“Three Dates” by Frank Cervone

Frank DeMartini

This article is written by my friend Frank Cervone.  We grew up in Westbury together and graduated from WT Clarke HS in 1980.  Frank Cervone is a Republican Councilman from the State of Ohio now.  Recently, Frank has had some serious health challenges and they have been covered by Ohio press.  I have asked Frank to tell his story to our readers.  This is the first article of what will hopefully be a series.  My goal is to make you all aware of the disease that Frank is currently suffering from and to hopefully, raise money for its treatment and to fund a cure. (Frank DeMartini)

Three Dates

Frank Cervone

Frank Cervone Being Sworn in for Fairborn City Council

Everyone has dates in their lives that they will always remember other than the obvious birthdays and anniversaries.  There are three dates that will always stand out for me:  December 2, 2003, October 13, 2008, and April 28, 2010.

December 2, 2003, the day I was sworn in as Councilman for the City of Fairborn, Ohio.  Ohio is primarily a Republican state, and I was excited to become a cog in the big political wheel.  I was going to make a difference in this little town.  I was a New Yorker in a small Midwestern town, and I settled in to do the best job I could to make this sleepy town’s mark on the world.

Over the years, I have found that it takes more to steer your community than raising your right hand and swearing to uphold the Constitution.  It takes a lot of involvement in both the events and the lives of your community.  I am a hands-on person.  In addition to the various organizations you’re expected to be a part of as en elected official, I also firmly believe I was elected to represent the people of my community, so I make it my business to walk the neighborhoods, knocking on doors and speaking with those that pay my salary.  I have found that citizens are much more likely to tell you what’s on their mind sitting on their front porch than they are standing at a podium in front of cameras and a bunch of people in suits.

In addition to initiating the neighborhood walks, I have organized an annual clean-up of the City.  A group of concerned citizens and I get out early on Saturday mornings in the spring and clear the trash that has collected during the winter in the entranceways to our community.

I like to be out in my community and you may find me anywhere.  Lots of ideas and information can be shared at the local grocery store and my citizens know that it is not an interruption of my time to stop me wherever they see me to let me know what’s on their mind.

Until recently, I served as the Vice-President of the Greene County Regional Planning and Coordinating Commission.  The GCRPCC is an entity of 21 Cities, Towns and Villages that oversee the development of the County.  I have proudly served as their Vice-President for the past four years.

October 13, 2008, the second of my most memorable dates.  That would be the day that would change life as I know it.  While getting ready for work in my full-time job as a Tractor-Trailer repossessor, I became ill.  My wife found me in the hall, partially conscious with symptoms resembling a stroke.

Over the next year and a half, I frequented Kettering Medical Center.  I suffered bouts of light-headedness, dizziness and unexplained weight loss.  I experienced every cardiac test known to man:  EKG, blood flow, blood volume, tilt table, stress test.  You name it, I had it.  Anyone that knows me knows testing has never been my strong suit.  So, since I didn’t pass those tests either, I was rewarded with the placement of a Pacemaker.

The pacemaker didn’t stop or even slow down my symptoms, so they started new tests:  MRI’s, cat scans, x-rays.  During one of these tests, they came across my thymus gland.  Now everyone has one of these, they create your immune system from the time of birth, and as you mature, it shrinks and is supposed to be barely, if visible at all.  Mine was very large, so that meant either I hadn’t matured, which wasn’t quite a possibility at age 47, unless you take my friends word for it, or it may be malfunctioning and attacking my body.  Since they couldn’t do much with the maturity option, they opted to remove it.  Now, that sounds relatively easy to remove a gland.  Well, not this one.  This particular body part lies against the front of your heart, so the only way to access to it is through your chest.  Thus, I became a member of the zipper club.

Well, still no change in symptoms, so time to call in the big guns; the Cleveland Clinic.  With new physicians come new tests.  Epilepsy studies, spinal taps, radioactive injections, and blood work; lots of blood work.  Can a person survive with the lab taking that much blood?

April 28, 2010,  This is the last date that has made a major change in my life:  April 28, 2010.  You know you’re about to have a bad day when the doctor asks if you can wait a few minutes until they see their last patient because they need to talk to you.  While waiting for them to come back, you talk to your wife about who knows what as your mind is racing to every disease you’ve ever heard of and trying to remember the symptoms to see if they fit what you feel.  Then the door opens and the doctor walks in.

There must be a class in medical school titled:  “How to Tell a Patient They are Going to Die.”  It goes like this.  Pull your stool up real close, lean forward, and speak in four word sentences.

“It’s Multiple System Atrophy.”

“I am so sorry.”

