Skip to Content Top

German Immigrant Fights Mesothelioma On His Own

|

Holger continues to do his daily cardio workout, coming back drenched in sweat, and maintains an active lifestyle. Lynn proudly shares his treadmill stats of “10 on elevation and 4 on speed.” Holger's diagnosis no longer weighs heavily on his mind. In fact, Holger is taking a somewhat non-traditional approach to cancer treatment. He is choosing no treatment at all, despite his age and eligibility for potentially life-extending therapy. The reasons for opting out of cancer treatment are as diverse as the treatment options themselves. Taking an aggressive approach to cancer is certainly not for everyone, and for Holger, no longer up for debate.

Wait and See

What started out as a routine physical exam subsequently led to a battery of tests and ultimately Holger’s diagnosis of mesothelioma.

In October 2008, Holger went to his family physician for his annual physical. He had always been in excellent health and regularly went to the gym. When his doctor listened to his breathing, he thought he heard some unusual sounds. He ordered an x-ray and the films revealed some small shadows on Holger’s right lung. At first, he felt the shadows or spots were cysts and told Holger to come back in a few months for additional x-rays. But upon reflection, his doctor told Holger he wanted him to undergo a CT scan “just to be sure.”

After reviewing the CT scans, he became more concerned and referred Holger to the Dallas Regional Medical Center in Dallas, Texas. On November 3, Holger underwent a CT guided needle biopsy. Pathology analysis of the tissues returned a diagnosis of biphasic malignant mesothelioma, although predominantly epithelial cell type.

Holger was then quickly referred to a thoracic surgeon in Dallas. On November 13, Holger met with the surgeon who discussed “resecting part of the lung” but not all of it. Before recommending a treatment plan, he wanted to consult with an oncologist and radiologist to put together a treatment program. Meanwhile, Holger also wanted to seek a second opinion and scheduled a consultation with Dr. Robert Cameron at the UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles, California on December 8.

Sailing on Lake Texoma, Texas

Sailing on Lake Texoma, Texas. August 2003

After meeting with Holger, Dr. Cameron planned to run additional tests to confirm that the cancer was localized although he believed that Holger was a good candidate for the pleurectomy/decortication surgery. Dr. Cameron also discussed alternatives to his surgery including chemotherapy, radiation, extrapleural pneumonectomy and opting out of any treatment altogether.

After reflecting over his various options, Holger ultimately choose not to undergo any conventional therapies. He still felt healthy and strong. He had never really been sick in his life. Why did he have to start acting sick if he did not feel it? This had all come as a shock to Holger and he was not about to get rushed into any decision.

At the time, Holger thought about holding off on any surgery until he began to feel bad. Wait and see. After all, why rock the boat?

An Unexpected Approach for a Surgical Candidate

Holger believes his doctors were certainly surprised by his decision to not take advantage of early-stage cancer treatment, but they were supportive. They saw Holger as a relatively young and healthy patient whose chances for recovery were good. Although nothing is ever guaranteed, there are risks and benefits with all surgery and each patient’s results can greatly vary. Undoubtedly, some side-effects may have a profound impact on a patient’s life.

Holger is not willing to take this chance. For him it was about maintaining his quality of life rather than participating in aggressive intervention. For many cancer patients, they may also prefer to spend their days doing what they love rather than fighting a battle they’re unlikely to win. Holger did not want to put his life on hold having to recover from major surgery.

Seeing a family friend undergo chemotherepy also informed Holger’s decision, “She was destroyed by it.” He knew that his body would never be the same anyway after cancer and especially after having it “cut and mutilated.” To him there was no point and nothing was worth compromising his current feeling of well-being. Luckily for Holger, his decision was understood by his family and they fully supported him.

“Don’t Get Too Cocky”

Holger is very stoic when around Lynn and in the presence of company. In the months following his diagnosis, he became quite withdrawn and reflective. According to Lynn, he would spend most of the day sitting out by the pool just thinking. Nowadays he seems to be more at peace with himself.

Holger and Lynn are blessed with a wonderful family. Their daughter Tracy lives in London with her husband and two teenagers, Ryan and Laura, who visit every summer. Laura even plans on attending the University of Texas to be closer to her grandparents. Holger recently enjoyed their company and the affection they shower on him. They also have a son, Austin who lives in Texas. On the day Holger was diagnosed, Austin was doing his last walk-thru on a home he was about to purchase. When he learned of the diagnosis, he cancelled the purchase and moved home with his parents for additional support.

Lochheed Family

Lochheed Family - September 2009

Accordingly to Lynn, Holger has been sleeping, eating and exercising normally—it is almost as if nothing has changed since his diagnosis. Lynn never asks Holger about it unless he decides to share on his own. “Everybody handles things differently” and she has come to terms that “Holger doesn’t like to face adversity, he’d rather forget about it.” He also does not participate in any support groups, because he does not want a constant reminder.

Holger seeks out healing in other ways by continuing to stay fit and maintaining a positive outlook on life. He has retained his happy, carefree demeanor and so far, so good. It has been a year since his diagnosis.

Holger also no longer opts for getting radiology scans anymore. His oncologist only listens to his breath sounds and takes his vitals every four months.

Holger recently admitted to Lynn that he feels a new “twinge in his chest.” Although he does not know whether it will eventually warrant more attention or not, to him it’s just a reminder “not to get too cocky.” No matter what, Holger will always know he lived life accordingly to his terms despite having been unwittingly poisoned by asbestos.

*** POSTED SEPTEMBER 3, 2009 ***

An Update -- 5/12/10

Holger and Lynne have been enjoying the relatively cool weather in Texas and are looking forward to all the wonderful things in store for them this summer.

Holger’s oncologist was pleased with Holger’s recent visit and told him to keep up whatever he is doing.

The whole Lochheed family will be getting together in Texas for their usual summer vacation in July. Holger and Lynne even had the added benefit of an extended stay from their daughter and granddaughter from London over Easter vacation due to the European flight cancellations from the Icelandic volcanic eruption. Needless to say, there were no complaints from them!