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Toth faces uncertain future with hopefulness

POULSBO — At first glance, and even at second glance, Charlie Toth appears to be every bit of your typical middle-aged business professional. But he’s not.

His apparent normalcy belies a hidden struggle.

Toth has been living with an inoperable brain tumor for more than two years and an experimental drug has only stabilized the mass — but soon that medication will be gone.

“The FDA has only approved it for 24 months of use and I’ve got two more months to go,” he said matter-of-factly. “After that, who knows?”

While brain tumor treatments have improved dramatically since he was diagnosed in 2002, the size and location of his tumor leave him with no other treatment options, Toth said.

“My tumor’s too big and it’s in the center of my brain between the two hemispheres, so they can’t operate,” he remarked as he pulled up a recent MRI on his cell phone.

Instead of solely focusing on the tumor, Toth said he has made every effort to live as normal a life as possible.

“It was frustrating at first because I had to be seizure-free for six months before I could drive again and the slightest twitch would start the calendar all over again,” Toth explained.

After about a year, the twitch in his left arm subsided enough to allow him to return to the road, he said, noting, “It was great finally being able to get out of the house and start doing things again.”

While his lifestyle appears to be restored to his pre-tumor days, subtle changes have been made in his daily routine, he said.

“My short-term memory is not what it used to be, so I’m constantly having to write things down and that’s been frustrating,” he remarked.

Other than that inconvenience, living with the tumor hasn’t had too drastic an effect on his life, he said.

“I’m more appreciative of the things I have than I was before the tumor was discovered, and I’d have to say I’m a pretty lucky guy,” Toth commented. “My family’s been great and they’ve done everything possible to support me.”

One of his biggest supporters has been his sister, Jennifer Henning, who is riding in this weekend’s Seattle-to-Portland Bicycle Classic in honor of her brother.

“Charlie’s a wonderful person and he’s always been laid back, compassionate and put others before himself,” Henning explained.

Toth is the only boy in a family of five with strong ties that have grown stronger because of the tumor, she said.

“We’ve always been a close family but we’ve definitely grown stronger because of this,” Henning said.

Even though Toth is battling his own health issues, he still finds time to visit the cancer ward at Children’s Hospital in Seattle every week, which is a testament to his willingness to help others, she remarked.

This year marks the seventh time Henning has made the trek from Seattle to Portland and riding for her brother brings an added sense of purpose to this year’s ride, Henning said.

“I’m riding for Charlie this year and he will be with me in spirit throughout the ride, even if he can’t be in Portland on Sunday,” she added.

Through her efforts, Henning hopes to give brain tumor research an added boost that could lead to new treatments, which could ultimately benefit her brother.

“Hopefully he stays stable for quite some time, and if it doesn’t shrink, hopefully it won’t grow bigger,” she said. “We hope to have him around for a very long time.”

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