Charles Oakley

In the late 80’s, inner city kids were fighting to survive the tail end of the crack epidemic that ignited in the early 80’s. It was no surprise to learn that a close friend or family member was “feening.” These were hard times for us…and the Knicks and Oakley resembled us, they fought for everything to survive.
The NBA lost me a long time ago. I stayed afar from everything going on with them. The last full NBA game that I watched was last year’s game 7 – with Lebron doing his thing and winning the Championship for the city of Cleveland. It was wonderful and inspiring to see Lebron play and show the passion for the game that so many fans miss. 
When I caught a glimpse of Charles Oakley being pulled from the Garden this past week, my first thought was, “That fool is still fighting other clubs,” thinking he was fighting with the opposite team’s bench. I would never – and I mean never – have imagined that he was getting kicked out by his own franchise. In 1988-91, the Knicks meant more to me and countless others than just a team for New York/Jersey fans. They resembled our struggle, the struggle to fight for a next day and to work hard for every small accomplishment because it never came easy for us. In the streets, there were rules. One rule was that if you were a true friend, you never left your wingman when hard times came. So, when I learned that the Knicks owner kicked Oakley out, I was so saddened to hear that one of his own left him behind in this way. It reminded me of the movie “Platoon” when the troop leaves one of their own soldiers behind. It was awful!! Whatever the differences may be, Oakley deserved a better approach to handle this. If you really cared for him like he cared for his team, why didn’t you reach out to him before the game and work on it?? Or talk to him after?? I know I’m just one fan, but please sir don’t leave my combat buddy behind. Suck up your pride, and find a way to fix it together. Oakley is a warrior and he deserves respect as a fighter and as a champ! Once a fighter, always a fighter…

Mi Vida E02 – Chuck Strong! An interview with a heart transplant recipient

Check out this new interview with my buddy, Chuck Estrada.  Chuck was born with a heart condition that would eventually  require a heart transplant.  Listen to the story of belief, perseverance, faith and determination.  Chuck continues to beat the odds and has a unique approach on life.


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Mi Vida Podcast: Connecting with others and gaining knowledge from people’s stories of triumph out of challenge.

I’m a first generation immigrant from Peru, a country that at the time was unsettled as a result of the Shining Path terrorist group. I moved from a place of disadvantage to becoming an athlete, combat veteran, and successful executive. I had an opportunity to see perspectives from different cultures and learned that the American dream is real. I am a product of family, friends, my community, and personal experiences. It is my wish to share stories of lessons learned from a variety of diverse backgrounds. I hope you will be both entertained and inspired.

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Music by Comfort Fit / CC BY-NC-ND 3.0

Mi Vida E01 – One Soldier’s Story! An interview with Eric Hess

Mi Vida  – One Story at a Time – Podcast

Episode 01: One Soldiers Story! An interview with Eric Hess

This is an interview with my buddy Eric Hess who I met in the army. A great perspective of our time in the military starting out in bootcamp, leading up to our experience at war, and what we gained from these years. We talk about overcoming fears, what we learned about dedication and pride, and our decision to voluntarily go to war.

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Subscribe on iTunes

Connecting with others and gaining knowledge from people’s stories of triumph out of challenge.

I’m a first generation immigrant from Peru, a country that at the time was unsettled as a result of the Shining Path terrorist group. I moved from a place of disadvantage to becoming an athlete, combat veteran, and successful executive. I had an opportunity to see perspectives from different cultures and learned that the American dream is real. I am a product of family, friends, my community, and personal experiences. It is my wish to share stories of lessons learned from a variety of diverse backgrounds. I hope you will be both entertained and inspired.

 

Click here to download the mp3 of this episode

 

 

 

 

45 and Alive

“As long as you can still grab a breath, you fight.  You breathe…keep breathing” The Revenant

A year has gone by since my initial diagnosis. After several tests and seeing 2 cardiologists and two heart surgeons, this is what I know. I have an aortic aneurysm at the base of the heart. Due to the aneurysm, my heart regurgitates. Doctors don’t feel that my heart valve is bad, but the aneurysm is a concern. The aneurysm has not reached a point where medically it needs to be fixed, and the likelihood of my aorta disengaging is low. The risk of having surgery to repair it is actually higher than having a “wait & watch” approach at this time; however, this will change and I’ll need surgery. Take that information in for a moment.