“Frank, you have MSA.”

“There is no treatment.”

Long pause….  “There is no cure.”

“I am so sorry.”

Wait!!  Back up.  What did you say?  Multiple System Atrophy?  MSA?  What the hell is MSA?  Dying?  From something I’ve never even heard of?  Dying?  I’m 48 years old!  There must be a mistake.

“I am so sorry.”

Multiple system atrophy (MSA) is a rare neurological disorder that impairs the body’s involuntary (autonomic) functions.  Formerly called Shy-Drager syndrome,the condition shares many Parkinson’s disease-like symptoms such as:

■Extreme low blood pressure – The primary sign of multiple system atrophy is orthostatic hypotension, a form of low blood pressure that causes dizziness or lightheadedness, or even fainting, when standing up from sitting or lying down.

■Extreme high blood pressure – Possible dangerously high blood pressure levels while lying down.

■In men, impotence and loss of libido

■Loss of bladder or bowel control

■Rigid muscles and difficulty bending your arms and legs

■Impairment of movement and coordination (unsteady gait, loss of balance)

■A reduction in the production of perspiration, tears and saliva

■Impaired control of body temperature, often causing cold hands or feet as well as heat intolerance

■Constipation

■Slurred speech; slow or low-volume speech

■Visual disturbances

■Irregular heartbeat

■Impaired ability to swallow

■Difficulty controlling emotions

■Agitated sleep due to “acting out” one’s dreams

■Abnormal breathing at night

April 28, 2010.  The date that changed my life, forever.  I’m still a Councilman.  I’m still a Republican.  But now I’m a voice and advocate for MSA patients and caregivers.  I have Multiple System Atrophy.

© 2011 by Frank Cervone – Used with permission

28 Responses to “Three Dates” by Frank Cervone

  1. Jessica on April 4, 2011 at 11:00 am

    Frank,
    We are so proud of you and we love you

  2. Pastor Thomas Pelt on April 5, 2011 at 7:09 pm

    Frank is my brother and hero. They are a vital part of the Church where I am Sr. Associate Pastor. I am so proud of the way he is an advocate now for the disease he has. Blessings and prayers to all!!

  3. Lori Jakeway on April 5, 2011 at 7:11 pm

    Thank you for sharing your story. You are such a strength to others. God Bless….Lori & Dennis

  4. Bob & Kay Strank on April 5, 2011 at 10:18 pm

    Frank,
    Bob and I are so honored to call you our friend. We are a supporter of you as our councilman and proud of all you do for Fairborn. You are in our prayers daily and are trusting God for a miracle. Nothing less will do.

  5. Paul on April 6, 2011 at 6:15 am

    Frank – you are an outstanding example of what it takes to help us move forward in our City. Thanks for all your contributions and efforts to make our city a better place to live. It is an honor to call you friend.

  6. Frank DeMartini on April 6, 2011 at 7:44 am

    I hope that Frank continues this series of articles as it will be a help to all involved. We are also going to look into making more people aware of MSA so that it is not longer a disease that noboby hears off.

    Your continued comments are appreciated by Frank and myself.

  7. Frank Cervone on April 6, 2011 at 6:43 pm

    Thank you all for your thoughts and prayers. I have the best friends in the world!

  8. Angelina Cervone on April 12, 2011 at 3:19 pm

    i love you, daddy!<3

  9. Steven Shroder, OD on April 15, 2011 at 8:41 am

    Frank,
    I am proud to have you as my patient, We know the two things not failing on you is God and your eyesight.

    Blessings,

    Dr. Shroder

    • Frank on April 27, 2011 at 7:40 pm

      Thanks! You’re absolutely right. I appreciate all you have done for me.

      Frank

  10. April Driggers on April 16, 2011 at 5:02 pm

    Great job, Frank, as if I’d expect anything but genius from you! When I found out about your diagnosis from Susan, I think my mouth just hit the floor… you and your family will always stay in my prayers! Love ya’ll!

    • Frank on April 27, 2011 at 7:38 pm

      Thanks for the prayers April and I hope you get your plumbing fixed. We’ve been trying to find the leak under the dish washer for days. LOL

  11. Catherine on April 19, 2011 at 8:41 am

    Frank, there are not enough words to describe your courage and your will. I’ve known you since your birth, and you can kind of say you were the brunt of the litter.(last one born out of five) But you have surpassed and conquered in so many ways. I can not express how proud I truly am of you. Your strength is a testament to all!
    LvYa Sis

    • Frank on April 27, 2011 at 7:37 pm

      Maybe is was the ballerina outfit and wig you put on me! LOL

      They say what doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger. I’m doing both!

