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SF Blog: Farm Markets Trader Battles Cancer

His friends have labeled his gofundme account: Tough Like Todd

Editor's Note: Since I wrote this article, Todd Swenson passed away on July 18, 2017. You can view his obituary here.

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It was nearly a decade ago when I first went to work on the floor of the Chicago Board of Trade, reporting on the daily ins and outs of the farm markets right here on Agriculture.com.

Understanding the floor dynamics and the traders was quite the undertaking. I knew nobody. It was like walking through a rock concert and seeing only unfamiliar faces.

One day, while working on a story about the options markets, I was introduced to a longtime soybean options trader.

He seemed so normal that I had a hard time believing he was a trader. I thought to myself that this guy could be the one to help me interpret this crazy business for my farmer-readers around the world.

(He did end up doing just that.)

As luck would have it, he asked where I was from. After I said I’d grown up in Iowa, he shared that he graduated from Iowa State University.

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Man, was I relieved to find someone on that floor who had patience enough to take time to talk to this rookie floor reporter.

Todd Swenson became a floor source and trader-friend in a short time.

Successful Farming magazine even featured the options trader on the cover of our 2008 Mid-November Marketing Issue (shown at right).

Struck With Cancer

Recently I have learned that Todd, one of the nicest guys I met while working for four years on the Chicago trading floor, has been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

If you know your cancers, you know that, unfortunately, this one has no cure.

Todd is staying optimistic, coping as well as he can, all while receiving chemotherapy twice a week. You could say he is fighting for his life. Since he once was a sprinter in track, I like to think that he is running for his life.

Tough Like Todd

“I found out about it really out of the blue. I went to visit my doctor on May 1 because I wasn’t feeling well. At first, they diagnosed me with pneumonia. I started taking antibiotics. But the very next week, my leg swelled up real big. The next week I went back into the doctor and after a bunch of testing, the medical staff came up with the diagnosis of pancreatic cancer,” Swenson told me in a phone interview from his home in Evanston, Illinois.

Pam Swenson, Todd’s wife, in a recent phone interview, said the swollen leg was a result of blood clots. “This is one of the symptoms of pancreatic cancer,” she said.

“Up until the diagnosis, I felt a little fatigued. But otherwise, I was feeling fine. I wasn’t missing any work,” said Todd.

How Are You Doing?

The Swensons have three college-age children.

“It’s obviously a challenge, having kids and helping them understand what’s going on. It’s hard for them and hard for my wife and me. So, in that sense it’s hard. Myself, I’m coping. That’s what you have to do.” Swenson added, “This is the toughest thing that I’ve had to face in my lifetime. The whole thing of losing your autonomy and being unable to think for yourself.”

To cope with this diagnosis, Swenson is relying on skills that he learned as a trader.

“Yes, that business makes you tough, you have to grind through. So, there are a lot of things that I had to do through work that are relevant in handling this type of situation,” Swenson said.

People Want To Help

As members of the Saint Athenasius Parish in Evanston, Illinois, Pam Swenson says her family is getting a lot of support.

“We have a great support system. Our community is great. Our Catholic parish members and friends from Loyola Academy in Wilmette, Illinois, are wonderful. The support they’ve shown our kids has been helpful,” Pam said.

“Because I don’t work, and Todd can’t go back to work, and since there is no cure for what Todd has, some friends did set up a gofundme page,” she says.

To offer up a prayer for Todd and his family, a donation, or to just see the outpouring of support, go to https://www.gofundme.com/tough-like-todd.

As in any battle against cancer, medical and living expenses spin out of control.

“We have three college-age kids. The saving grace is that we have raised them to the point where they are in college. The kids have been informed about their dad’s illness, but still we encouraged them to get summer jobs and internships to support their college expenses,” says Pam.  

Coping With Cancer

“I can’t read now, due to micro strokes. So, unfortunately, I can’t follow the farm markets after doing so for 34 years. It’s weird not being able to do the one thing that you have been doing for that many years and then being completely out of the loop,” Todd said.

He added, “The overall pain of the sickness is not traumatic, but I do get tired and have to rest a lot. I hope the diminished level of pain continues.”

Todd Says

“The toughest part of fighting this is knowing how my family feels. I have a great wife and three great kids and a great family,” Todd said.

What’s Being Said

Thomas Barry, a CBOT trader, posted this on Facebook: Todd Swenson is one of the more stand-up guys I ever met in this business. He is a broker with an innate sense of fairness and decency that always served him and his customers very well over the past 25 years. He and his family are truly being tested right now.

Scott Shellady, another longtime floor trader with Swenson posted this: “If anybody deserves the help, it's Todd. Hang tough, brother.”

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