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‘When you hear it’s cancer, it just takes your breath away,’ The voice of OSU talks about his battle

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Oklahoma State athletics has featured legendary coaches like Iba, Sutton, Smith, and Ward, as well as athletes like Kurland, Fenimore, Sanders, and Incaviglia.

But "the voice" of OSU sports, the man most people in Stillwater hear, but many don't see. And he's currently in the biggest fight of his young life.

Bob Barry, Jr. reports on the public address announcer for Cowboy sports, Larry  Reece.

"Ladies and Gentlemen...it's a great day in Stillwater, Oklahoma.  Are you ready for Cowboy football?"

Oh, that voice. It's as familiar to OSU faithful as Pistol Pete and Eskimo Joe's.  And it belongs to 45-year old Larry Reece, who has been firing up fans at the biggest Cowboy sporting events since 1990.

"Here comes Bullet!"

But last fall, the man with the golden tones came down with a sore throat.  Reece had felt that way before, so he shrugged it off.  But a couple of months later, it wasn't getting any better and he finally realized he needed to get it checked.  After seeing a doctor buddy of his in Stillwater, he heard the word...THAT word, that all of us fear.

"'When you hear `it's cancer,` it just takes your breath away.  You can't believe it.  Even though in the back of your mind, so many people get cancer, there's a chance. I immediately put my head down and he says, `the bad news is:  with squamous cell carcinoma, we don't know where it is...so we've got to find it,'" Reece said.

"They found it at the base of my tongue.  And that was good news for me because if they found it on my tongue, with what I do calling games, with what I do visiting donors, it was going to be tough whether it was radiation or whether it was cutting it out," Reece said. "So at the base of my tongue, it was better news...even though it would be a tough ride for me, it was good news."

Larry said he had no idea the kind of impact he had on people, despite the fact he's been introducing coaches and athletes in the biggest sports at this major university, football and basketball, for a quarter of a century.

So when he got sick, he was surprised to hear from people he didn't even know, including a mailman from Stillwater who came up with the inspirational phrase used on tee-shirts and in social media that would help Larry get through his toughest battle.

"Well immediately you know, there's a gentleman here in town who's a mailman.  His name is Tim Bays who immediately tweeted out `I ride with the Voice.` And that gets me emotional because that was a great support," Reece said. "Because that became a (twitter) hashtag for me and people would reach out to me through that hashtag, whether it was on twitter or Facebook.  It was amazing how many people were reaching out to me."

While every kind of thought and emotion was swirling through Larry's mind, Reece knew it was treatment time.

He'd been told by many there was only one place to go, and only one OSU alum to help him get there.  So he punched up 'P' for Pickens on his cell phone contact list...and made the call.

"Boone, I think I've got one chance at this. I want to watch my daughter (Lauren) grow up, I want to grow old with my wife (Jimi).  I want to take care of my parents," Reece said. "And by the way, I'd like to call games at our alma mater, OSU, for the next 25 years.  So I need to go to the best," Reece said.

"Larry, I'd been mad if you hadn't called me.  You know I gave 'em $40-million," Boone replied.

"Yes, I did know that, I'd realize that," Reece said.

"He said `by the end of the day, they will know who you are and you will be in good hands,'" Reece recalled. "And two hours later, I heard from M.D. Anderson and we were setting up appointments.  So, I was very fortunate there."

Once in Houston, it was time to tackle this thing head-on, Larry thought.  So after slipping on the scary cancer mask, he put on the OSU 'eye black' too, like one of Mike Gundy's football players, to further motivate him to rip through radiation and clash with chemo.

He and his wife, Jimi, were in all-out survival mode.

"You ask me if I felt sorry for myself.  I really didn't.  I might've started, too, at the instant he told me.  But then I thought about our Coaches versus Cancer kids.  And how unfair it is for a 2-year-old, or an 18-month-old, or a 4-year-old or an 11-year-old...and I introduce them all the time on our floor," Reece said. "Because we have one of the best Coaches versus Cancer programs in America.  I get choked up every time I introduce them.  But because of them, they inspire me NOT to feel sorry for myself."

The OSU family is on-board with the Voice, with pictures coming in from all across the country of fans wearing their orange in a show of support and, like Larry, helping to raise money for cancer research with the sale of the shirts.

But Reece and his family, humbled by hugs in Stillwater and from total strangers, have made up shirts of their own to thank those who reached out to make this meaningful, even for a guy from Miami, Oklahoma.

And yet, the first check-up since his treatment is soon, real soon...any day now.  Still, some anxious moments await.

"I need my 'Prayer Posse' to say a good strong prayer next Tuesday, actually next Wednesday and Thursday.  Because I'll be down at M.D. Anderson and I feel blessed, I feel like it's gonna be good news," Reece said. "They tell me the odds are in my favor.  But until you hear the words `hey, we got it`,  there's some uncertainty in your mind," Reece said.

"I know I'm a blessed man.  But I'm anxious a little bit about next week," Reece said.

 

 

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