Things that need to be said.

Today has been a real tough day for me. As you all know I have been going through a lot lately. As per usual I only tell half of it. Why?

There are many reasons for this. I don’t want to be a complainer. I also need to keep things to myself so I don’t worry others. I know that isn’t the best way to do things but it is me. So I do what I feel is necessary. For me and for the benefit of others. I know that is selfish of me, but sorry not sorry, deal with it.

Most of my life has been a series of ups and downs. I am sure many of you know what that feels like.

I have dealt with childhood leukemia. I have dealt with foster homes. I have dealt with my Mom being sick most if not all of my life until she passed away in 2001. I dealt with my father not being in my life most of my life.

I say this not for pity at all. I say it for understanding. I always thought in the ways of survival. Not in the ways of right and wrong for a long time. Don’t get me wrong I didn’t look to do bad things. What I am saying is that my decision making was skewed by how to survive. Let me tell you it sure is not a great way to live. Not at all!

So as I grew up, it took me awhile to figure that I didn’t have to think like that anymore. It was freeing. It was also scary for me.

So life made me who I am… Isn’t that what life is suppose to do?

So I get the call today.. Something I have been told by others but hearing it from this doctor makes it so real…. Don’t keep your hopes up to get your defibrillator/pacemaker.. No surgeon or doctor will do any kind of surgery on you now or maybe even ever… My white blood cell keeps on going up and up. So far up that nobody would dare open me up for anything. What makes it worse is that they have no idea why it is climbing.

So if I go in the hospital with my White Blood Cells so high I will catch something and possibly die. If I stay home I could catch something and die. So what do I do? I have made my decision to live. I can’t live on the what ifs. I can’t live my life in a bubble either. I haven’t been feeling well lately. But every test has come back normal. What is it? We don’t know.

I do know one thing…. I am going to fight and be me. I am not trying to die but I am trying to live while I can. I won’t lie the news did depress me. It is scary to keep on hearing bad news after bad news.

So I wrote this post because like the title says these are things I needed to say. I may show an outward strength, but I am just human. I worry, I get depressed, I cry, and I ask why me? I also ask how much longer can I take this?

I do know that I will still be me, smiling, fighting and saying I will be okay. But know deep down I am scared just like anyone else would be. I am wondering what is the right thing to do?

So we you see me smile just know that I am not “fine.” I am just being me and not showing everyone the physical and most importantly mental pain and anguish. I am also not showing the uncertainty of am I doing the right thing and for that matter what is the right thing!!

Just know I am not ever giving up. I am just doing what I know to do. Is it right to put on that strong face? For me that is who I am. I will be a bit more making sure I am being careful, but I need to be me.

I don’t know if this post makes any sense at all. I am a bit scrambled lately. But I always have been one to say it how it is. I also have always written what my thoughts are right now! I hope you can understand and truly get to know me.

Why I do this!

So today I have been just thinking “Why I became a patient advocate?”

I know many of us advocate have different reasons why we do what we do. So I just wanted to reach inside and figure out why I do this . You see being a patient advocate is a very tough job. Many times it is a job that many people will not recognize you for what you have done. Then there are so many others involved that know what you have done. Then there are other times where if you wonder if you are doing enough. Especially after seeing people you know or grown to love are passing away.

So after being in deep thought these past couple of days, mostly because I keep hearing bad news from doctors for me. No I am not self pitying myself at all. It is just reality! My health has been on thin ice for awhile. Unfortunately all it takes is one thing and I may be down for the count, forever. That is true with many with rare diseases.

In my community it is always so hard to see people passing away and so frequently in the last couple of years, over 80 in the past 2 years that I know. You see they, the doctors and researchers, say you don’t die from Sarcoidosis! Well I call BS. To be specific, we might not die from Sarcoidosis, but most of us will die from a Sarcoidosis related side effects. For example, Heart attack, pneumonia,lung transplant, neurological issues and any other organ issues that our Sarcoidosis has affected.

In my case most likely be because I am too sick to get a surgery or two that I definitely need. We have been putting it off longer and longer because I keep getting worse not better. So what is the answer? I don’t think anyone knows that. You see I was suppose to die months ago. At least that is what I was told. A year ago April I was told I have a couple of months to live. Did I believe it? Yes! Did I accept it NO! So I know what ever happens from that time is suppose to be icing on the cake! But honestly who wants to die? I truly thought I am ready to die. I am okay with it! Well I am lying! I am not ready! I never will be ready!

Why you may ask?

