Brain Tumors: The Bully That Needs To Be Beaten

by Jaimey Strauch

Rick Franzo by Jaimey Strauch

In this day and age we find ourselves obsessing and stressing over all the wrong things. We remain in a state of ignorance to what is important in life, and how easily it can be taken away from us. Too many of us are blissfully unaware of what challenges people have faced with more courage than we can muster up for even a midterm exam. For example, how many of us know the facts of brain tumors? Most of us just picture Dr. McDreamy from Grey’s Anatomy. We don’t see the big picture. We don’t realize any one of us could be plagued by a brain tumor.

The facts are these: Every day 575 people are diagnosed with a brain tumor. That’s an average of 23 people per hour. There are over one hundred and twenty types of brain tumors, making treatments and diagnosis very difficult. Some brain tumors can’t be detected through blood testing, which means an MRI or CT scan are the only effective diagnosis tools. Brain tumors also don’t care if you’re young or in terrific physical shame. They are the leading cause of cancer-related deaths in children under the age of twenty. That should make these facts very relevant to everyone.

There are people on our campus who either have a brain tumor, or know someone who have been through the horrors of one. You wouldn’t know it to look at them, but they know troubles you can’t imagine. Many of us on campus know Rick Franzo as the manager of the Convenience Store below the student union. He greets every one of us when we come in and ask how our day is going at checkout. Few know that Rick is a Meningioma brain tumor survivor. On Wednesday November 2nd Rick conducted a lecture about brain tumors for a biology class. His story is one that could touch anyone, while informing them on what is truly important.

Two years ago in the spring of 2009 Rick was playing horseshoes at a barbeque when he lost his strength and coordination in the right side of his body. It was unexpected and had never happened before so he went to the doctor. After seeing a neurologist and having an MRI he was told he had a brain tumor roughly the size of a cheeseburger that had been growing for nearly a decade. It was a Meningioma, which is a benign tumor, meaning non-cancerous or non malignant. However benign suggests it’s not harmless, which is not the case.  If he hadn’t of gone to the doctor when he did, he would have been dead within two weeks of the barbeque. After ten and a half hours of surgery to remove the tumor, Rick woke up with a third of his skull replaced with titanium and paralyzed from the waist down.

For many people it would have been easy to give up at that point. Instead, Rick spent months relearning how to walk and take care of himself. He pushed himself to do more and set goals so that he could be the husband and father he was before he knew about the tumor. While there were moments when he felt hopeless, he kept fighting. He was able to do this due to the support system he had. “So many people in the brain tumor community feel alone” Rick told the class. Luckily he had the help of his family and friends, as well as the staff that helped him return to the capabilities he had before the surgery. Not to mention the Student Activities Assoc., Inc. that kept his job waiting for his return.  ESU should be proud to have an employee who loves his job as he does, and still greets us with a smile even after his ordeal.

Rick Franzo’s story is truly one that put’s life into perspective, and gives inspiration. In February of this year he found out he has a second Meningioma, and may need radiation treatment. His response to this was “I’m going to kick it out as many times as it comes back, because like I said, I gotta live.” The class applauded after this statement, and it’s this attitude that people should adapt to any challenges they face.

The purpose of the lecture, as well as Rick’s story, is to inform. It could happen to you, it could happen to your neighbor’s son, it could happen to any of us. As Rick says, “Tumors don’t discriminate. They’re bullies that need to be beaten.” People need to be aware that while brain tumors don’t have to be a death sentence, they need to be taken seriously. There’s strength in knowledge, so stay informed and spread the support.

If you wish to know more about brain tumors, or if you or someone you know is battling one, here are some links to sites with information, as well as support groups.

The Brain Science Foundation:
National Brain Tumor Society:
American Brain Tumor Association;
Kelly Heinz Grudner Brain Tumor Foundation:
Miles for Hope:
Brain Tumor Talk: