When I found out that I had metastatic cancer, I never felt that would be any benefits or pluses from that devastating news. All I could think of was the loss and pain and fear that this brought at that instant, and would do again and again. Though I was disbelieving that I was sick–I didn’t have time to be sick, I was supposed to be the caregiver, I had never even heard of kidney cancer–deep in my heart I knew that nothing good came from cancer.
I was wrong.
Much in our lives isolates us and alienates us from others. But there must be something innate in human beings who recognize new members of their families. Hearing a familiar accent, seeing a college logo or tasting something Mom used to serve draws us together and motivates a quick smile or conversation in a warm and satisfying way. Who knew that cancer would do that?
Out of my cancer experience, I found such a connection in Frank Friedman, who had such a loss to kidney cancer that he has reached out and befriended not only me, but hundreds of people–perhaps more. Frank lost his only child to kidney cancer, and from that grief grew the determination to help others who were hit by this disease.
Sammy was only 38 when he died, and quite young by kidney cancer statistics. But this disease which does not f0llow any rules, and does not respond to the standard chemotherapy and radiation generally used to fight cancer. The one rule seems to be that it is not diagnosed early enough, and is usually an “incidental finding” while looking for a broken rib or such.
To help deal with this loss, Frank and his wife sought others who were similarly affected, but could find no support group. Being a professor, then retired, Frank naturally took action, and started such a group. Of course, the emphasis is on education, which can be of tremendous value both to patients, their families, and physicians.
Through Frank’s efforts the governor of Michigan has declared March to be proclaimed “Kidney Cancer Awareness” month. No doubt many people have found their disease, and acted upon it quickly, preventing the disease from advancing.
This is a labor of love, but also a labor of time and imagination. To find speakers who can reach out to patients, to find patients who are not yet served and to acquaint doctors of this new resource–and to remind them of the under diagnosed and misdiagnosed history of kidney cancer, Frank spends countless hours of his own time. He handles all the meeting arrangements, produces and distributes flyers to community centers and doctors’ offices, invites other like-minded groups and personally reaches into the hearts of others.
How did Frank and I meet? We really never have, except through the internet, which brought us together. Frank is very active online, though is he hardly of the “wired” generation. Too often those of us old enough to be born in the first half of the last century–I call us “adults”–are thought to be disinterested or incapable of using this new mode of study and communication.
But leave it to a father and professor to reach out to teach and nuture! I honor Frank today, which happens to be his birthday, with this acknowledgement of the gifts he has bestowed, not just on me, but so many others. Not only has he befriended me, as I add my efforts to this fight, but to many others, and not just with kidney cancer. Join him and his group through his open Facebook account, “Kidney Cancer Support Group of Michigan”, or reach him directly by email at FrankFriedman8311@yahoo.com. You will gain a new and loyal friend.
Happy Birthday, Frank!