  12. Julia on April 24, 2011 at 2:39 pm

    Hi Frank,
    Thank you so much for sharing your story! That is exactly how we all felt when my father was diagnosed. He had lymphoma cancer and that is in remission and then he gets this (MSA)!!

    God Bless,
    Julia; Dad who has MSA!!

    • Frank on April 27, 2011 at 7:36 pm

      Julie,

      There is a reason this is happening to your father and only God knows the answer just as for some reason I have been picked for this journey. I’m sure he’s a strong man to have beaten the cancer and he will give MSA a tough fight too!

      God bless your family.

  13. Laurie Wierse on April 24, 2011 at 4:29 pm

    Hello, I want to thank you for spreading the word about MSA. My father recently passed away from MSA. We donated his brain to the Mayo Clinic in Florida in hopes that it will help find a cure for this horrible disease. My prayers are with you and your family.

    • Frank on April 27, 2011 at 7:34 pm

      Thanks Laurie,

      I am looking into donation here at Wright State University. Hopefully a light will come on and a cure will be found.

  14. Deanna Loden on April 25, 2011 at 5:28 am

    Thank you for what you’re doing to raise awareness about MSA. I’m so sorry this has happened to you. My sister was diagnosed at 48 as well. She was always the brightest of us five and a bit of an over-achiever. She still gets around but has lost a lot of her mobility, has extreme speech difficulty, can’t write at all (has all kinds of dexterity issues), and a host of other symptoms. I am a member of the shy-drager support group on yahoo for her. She stopped getting on the internet to read about this disease a long time ago (too disturbing), so I do it for her and pass along helpful information. It’s a great place to get information from people who are traveling down the same path. Live each day to the fullest! Even though life is harder now, I know, keep on keeping on. You may have a lot of time left. Will keep you in my prayers!
    Deanna from Alabama

    • Frank on April 27, 2011 at 7:32 pm

      Deanna,

      Hello to Alabama from Ohio! I hope you aren’t experiencing too much bad weather from these storms. In addition to being an electeed official, I am transitioning myself into being a self-appointed MSA spokesperson. If you’d like to share your story and a picture of your sister to give the world faces of MSA, please email me at beenserved@aol.com with the information you’d like to share.

      You are a blessing to your sister.

  15. Larry Schimpf on April 25, 2011 at 6:27 am

    I also have MSA. I was DX in Aug. 2005. My wife who is my caregiver will be sending messages to you for me as I no longer can type nor sit for any time as the passing out has increased. My weight issue is different as I was always small for my 6′ height I now am at 205 which is about 25 lbs more than my norm. Like you said all cases are different, but may I add, yet the same.
    Best Wishes to you.

    • Frank on April 27, 2011 at 7:28 pm

      Larry,

      I am sorry that your condition has worsened and I know first hand your frustration. Hang in there. We are a MSA survivor every day we wake up!

  16. Martha Norris on April 26, 2011 at 1:45 pm

    Hi Frank,
    I lost my husband to MSA 3 years ago. I appreciate your work to raise awareness so much.
    Martha Norris

    • Frank on April 27, 2011 at 7:26 pm

      Martha,

      I am so sorry that you had to go through this journey. I will continue to fight for awareness until I draw my last breath.

      God Bless,

      Frank

  17. Akeem Burns on May 2, 2011 at 9:18 am

    A Hollywood Republican » “Three Dates” by Frank Cervone is really a nicely put together blog. I dont believe my site http://tasrider.net/memberlist.php?mode=viewprofile&u=127902 has much in common with yours, although I can (and have) learnt a lot from you, cheers, Akeem Burns

  18. Bronco46 on January 7, 2012 at 5:19 am

    I know it’s simplistic, but; hang in there!
    Your a brave man.

  19. Tanya on June 19, 2012 at 6:32 pm

    Hello, I loved your article, I am 38 and was diagnosed 2 years ago, also on April 2010, my MSA progresses slowly and am still able to do many things, but I also have a pacemaker. It has helped me a lot. I congratulate you for your courage to make your illness public. Truth and honesty in this matters come at a price I know, but the awareness you are creating will help us all. Good luck to you in your future trials.

  20. Geraldine on June 22, 2012 at 1:30 pm

    I just saw the article that was published in the Kalamazoo newspaper . I am the caregiver for my husband of 40 years , who is 72. He is from Ohio though we have lived all over the world. He was diagnosed with cerebral MSA finally in Oct 2010. Every case is different. He has suffered from marked cerebral ataxia for the last several years and is wheelchair bound , speech is soft and indistinct. Most of the time we hang in there but support is so important.

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