It was something WBAL-TV executive sports producer Chris Dachille had done every day since he began working full-time at the station in 2004: head into the control room and take a seat among the rest of the station's production crew to guide that night's sports segment.
But one night during an 11 p.m. newscast late last October, Dachille experienced sharp pains in his back, the first stage of a four-month process to discovering he had Langerhans cell histiocytosis (LCH), a rare but treatable form of cancer.
"I was attempting to just sit down and I couldn't," Dachille said of that late October night. "It was just really weird. I just kind of played it off as a joke more than anything else, and just thought really nothing of it."
Though the pain eventually subsided and Dachille was able to drive home that night without incident, he visited his primary care doctor for a checkup two weeks later. An MRI revealed what Dachille's doctor believed to be lymphoma based in the spine. Dachille then had a number of biopsies to confirm he had lymphoma, but none of the tests were able to do so.
By late February, Dachille's gait had turned into a limp, which prompted him to get an MRI and PET/CT scan. The MRI revealed a fracture in his left hip. Dachille had successful hip surgery Feb. 26, during which tumor samples were taken. That led to Dachille's LCH diagnosis in March.
About one out of a million adults are affected by LCH. Dachille joked he "kind of won the reverse lottery," but it was a relief to him that he finally figured out why his body was failing him.
"It was very frustrating," Dachille said. "I started to assemble what they call a cancer team. Everyone had different ideas, but no one really could pinpoint exactly what it was. It's an unsettling situation. You lose sleep over it, obviously. It's tough. But now we have a plan of action, which is nice to have."
Dachille is scheduled for 12 rounds of chemotherapy, the first of which he underwent in April. The current plan calls for three weeks between chemotherapy treatments, with the goal to be cancer-free by the end of his treatments next year. Dachille plans to continue to work between rounds of chemotherapy as much as he can; he received a standing ovation upon returning to WBAL April 24, after his first round of chemotherapy.
Dachille's family at WBAL began a "Cash For Dash" GoFundMe in early April to help Dachille offset some of the financial costs of battling cancer. The effort raised about $28,000 through early May. WBAL sports anchor Gerry Sandusky said he and a few others in the newsroom came up with the idea.
"The great part is just to see how many people reached out to Chris," said Sandusky, who first met Dachille when the latter was an intern at the station. "It was affirming for him to see just how many people were there for him in his hour of need. To see those numbers build up to where he knew, 'OK, a lot of the financial pressure is now off,' and he can focus on his health, that was a really big step for him to put his energy into his health and not try to fight a war on two fronts."
Said Dachille: "To see that thing take off was kind of mind-blowing. It's just very awesome to know that there are so many people that care about you and love you. That was pretty amazing."
Dachille began working full-time at WBAL shortly after graduating from the University of South Carolina in 2004. Armed with a broad range of sports knowledge, Dachille is the brains behind WBAL's sports newscasts. Story ideas flow through Dachille, as do the decisions about what video to use for the broadcast and the graphics to put on the screen.
Dachille is the point man for WBAL's local sports specials, like the station's three-and-a-half hour lead-in to the Preakness Stakes and the "Olympic Zone" shows every two years. He's also responsible for ensuring the station has the proper staffing at upcoming sporting events.
Dachille is "second-to-none" as a sports producer, according to WBAL general manager Dan Joerres, but "more importantly, he's a special person to have on the staff as he buoys everybody else." One of the secrets to Dachille's success as a producer is his personality, which teems with positivity. Now, doctors, nurses and technicians see that same personality as Dachille works to beat cancer.
"He is so unfailingly polite and upbeat to those people that they then are in love with him," said WBAL sports anchor Pete Gilbert, who has known Dachille since 2004. "They can't believe they have the nicest patient in the world, and that's who he is. He's constantly apologizing for them having to do their jobs. It's not what they normally get in there. I've enjoyed watching their reaction coming to see who he is that I've known for so long."