Ronn’s Story: A Sitdown with CaringWays’ Founder
“Asking for help isn’t giving up—it’s refusing to give up.” This is one of Ronn Hollis’ favorite quotes, one he lives by. It’s from The Boy, the Mole, the Fox, and the Horse by Charlie Mackesy. The book is full of memorable quotes, promoting kindness and compassion, love, and a recurring theme of how the characters reframe negative thoughts and feelings.
The underlying theme of that book is relevant to Ronn’s story because of the similarities. Ronn is able to take a dark situation and seek out the light. He’s full of hope, love, and compassion. He also truly understands, on a deep and personal level, the power of asking for help.
Ronn and his wife, Jill, were only married a year when they moved to Nashville on April Fool’s Day in 1998.
“The first week after we moved here there was a massive tornado that blew through downtown. It was a unique kind of situation because the next week my truck was stolen out of the parking lot. Literally each week for about five weeks, Jill and I would kind of hang out at the dining room table in the evening and wonder if we made the right decision to move to Nashville. But, I’m glad we stuck it out. All four of our kids were born here, and it’s been a great place to raise a family.”
The biggest shock for Ronn and his family came in August of 2014. After experiencing some pain in his abdomen, loss of appetite, and several other unexplainable ailments, he went to the doctor. He suggested an ultrasound to check Ronn’s gallbladder. During that routine exam, the ultrasound tech found fluid around Ronn’s heart and he was immediately sent to the emergency room. During an eight-day hospital stay, the doctors discovered cancer in multiple places.
“If you want a chance at beating this stuff, you kind of have to get your mind right.”
“I went from what I thought was fine, to just being uncomfortable, to having stage-4 lung cancer. So, I had to wrap my head around that pretty quickly. The one thing I say to anybody who will listen is ‘attitude is everything.’ If you want a chance at beating this stuff, you kind of have to get your mind right.”
Ronn found himself surrounded by a community of support. People he knew who had beat cancer were quick to pull him aside and offer advice.
“Being able to communicate with people who have been through something similar is critical. I had some really good friends come to see me who essentially said, ‘Let me coach you up, let me tell you how this is going to go.’ And that was invaluable.”
Ronn wasn’t a candidate for surgery or radiation, so he started chemo or as he calls it, his “battery acid days.” Jill and Ronn decided another part
of the treatment plan would be prioritizing their relationship, so they planned long weekend trips to get away together.
“That was great medicine just like anything else they were putting into my body because it allowed us to have quality time and focus, and there was joy around that.”
“That was great medicine just like anything else they were putting into my body because it allowed us to have quality time and focus, and there was joy around that. You need to have that (joy) because it releases chemicals inside your body that are helpful.”
Ronn’s chemo treatment started in September and he was in remission quickly. Nearly a year later, his condition had improved beyond his doctor’s expectations. When only two tumors remained, Ronn and his oncologist agreed to essentially “throw the kitchen sink” at the tumors, as far as treatment goes. It was relentless. The treatment was every day, five days a week for six weeks. Their efforts worked. The remaining tumors imploded. That was 2016 and he’s been fine ever since.
“I think probably at my core I realized how vulnerable I am as a human. And I had to do some deep digging to sort of understand how to acknowledge it.”
“I don’t think you can go through something so significant and not be changed. I think probably at my core I realized how vulnerable I am as a human. And I had to do some deep digging to sort of understand how to acknowledge it. I’m always gonna have cancer as a big part of my life’s story, and so it’s truly a part of everything that I do, every day.”
Today life is busier than ever for Ronn. He and Jill are planning a wedding for their oldest daughter and getting their second oldest transferred to a new school. Their two youngest kids are still at home, in addition to the family’s “crazy dog and an old cat.”
Life can change in an instant and Ronn is living proof. When he was diagnosed with cancer, Ronn didn’t skip a beat in preparing for the journey ahead. And through it all, he kept an open mind, allowed his family and friends to comfort and help guide him, and embraced help from others.