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Fred Kalil's role changes at 11Alive

6:19 AM, Aug 28, 2013   |    comments
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ATLANTA -- Just last week Fred Kalil found a handwritten list of goals he made in college -- 35 years ago.

"It said be a weekend sports anchor in a top 10 market by age 30. I was a weeknight anchor at age 33, and I've done it for 22 years," Fred said.

In those years as 11Alive's Sports Director, Fred amassed a closet filled with Emmys and a string of unforgettable stories, but maybe the biggest story was about him. 

"I kept having these monster headaches and forgetting things. And I just could not get through it," he said.

Fred was driven from the station to Piedmont Hospital on an August night 13 years ago, and that's when they found the tumor.

"Dr. Gary Gropper, my boy, G-squared, came in and said, 'I know what it is, I know where it is, I'm going to go in and get it, I'm 98 percent sure it's benign. We'll be done,'" Fred said.

Dr. Gropper was right. They got all of it. But for Fred, it wasn't done. It was the beginning of a long recovery. 

"I woke up and I couldn't talk, really. I really could not talk much," he said.

Fred had to relearn everything -- and he returned to the air just three months later.

Fred's life outside of TV changed. In talking about his brain tumor support group, Fred reminds us why he's so funny. 

"They'll steal each others' walkers. We'd go to lunch and we'd have the same conversation 15 times in a half hour. It was new to us," he said, laughing.

Fred had to take medication to prevent seizures, and it affected his memory. It made the already difficult job of live television harder. 

"It was tough. And I got back on it and I tried and I tried and I tried. And it was going great.  And now it's kind of come back down and I don't know what it is," he said.

So, 13 years after his brain surgery, Fred wants to let all of you know he is moving off the anchor desk, away from the prompter he finds harder to read now.

"Reading the prompter has never been a lot of fun for me. Before I could remember what I was supposed to say. Now I can't remember what I was supposed to say," he said.

"It stinks. It stinks. It's tough. It really is. I can't tell you how hard it is to go out there and after every single show to think well, I did something -- there's something I can't do now.  I used to be able to do all this stuff in my sleep," he added.

Fred will still bring us stories about champions and underdogs -- about heartbreaking losses and life-affirming comebacks -- and he will tell them with the wisdom of someone who knows both.

That college boy with the handwritten list of dreams? He surpassed them.

"I'm here. I'm talking to you. I may not anchor sports the way I used to, I may not do the things the way I used to be able to do them. I'll adjust; I'll survive. I'm grateful for everything. I can't be upset about that," he said.

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