Benefit for Alvin Broll, battling throat cancer, set for Saturday

When describing Alvin Broll, Rev. Dr. Jill D. McCray said he is the kind
of person who would do anything, for anyone. Since meeting Broll
through River City Recovery Ministries.

Rachel Kytonen
[email protected]

When describing Alvin Broll, Rev. Dr. Jill D. McCray said he is the kind
of person who would do anything, for anyone. Since meeting Broll
through River City Recovery Ministries, McCray said he has focused on
beating his addiction to drugs and alcohol, but also has done so much
for others during his journey to recovery. 

McCray, assistant executive director of River City Recovery Ministries based in Cambridge, first met Broll, 39, when he moved into one of the ministries’ sober homes.

“Alvin has beat his cancer of addiction, and now we are hoping he can beat his battle with throat cancer,” McCray said. “We are walking in this journey together with our brother.”

The community is invited to a benefit for Broll, Saturday, Feb. 5, from 3 to 10 p.m. at The Fish House in Cambridge.

The benefit will include a chili feed (free will offering) and silent auction and bake sale from 3 to 6:30 p.m. There will also be live music featuring the Bad Old Boys playing classic rock and jazz throughout the afternoon. Throughout the event, there will also be a Shave-A-Thon, with men, women, and children agreeing to have their heads shaved. McCray will have her head shaved around 6:30 p.m.

The evening will include a worship service, featuring the band The Satterlees, and a candle luminary remembrance ceremony.

Organizers are still collecting silent auction prizes, and cash donations. Any donation is appreciated and accepted. Any donation to the benefit will allow you to be registered into a drawing for a free three day, two night stay at the Waldheim Resort in Finlayson.

Broll said he first started having throat problems in January 2010, and was diagnosed with  resected esophageal cancer on April 28.

The funds raised from the benefit will go toward Broll’s medical expenses.

One of his medical needs is an adjustable Craftmatic type bed that has adjustable elevation settings.

He was admitted to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. on Sept. 16 to have his cancer removed. He had stage 3 cancer when they found it, and during his chemotherapy and radiation treatment. The doctors called it Adenocarcinoma and it was in his throat. The therapy didn’t shrink the tumor so the doctors decided to perform surgery.

When they went in to remove the tumor they found out the cancer had progressed to stage 4, but luckily they were able to take it out. As a result Broll lost his thyroid, nodules that help control calcium levels and his vocal cords. His only means of ventilation is his tracheostomy and he will have to communicate with an electro-larynx for the rest of his life.

“After my diagnoses, I went into a real deep depression, and  have actually battled depression my entire life,” Broll said. “When I learned about my diagnoses, my heart hit the floor. A lot of questions came to my mind such as why me? And what did I do wrong?”

Broll went through chemotherapy, and did 30 rounds of radiation, five days per week.

“Going through that was like having an internal sunburn,” Broll said. “I was forcing myself to eat, and was on a lot of painkillers.”

Broll currently lives with his sister and her children, and is adjusting to his new situation and having to use an electro-larynx to talk.

“The first time I used the electro-larynx I wasn’t sure how anyone could understand me, and it was pretty frustrating,” Broll said. “But now I’ve learned to talk slower and hopefully that helps people to understand me.”

Besides the Craftmatic bed, Broll also needs to purchase an electro-larynx machine; his is currently on loan from the Mayo. He also is looking to buy a specialized telephone, amplifier, humidifier, and some other specialized medical needs and equipment not covered by medical insurance.

Road to Recovery

McCray said Broll successfully completed his program through River City Ministries on March 24, 2009.

“Alvin did a great job in the program and has shown a lot of integrity and growth,” McCray said. “He has been really devoted to the ministry and has helped so much in the church and the sober homes. He has given so much to us, and now we have a chance to give back to him.”

Broll has been out of work for three years. He said the first year he battled a drug and alcohol addiction.

“That addiction lasted about one year until I found The Fish House,” Broll said. “After that my world changed, and my addictions were cured through Jesus Christ. The Fish House opened the door for people like me to find Jesus. I’ve always been with Jesus, but now I have a life-changing connection with him.”

Broll said he learned about The Fish House while going through treatment in Cambridge.

“I heard some people talking about The Fish House,” Broll said. “So, I wrote a letter to them, and got a call to come in. This place has changed my life. I thought I knew Jesus before, but now I really believe.”

McCray reminds Broll that nothing in his life caused him to get cancer.

“Bad things happen to good people,” McCray said. “No one deserves it, and it’s not a punishment.”

McCray noted the caring spirit and nature of Broll.

“When he was in the program, he encouraged other men on their journey,” McCray said. “Anytime we asked Alvin to do something he never hesitated. A lot of times, when he would see a need, he would just take care of it before anyone asked. He’s got a special place in our hearts, and we just wish we could do more.”

McCray is extremely proud of Broll and how he’s handled the situation.

“Even in the midst of all of this, Broll is looking at taking some college classes,” McCray noted.

Prior to being laid off from work, Broll was an equipment operator and truck operator, but now he can’t work in those types of fields due to the amount of dust and dirt.

Fish House members, along with Broll’s family, are planning the benefit, which is humbling to Broll.

“I don’t feel like I’m worth all this trouble, and don’t feel worthy of this most of the time,” Broll said. “I’m a pretty stubborn man, and figured I’d make it work one way or another. When I think about everything that everyone is doing, it puts me in tears to think there are good people in this world that care for you.”

To help

Cash donations to the benefit can be mailed to The Fish House, 242 3rd Ave. NW, Cambridge, MN 55008. Checks should be payable to The Fish House with “Alvin Broll Benefit” written in the memo, and are tax deductible. For more information call The Fish House at 763-552-2555 or visit “Benefit for Alvin Broll” on Facebook.

For  more information on River City Ministries and all their offerings and services, call 763-552-2555 or visit