KNOXVILLE (WATE) – A Knoxville cancer survivor who has taken his diagnosis and literally run with it is the newest WATE 6 On Your Side Hero.
Michael Holtz thought he had a legislative meeting at the Holiday Inn at World’s Fair Park. Instead, we were there with our camera rolling.
“We have a surprise for you,” I told him as he walked through the lobby door. It is our pleasure and honor, Michael Holtz, to present you our WATE 6 On Your Side Hero Award.”
Related story: Knoxville cancer survivor shares experiences in book
Holtz is Tennessee’s lead volunteer for the American Cancer Society. He worked for the cause long before his own diagnosis with colorectal cancer nearly five years ago. Holtz continues to inspire others with cancer to never give up by being a steadfast supporter of Relay for Life, along with his wife Sarah, and by living through example.
Over the years, we’ve followed Holtz during his tough workouts despite having a permanent colostomy following cancer surgery. Both of his feet are often numb. It’s a condition called neuropathy, a side effect of treatment. Still, Holtz runs 5Ks and even a marathon.
“There are days where it is very tough to walk,” Holtz said. “But I am not going to let that stop me from doing what I want to do. I may not be able to run as fast as I used to, not that I was ever fast in the first place, mind you, but I’m still going to do it. I’m still gonna be out there.”
Holtz also wrote a book called “It’s Not Harder Than Cancer” to help others facing the same diagnosis.
“I didn’t want to shut up about it. When I was diagnosed, I consciously made the decision that I am going to talk about it. And I did, and I’ve been raw and open from the good to the bad, you know, it’s all out there, and I’m not ashamed of telling any part of my story.”
Good friend and fellow ACS Cancer Action Network volunteer Kim Isenburg nominated Holtz for the Hero award, and helped plan the surprise.
“Michael Holtz really is a hero,” she said. “He is a hero and a champion for cancer, and his battle, his personal battle, he was so generous with allowing people to know so many parts of that battle and I think that’s a challenge.”
“I was completely surprised. I had no idea whatsoever,” Holtz said with a smile.
More online: Support the American Cancer Society