Did you know that organizations such as the American Brain Tumor Association (ABTA) will match brain tumor and caregiver mentors with brain tumor patients and/or their caregivers?
I recently wrote about a champion in the brain tumor community, Rick Franzo (click here to read the blog post). In addition to everything else he does, Rick has served as an ABTA mentor for the last three years and he’s back to tell us about it.
This is a two-part interview. First I spoke with Rick about his experience as a mentor and then I asked Rick to ask his current mentee, David Owens, some questions on my behalf.
Following is a recap of the conversations.
PART ONE: what is it like to be a mentor?
Wendy: Hello again Rick. Can you please tell us how many mentees you have worked with through the ABTA?
Rick: I’ve worked with four mentees, including David whom I mentor now.
Wendy: What advice do you have for someone considering becoming a mentor?
Rick: Definitely brush up on your deep listening skills. People don’t really want you to solve anything for them, they just want someone to listen to them who “gets it.” Everyone’s journey is different, so just being there is the main thing.
People don’t really want you to solve anything for them, they just want someone to listen to them who “gets it.” Everyone’s journey is different, so just being there is the main thing.
Wendy: What do you enjoy most about being a mentor?
Rick: Knowing that my journey is helping others cope with theirs. Just being there for someone so they know they’re not alone.
Wendy: How did you become aware of this program and get involved?
Rick: I believe it was an email I received from the ABTA inviting people to become mentors for others.
Wendy: Why do you do this?
Rick Well, I know how hard it hit me from diagnosis to now, and so if I can listen and be there for someone in a similar position, on a similar journey, I am here to walk that path with them, no matter how difficult.
Wendy: I read ABTA mentors need to attend a mandatory webinar that is offered every 4-6 weeks. Other than that, what are the requirements and what is the time commitment?
Rick: The ABTA connects you with someone that experienced a brain tumor that is the same as yours. They do a screening questionnaire on potential mentors to make sure that you are a good fit for the program.
I talk to David every Monday, but it depends on what the mentee wants to do.
PART TWO: what is it like to be a mentee?
Rick (per Wendy): Hi David. How has participating in the ABTA mentoring program helped you?
David: It’s helped me a lot. It’s helped me to see I’m not the only one, and it’s important to share my story to help others.
It’s helped me to see I’m not the only one, and it’s important to share my story to help others.
Rick/Wendy: What kind of a tumor do/did you have?
Rick/Wendy: How was your tumor discovered?
David: In 2000, when I was 17 years old I had really bad headaches and I was getting treated at the time because I was sick, but the headaches kept coming so my mom insisted I get an MRI. We drove to UNC-Chapel Hill and had an MRI done, which showed I had a brain tumor.
Rick/Wendy: What happened after you learned about the tumor?
David: They did a biopsy then brain surgery. It was on my brain stem, and they couldn’t get it all, because they feared I would be paralyzed. I had speech and balance deficits and spent a month at an in-patient rehabilitation facility to work on learning it all again. I had radiation in 2002 on the part of the tumor they left there, and it is stable as of now.
Rick/Wendy: What would you like people to know?
David: No matter how much you think you’re down, you’re always up! (In other words, always stay positive).
Rick/Wendy: What advice do you have for someone newly diagnosed with a brain tumor?
David: Just Keep Fighting!
Rick/Wendy: What are your goals?
David: I always wanted to be a truck driver! Since I can’t drive, I draw and write books, I wrote four so far. Maybe I will get published one day! The titles of the books I wrote are:
- A Truck Driver 2000
- Life on the Road
- Earth Life
- A Dog Named Bo
The ABTA offers several resources for newly diagnosed patients and their caregivers. Click here to visit the page where you can learn more.
Conversely, per the ABTA website: if you are a brain tumor patient or caregiver who would like to help others who are going through a similar situation, please join CommYOUnity™ Connect, the ABTA’s mentorship program. For more information, please call 800-886-2282 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
CommYOUnity™ Connect Mentor Training Webinar Provides guidance and tools for new patient and caregiver mentors on how to provide the best support to their mentees. This training is done via webinar every 4-6 weeks and required to become a mentor.