Danny Holt

Danny Holt never smoked a cigarette in his life. He never sucked the clouds of secondhand smoke or poisonous asbestos.

But somehow, the 23-year-old Danbury man and former Danbury High football star woke up one day and couldn’t breathe.

At first, the doctors thought Holt had pneumonia. If only the answer was that palatable.

A March trip to Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City confirmed the unthinkable. Danny was diagnosed with a far worse villain: a genetic mutation of lung cancer.

And no one could swallow the truth without crying.

This was not some self-imposed nicotine nightmare, after all. This was a gavel swinging out of nowhere and declaring Stage 3 lung cancer.

“When they checked out the pneumonia, they found a mass in his chest,” said Jay Holt, Danny’s 24-year-old brother. “Not that you ever want to have pneumonia, of course. But in this case, it was a blessing in disguise.

“If it wasn’t for the pneumonia, they wouldn’t have found the mass in his chest,” Jay added. “But it’s not like a regular tumor. It’s an enlarged mass of lymph nodes, so they can’t operate. It was getting so big, it was crushing his lungs and he only had a pinhole to breathe through for a while there.”

Danny was strong, talented, smart and charismatic, the kind of guy everyone wanted to call their friend. We remember him today as we climb to the top of Hartford 21, with his memory alive in our hearts.