Wilson Holloway is one of five athletes up for the 2010 Rare Disease Champion. His story is below, but click here to see all five stories. And please vote by sending an email to honor Holloway or one of the other athletes.
Wilson Holloway – Tulsa -- Third Time’s a Charm?
He thought he was out of shape. He was winded during spring workouts. This coming from the kid who says he could run for days. For 19-year-old Wilson Holloway, a Tulsa offensive tackle, he was disappointed that he was struggling so much at practice.
What he didn't know is how his life was about to change.
It was March 2008. Holloway went to the doctor after his offensive line coach, Herb Hand, thought something wasn't right. And Herb was right.
Holloway had a softball sized tumor growing on his chest. He was diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma, a cancer of the immune system.
"I was shocked. I was 19. Cancer, you just never expect it could happen to you," Holloway said. "I didn't know what it was, I just trusted the doctors."
He began a treatment plan immediately that included chemotherapy. Holloway never missed a beat. He couldn't participate in Tulsa's spring football practices but he was determined to not miss the 2008 season.
"One of the first questions I asked the oncologist, 'can I play football again?'"
The answer was yes and that's all Holloway needed to hear. He credits his strong support system for keeping him upbeat. His parents live about a hour and half away. His teammates would help with missed school work, some even shaved their heads as a way of paying tribute to Holloway. His coaches would visit, professors too.
The treatment worked and he was cancer-free. He began playing again, seeing action in 6 games in the '08 season, including the season opener just days after getting the positive news.
"I didn't know if I had played my last football game or not," Holloway says. "I'm glad it wasn't."
"I had a PET scan recently and everything looks clear," Holloway says.
Holloway says his doctors are optimistic too, saying the cancer could be gone forever. He jokes the third times the charm. Holloway doesn't mind being called a role model. He gets letters and emails from fans who are battling cancer themselves. He's quick to offer support.
"I tell them to keep pushing. It's temporary and the grass is greener," Holloway says.
Holloway is a redshirt sophomore and should have two more years of playing eligibility at Tulsa, maybe three. He's anxious to get back to work. Right now, he's getting back into shape. Before being diagnosed with cancer, he weighed 290. He's dropped to 240. He knows this time around, it's different. He knows what's at stake. He knows football can be taken away at any time. And for the past 2 years, it basically has been. But for Holloway, it's about the future. It's about providing protection for his quarterback and creating holes for his running backs. They've been so supportive of him and he can't wait to return the favor.
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