In December 2020, Roland Holloway underwent a laryngectomy – a tricky and dangerous surgery to remove his larynx. It had been damaged by two bouts of neck cancer and subsequent chemo and radiation treatments. During the surgery, doctors constructed a new esophagus for Holloway, building a tube with blood vessels and other tissue excised from his forearm. His wife Jackie Greenholt says Holloway was “prepared to die” during that surgery, which was expected to last 14 hours. But Holloway lived, and now he can eat and swallow – things he hasn’t been able to do for four years.
“There was no going out to eat. There was no friends over for dinner. He’s one of those strong willed people. … He fell in love with being alive, and that is what gave him the ability, the psychological ability, to deal with this and and choose life.”
“He’s a two-time cancer survivor. And then after everything we’ve just been through, we don’t even know if this is a success for two or three months.”
“So, it was an X-ray … to test it, because, to make sure there’s no fissures, you can’t have anything that’s not water- based leak out or else I can cause you to go septic, and he could have died. … I heard everything the speech therapist was saying, and she was like, ‘OK, OK, drink some more.’ And she goes, ‘OK,’ and she rips open the Jell-O pudding cup. So the first thing that he ate in four years was Jell-O vanilla pudding.”
“Right before Christmas, I was able to swallow. And for my birthday, I was able to talk, and I was relieved, grateful, over the moon.”
“If anything, it encouraged me to live life to its fullest, make a difference in the community, make a difference with my neighbors, because that’s where the real power of connectedness comes [from].”