Many of my reasons aren’t about me. It is because of my family, it is because of the Sarcoidosis community I fight for. I love fighting for my community. It is actually one of the big reasons I do it. I want to find a cure! Whether it helps me or not that is not the objective. My objective is to leave this world in a better place when it comes to Sarcoidosis and any other rare disease. Odds are we won’t find a cure in my life time, but if we are moving forward and are in a better place with Sarcoidosis then I can die content. My mission when I started my organization was to be able to say I helped at least one person! That was and is still my goal. Whether it is with finding that person with information about the disease, finding someone a doctor, or just being able to ease their mind to let them know they are not alone! So you see I am not ready to die yet because I don’t think I am done with my mission.

That leads me to a couple of things of what have made me happiest about being a patient advocate.

It is not the award nominations or winning an award. It is not the recognition I receive, if you know me at all knows I would rather be behind the scenes setting everything up. It is definitely not the speeches I do, though I have learned that telling my story does have impact on other patients and also others in the field that I communicate with, government or pharmaceutical companies.

What makes me so happy about what I do is things like:

1- When I get a phone call from a Sarcoidosis patient when they see on television that Senator Schumer spoke about Sarcoidosis when introducing Hillary Clinton at the Apollo. Just to hear their voice that they were acknowledged. Also to know that I was able to reach a Senator enough to speak about an invisible illness. Not just an invisible illness that you don’t see our pain but an invisible illness that it was hardly ever spoken about.

2- Having a patient call me to say that they were ready to give up about their Sarcoidosis, because nobody understood, and they saw my website, or blog and saw me fighting and they read what I went through and they said to me that if I can fight so can they!

3- Setting up a walk for the first time 5 years ago and continuing to see all of these Sarcoidosis patients coming from all over the USA to connect with other Sarcoidosis patients. To see them smiling and talking to each other truly brought tears to my eyes. To see them come up to me smiling and crying and thanking me for doing this and showing them they are not alone. One of the best feelings in the world is to see how many of them became patient advocates and advocates for someone they love is actually the best feeling in the world to me!! Knowing that even when I do pass away we have so many great advocates for Sarcoidosis. That they will carry the torch for Sarcoidosis for many years to come!

4- I love when I am able to do something out of the ordinary for a Sarcoidosis patient. Something that they never have expected. I don’t publicize that I do it. I just am happy to see or hear how much it has helped either them or their family. Some recent examples is being able to have Sarcoidosis patients and caregivers on a billboard a couple of times in Times Square! The first billboard was on Rare Disease Day that I set up. After that I was able to work with the billboard company two more times to get Sarcoidosis patients and Caregivers pictures and something they wanted to say about Sarcoidosis. I did it not to promote me or my organization, but to give these patients the power to say “Look at me! I am here!” It also was done to let others know that they were not alone and they had someone to talk to.

The biggest thing that truly made me so happy was just last month. I was able to work with the Brooklyn Cyclones to have a day for one of our younger Sarcoidosis Warriors as a Cyclone for the day. I know our Hanna was embarrassed about it, but she will have something to talk about for the rest of her days. Even if it is just that she got to sit next to the HOT GUY on the team and get a picture. She was also able to throw out the first pitch for the game. She did an amazing job! It also was for her family. I wanted them to know that we appreciate everything her family does for Hanna and all of us in the Sarcoidosis Community. I love seeing all of their smiles. I love that Hanna came up to me and said “Thank you and I Love You!” That made the whole day worth it!! All the pain and travel was worth it at that direct time!

So you see why I do what I do??? I wish everyone can get that feeling! Just touch one life and you made all the difference in the world!

So I guess part of me doing this is selfish in my own way! But you know what? I wouldn’t trade this for anything in the world!!

That is why I am saying I am not ready to pass away anytime soon! I want and need to do this not just for everyone else, but also for me.
I truly want everyone to know that no matter what happens to me that Sarcoidosis will be cured. It is moving in the right direction!

When I started this 7 years ago, I never would of believed we would be where we are. Thank you Foundation for Sarcoidosis Research for truly caring and moving forward at a pace I never knew we would be at. Thank you to all of you Sarcoidosis patients, caregivers and advocates! What you have done is amazing, ALL OF YOU! You might not think you have made a difference but everyone that I have made a difference not only in my life but also in so many others lives. How you might ask? Everyone that I have talked to or have chatted with whether on phone or on Facebook or any other social media, just know that you have made me who I am as a person and advocate. Each story has helped me make changes and set a course for every decision I have done. YOU ALL ARE VERY SPECIAL TO ME!

