Private Cancer, Public Journey

News anchor and prostate cancer survivor speaks out to save lives

John Holt“When it comes to prostate cancer, what you don’t know can kill you. That’s why I’m so willing to discuss my experience with others.” 

So says John Holt, longtime FOX 4 News co-anchor, diehard Jayhawk, loving husband, proud father of an Army second lieutenant and a student nurse – and very public prostate cancer survivor. 

Whether with 30,000 Royals fans at Kauffman Stadium or a neighbor at a barbecue, Holt shares his personal cancer journey and stresses the importance of annual prostate cancer screenings.

Prostate cancer at 51

With Holt’s family history, his diagnosis wasn’t shocking. The disease claimed his grandfather’s life, and his father is a survivor. 

The shock was his age. Only 51 in 2010 and “a bit of a health nut,” Holt figured he had a free pass for another decade or two. He felt great, so even when his doctor referred him for a biopsy at The University of Kansas Cancer Center, he wasn’t worried. 

“I’ll never forget getting the call. We were so sure the biopsy would be clean, I’m grinning into the phone, all happy, like, ‘Hey! Hope you’re calling me with good news!’ ” 

“Then I hear this pause,” Holt said. “Silence. And it hits me: I have cancer.”

Many treatment options

Thanks to Holt’s proactive approach to annual PSA screenings, his cancer was detected early. His physician, urology surgeon J. Brantley Thrasher, MD, outlined various treatment options. 

“He was just so caring. Suzy and I asked a lot of questions,” Holt said of his wife of 27 years, “and he answered as if he had all the time in the world.” 

Removing the prostate was the most aggressive treatment option. “Dr. Thrasher looked me in the eye and said, ‘If you were my brother, I’d tell you to get it out.’ That decided it for us.”

Robotic surgery's benefits

For Holt’s prostatectomy, Thrasher recommended robotic laparoscopic surgery using the daVinci® Surgical System. He specializes in the minimally invasive operation, performing it four to seven times each week. 

Benefits include less pain and blood loss, quicker recovery time and better outcomes. Robotic surgery’s extreme precision spares nerves, greatly reducing postoperative risks of permanent incontinence and impotence. 

“Our robotic surgery results are excellent, as good as anywhere in the country,” Thrasher noted.

Postsurgery side effects

Thrasher said concerns over potential sexual dysfunction and loss of bladder control make some men hesitant about prostate removal. Yet within a year or less, 99 percent of his patients regain bladder control. Erectile function returns for about 85 percent of patients younger than 65. 

“My feeling was these are quality of life issues I can work on – but I have to have life to do that,” Holt said. “For me, surgery was the clear choice, and we felt very blessed to have this robotic technology available in Kansas City so we didn’t have to travel.” 

Two years later, he remains cancer free. He publicly advocates for annual PSA screenings during National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month in September – and every month. 

“A quick blood test can save your life,” Holt said. “It saved mine.”

As with all treatments, individual patient results vary. It is important to discuss your treatment options with your healthcare provider.