry acquired the skills to become a great surfer. His newly found passion led him to join Surfrider Foundation, an environmental organization focused on keeping beaches clean. In 1993, Terry ran for a position on the Board of Directors and was elected President of the foundation. Terry made tremendous, positive changes to an ailing foundation and increased surfer awareness to all time highs. Terry still surfs today as a member of the San Clemente, California Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation. Terry was also the CFO of Lions International, the largest service organization in the world and served as the Executive Director of Toastmasters for 30 years.

It was on Father's Day in April 2004, that Terry has his first of several terrible bouts of pain in his chest. He could hardly walk because the pain was so bad. First, doctors tested him for heart attacks and aneurysms, but found nothing. They sent him home with pain medication and after a couple days it went away. He would be in and out of the emergency room every two to three months from then on.

Terry McCann
In June of 2004, Terry began to feel the same discomfort in his chest. Several x-rays were taken at the Mission Hospital in Mission Viejo, California. The films revealed a pleural effusion. Terry underwent two thoracentesis and each time the cells were benign. He continued to suffer chest pains and underwent a CT scan in October and December of 2004. Each time the scans were examined by cardiologists who were unable to pinpoint the cause of his pain. In December, a CT scan of the abdomen and pelvis was also negative.

In March of 2005, Terry underwent a third thoracentesis. Again the pathology of the fluid was negative for any malignant process. His doctors suggested a exploratory surgery to determine the cause of the recurrent pleural effusions.

On April 5, 2005, Terry underwent a bronchoscopy, right thoracotomy, and pleural biopsy, as well as right talc pleurodesis. Postoperatively, Terry developed a bronchoalveolar fistula and significant subcutaneous emphysema. He returned to the operation room on April 7, 2005 and underwent a thoracotomy with complete talc pleurodesis of the right lung.

On May 3, 2005, Terry met with Dr. Stuart Nagasawa, a doctor at the Hematology and Medical Oncology department of South Orange County Hematology Oncology Associates. Dr. Nagasawa recommended a PET scan with a CT image fusion. In the meantime, pathologists at the City of Hope Medical Center in Duarte, California performed immunohistochemical stains on the removed tissue. The diagnosis was malignant mesothelioma.

On June 17, Terry began chemotherapy treatments using Alimta and Cisplatin.

On July 20, Terry met with Dr. Robert Cameron at the UCLA Medical Center. After reviewing his records, Dr. Cameron advised that a bronchoscopy and mediastinoscopy should be performed to access the involvement and status of his lymph nodes prior to considering any surgical therapy. If Terry was eligible, Dr. Cameron would perform a pleurectomy and decortication. Terry decided to keep on taking the chemotherapy.

Roger Worthington, Terry and Lucille with his 1960 Gold Medal. February, 2006
The diagnosis caught Terry by surprise. He tried to deny the shortness of pain and breath at first. He bought a family fitness center for his house, and even with the pain of mesothelioma, he managed to squeeze out 60 minutes working out on the exercise bike and rowing machine. Terry believed that the exercise might help him extend his life more than the chemotherapy. The pain he faced on a daily basis is indescribable. Terry says that "it's a living hell," but he wouldn't be able to get through it if it weren't for his wife, who he thinks is "a regular Mother Teresa."

Through his bouts of fever, joint aches, and nausea, Terry valiantly struggles on as he has done throughout his life. He has literally hundreds of friends who love and revere him for his sincerity, good works and citizenship. They continue to support him through his illness because they know he is a living legend.

Terry knows that his condition is terminal, and every breath he takes is one breath closer to his last. However, his faith in God and love of family sustain him. He tries to keep his spirits up. Terry says that his hero is his son, a Lieutenant Commander in the Navy stationed in Behran, which in Terry's words is "not bad for a blond-headed surf dude from Dana Point." Terry is proud of his family, proud of his success, and determined to fight a disease that is a clear result of corporate irresponsibility.

Terry was a guest speaker several times at the University of Southern California and taught for 12 years at Santa Ana college, where he would lecture on the social responsibility in business and ethics of business. When Terry was CEO, the employee and consumer came first, not profit. He was shocked to find out that executives of some businesses would knowingly sell products proven to cause asbestosis and mesothelioma. In Terry's opinion, "it is undeniable" that a product manufacturer has a duty to warn consumers about knowable health hazards from the foreseeable use of their products. Like many mesothelioma patients, Terry has trouble understanding why our government has not prosecuted the CEOs of the asbestos companies for homicide. "They knew it would kill, but they sold it anyway, and made money. There's a word for that. Eventually, the bad guys will be tried by the highest court, and they will pay."

Lucille, Terry and Roger Worthington. February, 2006Terry and former boxer, David "Punch" Worthington discuss the need for research at Terry's home on January 29, 2006


More about Terry McCann

  • Olympic Wrestler Succumbs to Rare Cancer
  • At The End, It Was Still About Surfing
  • UI Wrestling's First Olympian Dies at 72
  • "They don't make them like that anymore"
  • "Terry was the greatest coach I ever met."

As a Member of the Board of Directors for the Pacific Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (www.phlbi.org), Terry McCann asks for Donations to Help in Mesothelioma Research. (1/16/06)

Terry McCann: On the Record, Under Oath, Educating the Asbestos Company Lawyers about The Mission to Cure Mesothelioma (7/20/05)

*** ORIGINALLY POSTED NOVEMBER 15, 2005 ***