BY JAMIE REESE
“When you think of the word benign, you think harmless,” said Rick Franzo. “What I had was anything but harmless.”
Franzo, who has been employed at ESU for six years and is now the convenience store supervisor for Barnes and Noble College, was describing the hamburger-sized tumor found on the exterior of his brain in May of 2009.
The tumor, despite being non-cancerous, was crushing Franzo’s brain against the interior of his skull.
“I was playing horseshoes, and I lost all strength and coordination in the right side of my body,” continued Franzo. “I reached maybe halfway to the pin, and when I tried to throw straight, I threw to the left.”
Franzo went to the doctor, and less than 24 hours later, he received a call.
“They called me here at the university…There was a neuron surgeon from Saint Luke’s in Bethlehem,” he said. “They told me I had a one o’clock appointment, and to be there.”
Without Franzo’s diagnosis, he was told he would have lived only two weeks before he slipped into a coma or had a grand mal seizure.
“When I came out of surgery, and I was paralyzed from the waist down, they told me that there was a good chance I wouldn’t be able to walk again,” Franzo continued. “So I started to keep a journal in the hospital…Not only a written journal, but a photo journal of my journey. Part of it helped me deal with what happened.”
After months of rehab, Franzo was able to walk again.
“I had a family member with me every day,” said Franzo. “I’m only strong because the people that were around me were so strong. A lot of people go through this alone, and I don’t want to see that happen.”
Franzo now dedicates his free time to making sure it won’t.
Franzo turned his journals into a book, which was recently published on Amazon.com. His book is titled, “How Horseshoes Saved My Life: A Tale of Two Brain Tumors.”
“Any money that I make on the book, I’m going to use to start a nonprofit,” said Franzo. I don’t care about the money. I’ve got my life, I’ve got my family.”
After rehab, Franzo did more than just write about brain tumors.
“My family, friends, and I did a fundraiser that raised about $3,200 for the National Brain Tumor Society last year. It was called Catch the Brainwave,” he said. “It was a carnival-type event. We had bands, we had carnival games, we had food—things like that. It was a way to bring people together from the community.”
After the fundraiser, Franzo started a radio show called “Catch the Brainwave.” He hosts this show every Friday during the semester on 90.3 WESS, ESU’s student-run radio station.
Franzo attended ESU in 1985 as a Communications major. He also worked with the radio station during his time as a student.
Franzo continued to promote awareness by starting a Facebook group called “Brain Tumor Talk.”
This group, now with over 900 members, is a venue for brain tumor survivors and families of survivors to meet each other.
The group’s motto is “A Warrior Never Lets Another Warrior Walk Alone….EVER!!”
Franzo has taken up public speaking to raise brain tumor awareness. He read from his novel at one of the weekly Wes Moore public readings, and he will be the keynote speaker for ESU’s Colleges Against Cancer banquet this year.
“When you’re laying there and you’re paralyzed, it doesn’t matter if you have the nicest Porsche or a Playstation,” said Franzo. “Take action. You have the power to do something. Don’t complain…Let people know and do something about it.”
“We come in here with nothing,” said Franzo. “All we leave with is how we treated other people. That’s your legacy.”
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