JOIN US IN OUR FIGHT AGAINST GLIOBLASTOMA
There is no cure for this cancer, but there is hope. Great strides are being made with immunotherapies and vaccines that are changing the landscape of this disease. There are a small percentage of long term survivors that use "the cocktail” approach - attacking the disease using multiple weapons.
Franklin Martin organized the Bubba Army when he was diagnosed with glioblastoma on his birthday, June 16, 2017. Frank's battle is now the Bubbas' battle. Please donate to help us make the lives of newly diagnosed glioblastoma patients a little better during the time they have left and eventually help find a cure.
On my 53rd birthday, Friday, June 16th, 2017, I was meeting my friend, Dennis Kelly, at Yale University where we were planning to hold our PDC – NBA Basketball Camp featuring Hall of Fame Center, Bill Walton.
Driving in bliss, dreaming of our camps success and happily fielding Birthday calls, my mouth began to fill with water. Then… WAM I started to convulse WILDLY, ”
Pulling over I dove out of my SUV into the street. An ambulance came and I was rushed to the Yale Emergency Room. I was told I’d suffered an epileptic gran mal seizure and had barely survived.
But that was the good news.
The bad news was that a Cat Scan revealed there was a large tumor in my brain that caused it.
The next morning, Saturday, a room full of white coats, showed me the results of my MRI. It displayed the same tumor as the Cat Scan. But much clearer. It was large. Malignant. Stage-4..
I’m a healthy young man, it’s my birthday.
What do I do?
The doctors gave me two bleak options.
1. Do nothing and die in 4 to 6 months.
2. Undergo an 8 hour Craniotomy on Monday morning.
If surgery went well, and I was able to avoid becoming paralyzed, a high risk with my particular tumor, I’d follow up with the first 6 week round of Radiation and Chemo. IF all went well I’d extend those 4 – 6 months to 11-14.
For me, easy choice. Who’s the best surgeon to do this operation? We are 100 miles from NY, there must be some great ones.
Nurse – We have the best.
Nurse: Dr. Jennifer Moliterno.
A woman? Hmmmm. Wasn’t expecting that, but….she probably has smaller hands and a smaller ego than most of the male surgeons I knew.
My dad was the chief of radiology at Memorial Sloan Kettering for six years. He always said, “Your mom would be the best doctor I know if she had the schooling.”
My old man was ahead of his time, way more than his son. He taught me early to be open minded and polite to ALL people, but to never accept anything that I didn’t feel right about in my gutt. Do your own research. This went for Coaches, teachers, clergy and doctors. After all he’d say…”They are human and we all make mistakes. It’s your life. Do your research, trust your gut and accept personal accountability. I listened to him, wisely.
I research her. She has great credentials, an amazing resume, but I need to meet her today, if she’s cutting on my head tomorrow. I buzz the nurse. She says, “It’s Impossible. It’s Saturday, Surgeons are off weekends.”
ME: But…Monday is surgery.
HER: Yes, you’ll meet her as you go in.
ME: I need to meet her before then, please contact her. I’m not going under without meeting my surgeon.
ME: OK… I’m in.. I’ll do it.
She’s surprised. I just contradicted myself. But I was thinking while speaking. My old man also said, always move forward, don’t delay, while evaluating. Cancel if you don’t like what you see unfolding, but stay on track.
Postponing Monday’s surgery, would have meant an additional week until the next surgeon could take me on – my tumor is very deadly and I don’t have a week….
So I charge ahead and call my Bubba’s. I decided while listening to these doctors telling me my life was soon over and I couldn’t meet my surgeon until I reached the operating room, I was forming an army to fight this evil disease right then! It would be called:
The Bubbas Army, and our goal is to BLAST glioblastoma.
I said nothing, but when the doctors and nurses left the room, I started dialing, the BUBBAS.
Rob Weingard and his wife Joey got on the top Surgeon in Manhattan within hours; Anthony Petraco and his wife Debbie checked Long Island; while Christine Wexler and Charlie Silk worked Westchester. By the end of the day I had GREAT options.
If I didn’t like this surgeon on Monday, I’d cancel and transfer to a hospital in NYC. But, first, I had to meet her, feel what made her tick, her bedside manner and….she’d have to pass a series of questions from Steve Shucker’s wife, Jenn, who’s brother ironically and unbelievably was also diagnosed with the same dreadful disease a month earlier. I didn’t like what Yale forced me into. But I wasn’t postponing, and I wasn’t going under if she didn’t pass Jenn’s 10 questions or my gut check.