When You Doubt Yourself

Today many emotions have been going through my mind. Well actually it has been happening for the last couple of days.

On Friday someone who I called my sister passed away. LeeAnn Bruce was another Sarcoidosis Warrior and more than a Sarcoidosis Sister to me. She was a sister to me. We talked so much during our fight with Sarcoidosis, you teaching me so much and I walked you through some Sarcoidosis information. We talked about life. We talked about death. We talked only a couple of weeks ago. We had a short conversation, but a very impactful. We talked about life. We talked about what we were going through and what our mind set was. We knew that whatever we were going through we would fight and smile as much as we could. We both knew we were and I am still facing is not only up to me but to God. Yes we both knew and know when it was or is or time it is our time. Whether we like it or not. All we can do is try to be at peace with ourselves.

You see LeeAnn told me she was at peace with herself. I am so grateful for having that conversation with her. I know that is being a bit selfish, but you see this is what goes on with us that are chronically ill. We wake up happy to see the next day. We never know when we go to sleep if this will be our last day. I know people are going to say nobody knows what is going to happen tomorrow, yes that is true, but to have a chronic illness or worse yet being terminally ill is just another reminder that your life is different than most people.

Now LeeAnn passing hit me so hard. I am not one to show my emotions, When I say that I barely show it to my wife, daughter or even my counselor. I know they know I am sad and having a hard time but I hardly ever show how much I am hurting. You see LeeAnn’s passing hit me as hard as any other person that I know with Sarcoidosis has passed. There have been way too many people with Sarcoidosis that have passed. I know that each one is as bad as the other, but you have to understand there have been three in part that have hit me so hard, not because of anything but because of how close I was to them.

The first one to devastate me was Andrea Timmons. She was the very first person to actually reach out to me when I told everyone on Facebook I have Sarcoidosis. I went into her Facebook group TOSS. It was the first group I went in about Sarcoidosis. She greeted me with her usual amazing upbeat greeting! She knew I was brand new and scared. She came into my messenger and talked me through so many feelings. She always checked on me. We talked whenever we could not just on messenger but on the phone. She went through so much in her life, but she always made time for me, especially when I was going through surgery after surgery. She also talked to Diana, my wife to help her out. She was truly amazing! I always wished and wish I can be half of the person she was. When she passed it truly broke my heart. It also broke my spirit for awhile. But I remember that Andrea is the one who talked me into being an advocate. In her exact words ” Do you realize what you are capable of doing? You have the power to make a difference in people’s lives!” That always rings in ears and heart! Someone so special had that much faith in me to make a difference! Someone who made a difference in so many people’s lives actually had faith in me and inspired me to do what I have done and still do!

Then I got a call from Kelli from FSR ( Foundation for Sarcoidosis Research) ” Frank I wanted you to hear this from me before anyone else. Paul Dickerson passed away!” I thought I was dreaming! More like a Nightmare! His wife wanted me and some others to know before everyone was told. Wow! She found out her husband passed away and she took the time to tell Kelli to call me and some others before anyone else knew. You see Paul is another amazing Sarcoidosis Ambassador, but he was so much more than that to me! He was my friend, not just any friend but one I considered to be one of my best friends. When I met him at Ambassador training I knew he was so special. His insight and demeanor just put me at peace. He always told me ” You are my hero!” But he was my hero! I told him that. He always just shook it off as I haven’t been through half of what you been through. I said to him ” It isn’t how much we have been through, but our fight to get through what we are faced with!” We used that as our mantra of life! We talked in emails, messenger, and the best times were on the phone. We talked about how we could help each other out. We talked about our struggles but most of all we talked about family and life. One thing I will always remember from our talks whether on the phone or in person, there is one thing we always ended our conversation with! ” I LOVE YOU BROTHER!” He always told me that! Of course I would say it back, why? Because I truly loved and will always love Paul! We weren’t “blood brothers” but we were BROTHERS! Blood isn’t the only way to be brothers. So I am going to stop this paragraph by saying “PAUL I LOVE YOU BROTHER!!”

You see when you advocate for something like a rare disease or chronic illness, there are times when you truly look at your self and say ” Am I really doing the right thing?” You ask yourself “Am I actually making a difference?” “Why do I do this?” “Should I just stop doing this?” It is normal to have these feelings, especially when you see people dying so often. I know I am doing this for a reason. I know I have made people think. But is that enough? I guess that is for someone else to decide. I know I doubt myself many times, but like I have told these three people, no promised these three people “I WON’T QUIT FIGHTING FOR THOSE WHO CAN’T FIGHT FOR THEMSELVES!”

