Deputy Holzberger Marks 10 Years as Cancer Survivor

January 31, 2023

Deputy Charles Holzberger is celebrating 10 years as a cancer survivor, overcoming incredible odds in beating back pancreatic cancer with the help of his faith, family and friends. He shares his story with us:

“On Jan. 29, 2013, I was diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer in the head of my pancreas. I was extremely lucky because the tumor, which was 3.25 centimeters in diameter, cut off my bile duct causing me to become jaundiced. I was luckier still, because MedStar St. Mary’s sent me immediately to the Washington Hospital Center for care.

On Feb. 8, 2013, I had a trial surgery, combining the Whipple Procedure to remove the tumor and a warm chemo bath. The chemo bath involved circulating the chemo through the open abdomen after surgery to eliminate any tumor cells that may have been dislodged in surgery.

Again, my luck held in that the cancer had not spread beyond the pancreas and bile duct. I was told I had a 10-percent chance of surviving surgery and if I survived that, I had a less than 10-percent chance of surviving five years. At the time, I said I was going to beat this with the assistance of faith, family and friends,” he said.

“In late March 2013, I started a six-month trial chemotherapy regimen in which the chemo was infused directly to my abdomen three weeks a month with one week “recovery” time each month. During this time, the Sheriff’s Office permitted me to work light duty in the Security Operations Center in the courthouse four days per week.

I lost all my hair and went from 235 lbs to 170 lbs. During this time, my squad (Jack Curtis, Nino Palermo, Ken Yekstat, Dave Koenig, Bill Gray, Skip Stewart and Tim Butler) was integral to my recovery. They kept me laughing, instead of dwelling on my cancer. They kept me fed when I didn’t feel like eating. They kept me ‘doing the stairs’ when the last thing I wanted to do was walk the stairs! Many friends helped and my family was indispensable, but these guys went above and beyond, proving that this job is truly a brotherhood,” he said.

“In November 2018, it was discovered that the pancreatic cancer had returned in my liver. Amazingly, it was operable and was surgically removed with no other cancer being evident. However, complications from the surgery led to five months of recurrent infections in which I almost died from sepsis in February of 2019.

During that time, my squad was always checking on me. I then returned on light duty for a couple of months before coming back to full duty. Again, I had lost weight down to 170 pounds. Again, my squad went about making sure that I ate, that I walked and that I laughed. I cannot say enough about the power of laughter to a cancer survivor,” he said.

“Four years later, I am celebrating 10 years as a Pancreatic Cancer survivor, which statistically is a 1-percent chance. I am truly blessed to have survived. I am also truly blessed to have been part of a squad that has shown through their actions that they believe in my survival motto: Faith, family and friends,” he said.