“ I am not what happened to me...I am what I choose to become!
Rick Franzo is a mAss Kicking “enforcer”. He has taken his brain tumor journey and used it to inspire people to fight brain tumors. He has started a support group, “Brain Tumor Talk”
mK: Thanks for doing this Rick! What/ when was your diagnosis? How did you find out about your diagnosis?
RF: I was playing horseshoes at a BBQ on May 9, 2009 when I lost all strength and coordination on my right side out of nowhere. It scared me enough for me to go to my dr. 2 days later, who sent me to a neurologist, who ordered MRI’s for my head and neck. These MRI’s showed a huge brain tumor, which my neurosurgeon said was the size of a cheeseburger! He said it was a Meningioma, a mostly “benign” but in my case very invasive brain tumor. It hit critical mass at the BBQ, which in my case meant it pushed my brain down as far as it would go and pushed my skull up 4cm, and had probably been growing at least 10 years!
mK: What were your symptoms?
RF: I look back and I had very subtle symptoms, especially about 18 months before discovery that could have been anything,.. nausea at times, sinus problems, not able to run or do martial arts well anymore. Nothing really that serious until the BBQ, if it wasn’t for the game of horseshoes that day, I was told that I would have had a seizure that would have killed me or slipped into a coma that I never would have woken up from. I also had a lump on my head for about 6 years and went to a doctor who said it was probably a calcium deposit because I had no symptoms, and I believed him.
mK: What advocacy movements are you involved with?
RF: I founded a closed Brain Tumor Support group on Facebook called Brain Tumor Talk that has over 1000 members, I speak publicly and at schools and Universities to students about brain tumors, am working on being a state lead for PA on behalf of the National Brain Tumor Society, and have written a book about my journey and to give Hope to others, “How Horseshoes Saved My Life, A Tale Of 2 Brain Tumors”, and a weekly radio show called “Catch The Brain Wave” that deals with brain tumors/cancers. I’m also a mAss Kicker cause Galvez says so!
mK: HAHAHA! That Galvez guy is a punk! You are so much cooler! Who are your heroes?
RF: My family, my surgeons, and the staff at Good Shepherd Rehab that helped me to walk again!
mK: What motivates you?
RF: Anger, mixed with a heavy dose of empathy are the things/emotions that motivates me most, believe it or not. Most people think of anger as a negative, but I use it as a positive emotion that drives me to take action. I have a rule: You don’t touch me and mine, and I don’t touch you and yours. These brain tumors attacked me, my family and friends like cowards from behind, and that I cannot tolerate! As my journey progressed, I realized brain tumors/cancers were much more prevalent than I ever thought, so I not only identify with people who have/had experienced them but have joined the war that we wage for a cure!
mK: When was the first time you felt like yourself after your diagnosis?
RF: Just recently, I’ve started to feel a bit more centered, over 4 years post op…
mK: What makes you laugh, cry, angry?
RF: Many things make me laugh and anger me but the one that makes me cry is hearing about a child getting a diagnosis of brain tumor/cancer. We’ve lost so many, I fight on behalf of them the most!
mK: What would you say is the most interesting thing you’ve done?
RF: Ever in my life? I was a Corrections Officer in a Jail, graduated 1st in my training class. It was a test of people and physical skills, there were times I would be responsible for custody, care and control of up to 64 male inmates, some were gang members, some going to state and federal prison for murder. I learned alot about myself doing that job, great experience for sure.
mK: So…“Officer Rick”, what was the toughest challenge you faced as a survivor?
RF: I think handling the day to day challenges of daily life itself is the greatest challenge, getting the “new me” to deal with it.
mK: What is your guilty pleasure?
RF: Onion Dip!
mK: What is wrong with Onion Dip? It’s awesome! So, what are your 3 favorite songs?
RF: #1 favorite song~ Rush: Red Barchetta! Pink Floyd: All of them! Any Classic, Metal and Southern Rock tunes! Can’t narrow it all down to just 3!
mK: Great choices! What do you like to do in your spare time?
RF: Spend time with my family, write, listen to music.
mK: What are you up to now?
RF: I’m currently working on starting a brain tumor support group here in the Pocono’ PA and Northern New Jersey.
mK: Any advice for people or loved ones that get daunting diagnoses?
RF: Don’t deny the diagnosis, defy the verdict!
mK: Cool moto! Tell us something about yourself that people probably didn’t know… anything.
RF: I was a professional radio DJ for about 10 years and owned my own mobile DJ business for parties, weddings, dance clubs, etc.
mK: Can we give you a DJ name? Any parting words for all the mAss Kickers?
RF: just a quote from Carl Jung: I am not what happened to me…I am what I choose to become!
Rick Franzo: former corrections officer, onion dip junkie, “DJ Ricky Rick”, and powerful brain tumor survivor advocate. Thanks for spending time with us! Check out his book, How Horseshoes Saved My Life and his brain tumor radio show, Catch the Brain Wave.