Mr. Tim Hollern is an Assistant-Principal at Forest Hills Eastern High School. He is known for his happy, outgoing demeanor and engagement with many different types of students. What is not so apparent, however, is that he has been battling colon and liver cancer for over eight years.
“I was diagnosed with stage four colon cancer in September of 2011.” Since then, the cancer has spread to his liver. Shortly after Mr. Hollern’s diagnosis, his father passed away from cancer. “He passed away six weeks after I was diagnosed. So, I’m looking at another person at the same time who has cancer and they’re dying and it was hard.” As he searched online, he saw that patients with his type of cancer have, on average, twenty-months to live. “Then I got in to see [my doctor] and he said “my goal is to cure you of cancer” and I heard that word ‘cure’ and it stuck out to me.” Mr. Hollern went from having twenty months to having the faith to beat his diagnosis. “I’ll take those eight years and just keep shooting for more – and that’s what I’m doing.”
He has gone through countless surgeries and tried different treatments to battle cancer. “In [the first] year alone, I had two surgeries and three different bouts with chemotherapy. I didn’t have any radiation until later.” He went from chemotherapy to surgery to chemotherapy to surgery and then again to chemotherapy. “I had half my liver removed in my first surgery and then had about 18 inches of my colon removed in my second surgery.”
He had no further signs of cancer until 2013 when spots showed up once again on his liver. Luckily, he has not had any spots anywhere else in his body since then. “There’s a few spots in my liver right now – cancerous spots. One is in a very difficult spot for them to do different types of surgeries because it’s very close to the main artery of the liver and the bile duct system.”
Then, the doctors looked at giving him a liver transplant through the Cleveland Clinic. “A week ago, I went down to Cleveland and had that second test done, and they came back and said ‘yeah, it’s outside of your liver.’ Definite low point. Because we went into that with that being Plan A and never really talked about a Plan B.” Now he is waiting to hear what comes next. “So as of right now, I’m not going to have the liver transplant… I don’t know what my next plan is.”
Mr. Hollern has had many ups and downs throughout his battle with cancer. He described his journey as “a roller coaster.” The hardest part of it for him is waiting. “A lot of low moments: when you find out you might have a spot here, finding out we might not be doing the liver transplant, every time that I’ve been told there’s a new spot or something cancerous or might be cancerous that’s definitely a low.” But he also finds positives in his diagnosis. “Nobody wants cancer but I think that it has impacted me positively in so many ways.” He goes on, “I’ve been pretty good with [not knowing what’s next]. That was something at the very beginning that was hard. And it just wasn’t in my nature as a person. I would start playing mind games – it’s got to be this or that – now I’m more of a ‘let’s wait and see what they say and we will go from there.’”
He also spoke of where he found the courage to continue on. “The reality is that none of us are guaranteed another day. And I’m not going to waste today worrying because we’ve got today,” he said, “I have a sixteen-year-old, a fourteen-year-old, and an eleven-year-old and we sat them down when we found out that the transplant was probably not going to happen, explained it to them, and then told them that I’m scared just because I don’t know what’s next.” But he is held up by the strength of his family. “It starts at home. It starts with my three kids… I want to see all of them graduate high school and go off and do their things a be a part of their lives for as long as I can. We’re a pretty tight family.” He loves what he does and where he lives and the strength that his students and coworkers give him. “I want to be at work. I love what I do. I love the people I work with. I love the kids at Eastern. I always tell people that I have it all here. And its good for me mentally to be here with you guys and the people I work with and with teachers. But it’s also enjoyable… I’m not going to lie; there are days of doubt. They tend to creep up into my mind, those thoughts, when I’m home alone or just sitting around. I start getting some of those sometimes and I have to divert my attention. But sometimes that’s hard. There is a mental aspect to it for sure, and probably more so than physical.”
Mr. Hollern also discussed Hoopin’ It Up For the Hollern’s – a community event on December 10th to celebrate Mr. Hollern and his family. “It is so touching. So touching,” he said. “It truly is two awesome communities coming together.” This is one way that the FHE family shows their appreciation for him. “It’s going to be probably pretty emotional for me. I know that there will be some tears shed. And I try not to get there but it’ll happen Tuesday night… Here within the school, we want to cultivate a family atmosphere and that’s what it feels like to me. It feels like the big family is getting together from Eastern.”
The event will begin at 4 pm with JV Boys and Girls Basketball at the Main Gym and Aux Gym at Lowell High School. T-Shirts and tickets will be sold at lunches and at the door. Come celebrate a great member of our school and community.