Saturday was exhausting. Alpha male Bubbas along with their female Bubbette counterparts all barking reports on the top surgeons they each had for me. Why was I still in New Haven? Come home to NYC now! We have the best hospitals in the world.
Correct. Closer to friends for moral support. Correct, but I held firm. I wanted to meet Dr. Jennifer Moliterno first. Plus, I liked my nurses. And I was alive. Yale had saved my life from the initial grand mal seizure and it was….Yale after all, not some podunk health clinic! “Relax”, boys, if Nurse Rachet walks in on Monday I’ll transfer, but that is no easy process while I’m on life-support and IV, so lets give her a chance.
Sunday, is long. Friends visit. Jerry, Laura, Jimmy, Rob, Joey, Charlie, Mark, Skip, Jackson, and even Slice. They all want me to transfer. I pass out at 4:30 when everyone leaves. A tap. I wake. It’s a woman I’ve never met. I rise. “I’m your Surgeon, Dr. Jennifer Moliterno”.
“WOW! They said you wouldn’t come!”
“I can’t, my kids are in the car, I only have 10 minutes, but I heard your story and wanted you to know I am the person for the job. I’m sorry this is happening to you, especially on your birthday”
That was nice.
I asked her to sit and called Jenn Shucker, who asked her the 10 questions. I knew the answers Jenn was looking for, and she was getting them. All of them.
They hang up. ME: Doc, ‘”Where are you from?”
HER: Dix Hills, Long Island.
Me: “Hmmm. so you went to East or West?” She’s shocked I know both town high schools.
Me: “I like Dix Hills. Actually I love it.” That’s where Bonnie Weingard’s house was. “You heard of Jordan Court?”
Doc: “Yes, I have friends there.”
That’s really cool, small world. OK. Now, I wanted to check out her hands so,we shook – small, soft, steady, well manicured.
She patted my knee, you’ll make it through this, I can see you’re strong. We shared a smile. She had me. I trusted her. My search was over, I had my surgeon! A very smart and kind female surgeon.
The next day as I was rolled out of the operating room after a six hour surgery, I heard loud applause. Dr. Moliterno had done an amazing job. 95% of the tumor was gone. But it’s glioblastoma and you never get all of it. I’d need chemo and radiation for that. 6 weeks of it. It would begin in one month.
The word “Bubba” is a southern term used to address a brother.
It arrived into the New York City vernacular when Jimmy Burke heard a fellow actor from Texas, John Hickey, use it during a stage rehearsal.
Jimmy quickly ran it by our newly formed football team comprised of best friends and roommates, all former D1 football and basketball players. A thumbs up was given to the name and the Bubbas were established in NYC!
Over the next 15 years we experienced a lot of championships in softball, basketball and football, but football, even for the hoopers, was king.
The Bubbas played in Central Park every Saturday at 10AM. The team celebrated each win for at least 8 hours, shooting pool and hanging out at the Raccoon Lodge adjacent to Central Park.
During that time, new players gravitated to the team. We were unique. Multi-talented in many fields: acting, fashion, design, writing, sports management, directing, and finance. We seemed to have early success, but most importantly, on the main field…the football field. The Bubbas grew over the next 15 years adding new players, wives, and baby Bubbas.
We were selective, but if you were a good man, a good athlete, passionate about your life, stood strong for the weak and could handle a few drinks, you had a shot of making the team. It may take a few years, but we always gave “LOVE” – another adjective for “‘BUBBA” – so if you did the same, you too could become a Bubba for life.
As our playing days ended, we remained close through thick and thin. Whenever weddings, bar mitzvahs, christenings, or tragedy hits a Bubba, we all rally.
On June 16th, 2017, tragedy struck out of left field as I suffered a Gran Mal Seizure and was diagnosed with stage 4, glioblastoma. I knew to truly fight this dreaded disease, I needed a team full of warriors for my army. I awoke from the 8 hour surgery and didn’t have to look far….the Bubbas were waiting by my bedside weapons in hand.
And the Bubba Army was formed.
“While life's events are not always what we hope, they are truthful and what God intends. By using my terminal illness as a medium to explore life's hardships and the loving beauty that ultimately overcomes these pitfalls, we see the immense power that mankind possesses.”
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