I don’t want to sound conceited or anything of that sort. But I do know I found my calling! I got these diseases for a reason. Whether I like it or not, I got these diseases to help others, but most importantly to help me. I got these diseases to guide me to do something and be somebody I have always had inside of me. I am a fighter. Always have been always will be. I made many mistakes in my life. I am not proud of them, but it truly brought me to this place. It made me fight not just for myself, but for so many others. Many of them who aren’t able to fight for themselves. If you would of asked me when I was a kid this is where my life would of taken me, I would of laughed, well maybe not laughed but definitely would not of believed it. I never considered myself a fighter. For a long time I considered myself a survivor. There is a big difference. A survivor is someone who does things so he lives. A fighter is someone who does things not for just myself but for others so they can live as well as I can. I have considered the difference for a long time. What makes me different now compared to me before? Well part of it is maturity, another part is learning who I am and what I want to do. I know that the odds of them finding a cure for me is very small. But knowing I can get us moving in the right direction and also if I can help someone find a doctor or recommend some medication help to ease their pain or might even put them in remission is what keeps me going. I have come to terms about me and my health. They are trying to pull a rabbit out of a hat. Doctors have basically said that we are trying to make you feel comfortable. That is a weird feeling, but I know I am going to be okay. Honestly no matter what happens to me I will be okay. Am I ready for death? Is anyone truly ready? I can say this.. I am at peace! I am scared but at peace!

So here I am day three writing this blog. Never knew this was going to be so hard to write. Like I said in the beginning so many emotions going through my head and my body. Lots of crying, lots of soul searching and lots of praying that whatever happens that these people who keep on dying due to this terrible disease called Sarcoidosis aren’t dying in vain.

I just got home from my Rheumatologist and we were just discussing this. He says why are we so far off on discovering anything about this disease? That is a doctor who has so many Sarcoidosis patients asking that. Truly a scary thought.

Well I promised so many people, especially these three great people, that I won’t quit fighting for them and all of those of us that have this disease. I can’t quit! I won’t lie I have thought about giving up! I won’t give up! It isn’t me! I have to fight! Not only for all those people but for me! I give up on fighting, I give up on myself!

Like I have said so many times ” I HAVE SARCOIDOSIS BUT IT DOESN’T HAVE ME!” IT WILL NEVER WIN! I MAY NOT GET A CURE BUT IT WILL NEVER BEAT ME!!

For all of you that have been affected by LeeAnn’s death, which is many, don’t give up! LeeAnn never gave up! Andrea never gave up! Paul never gave up! I never gave up!

“YOU ARE NOT ALONE!”

My Story Then and Now

I am making videos about my journey with Sarcoidosis and Parkinson’s. I made these videos with the hope it may help at least one person to show them 3 things. I want you to know we all have our own battles and wars. Don’t ever think yours is too menial. We deal with what we are handed! 

1- Never Give Up! You are strong enough to fight! My motto is “I have Sarcoidosis, but it doesn’t have me!” 

2- One person can make a difference! You and your story means a lot. Don’t be afraid to tell your story!

3- You are Not Alone!

I made 5 Episodes (Videos):

Just click on the underline name of the Episodes to watch these videos. Good luck and I hope you understand my thoughts and feelings!! 

I do know they are long, but I wanted to put my feelings and my thoughts so you can see what I have been through and that you can still fight!! 

1- My Crusade to find a diagnosis.

My Crusade to Find a Diagnosis

2- My diagnosis and Surgeries.

My Diagnosis and Surgeries!

3- My Advocate Years.

My Advocate Years

4- 2018-What a Year.

My Story Then and Now- Episode 4- 2018 What a Year!!

5. Thank You All.

My Story Then and Now- Episode 5-Thank you

These videos tell some of my experiences with having a rare disease called, Sarcoidosis, and having Parkinson’s.  I know it has been a long battle, but honestly hope it will be so much longer! 

You see this battle has really taken me on a ride, but yet I am still here!! I am also still smiling!! 

These diseases have changed my life, but has not changed my will!

As I have always said ” I MAY HAVE SARCOIDOSIS AND PARKINSON’S, BUT IT DOESN’T HAVE ME!” I MAY PASS DUE TO THESE DISEASES, BUT I KNOW I WON!!! 

ME BEING ABLE TO WRITE THIS RIGHT NOW SHOWS THAT I HAVE WON!!!