Everyday

The mind is powerful and it can get out of control if you don’t find something to live for. Something to look forward to. Something to hold on to. Everyday I wake up and lay in my bed for 10 minutes and I’m thankful for the little things in life. I’m thankful for waking up. Thankful that my heart never stopped beating while I was asleep and that my lungs kept me breathing. I’m thankful that I’m going to walk into the bathroom and bathe myself and brush my own hair. I’m thankful for my family, and this keeps me fighting.

I’m learning to listen to my body. Sometimes I have different “symptoms” around my heart that make me stop and think. Is it time? Am I leaving? The more I think about it, the more pain I have around my heart. I stop and sit down and close my eyes to calm myself down. This happens daily and my mind goes to the worst outcome. My doctors would check my heart with an EKG and echocardiogram and the results were the same. It’s not time!! “Take it easy” they would tell me. This is everyday and it’s an everyday challenge for me.

In the moment

If not for fear, what amazing things would you be doing with your life?  So what if today is the day?  What have I accomplished?  How would I be remembered? Have I achieved all my personal goals? Have I made a difference in my kids’ lives? Sometimes it takes a dramatic event to realize that we’re immortal. Death will come to all and tomorrow is not promised to any one of us. Before my diagnosis, I lived for tomorrow and didn’t pay attention to today. I lived knowing that it would happen someday but not today. How could it? Right? So, with the help of my wife, I started to live in the moment. Here’s what I mean. Today, right know is all we have. I’m learning that every moment is special and right now it’s all we have guaranteed. What’s important is to live in today and in the moment. To listen closely, to make eye contact, to love deeper, to never quit on your kids. To tell them you love them everyday because everyday is special. I try not to say “someday I will do that”; instead, I’m going to do that today. To care for others and do little acts of kindness even if they never respond in kind. To BELIEVE deeper. When I drive past a cemetery, I wonder how many dreams died with them. I’m choosing to live for today. What are your goals? What do you want to accomplish? How do you want to be remembered?

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Last one

I’m thankful for all the calls, texts and emails from people across the nation and the world that’ve reached out to me and thanked me for my blogs. It’s created awareness and that was my goal. I’m also energized and motivated for those who are fighting the good fight to live another day. I’ve learned that we are all struggling some way or another. We’re all in this together. Last year, I’ve lost friends and family. Life goes on! This is my last blog about my condition. I want to write a book and go around the world and tell others about my life experiences. I wanna live in the moment. Dear friends, live in the moment because – it’s the only precious guarantee you have in life. Until next time! Your friend! Frankz

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2015 in review-One to remember…

2015 was a year of many challenges and opportunities. 2015 taught me to be mentally stronger, and I developed an internal fire to be a better person, husband, father, and friend. My love for my family fuels me more than you can imagine and I’m encouraged for what’s to come for us in 2016. 2015 brought a scare for my wife and I. I learned of a serious heart condition that will eventually require surgery, and Amy was recently diagnosed with melanoma. We recently received positive news that her cancer is gone! For this, we’re thankful. May you all reminisce on the good and bad of 2015 and be hopeful for a better 2016. Think of yourself as a compass and point yourself in the direction you want to go. 
Cheers to you and your families!!!
Carpe Diem! 

One Soldier’s Story

I often think about them – my fellow soldiers. We believed that we were making a difference and were willing to die for the cause. So many days and nights at war we wondered if it was THE DAY, too scared to say a word, move, see, and breath. At times, I wanted my heart to stop beating so loudly, afraid that the enemy could hear it pounding with fear. I would try to hold my breath to calm myself down, but my heart would beat harder and my legs would shiver uncontrollably. We always found the courage to stand up and take a step forward. I would remind myself that it was either me or the enemy. I would close my eyes and could hear “Rock steady, Roll ready, You motivate me when you Rock steady” and would become braver, less scared and would focus on the mission and my buddies. Everyone at war had a ” War Buddy” assigned to them. No matter what, you protected your buddy at all cost…we all come home no matter what!

Big Will

Every morning at boot camp we would wake around 4:30am and had 30 minutes to be ready in formation prepared for PT. PT is physical training for those that don’t know. PT was composed of mind games and taking your body to endless limits. Drill Sergeants loved breaking privates down to tears. Years later, I would realize that those lessons would carry me through some hard times.  

Every morning after push ups, sit ups, up and downs, and other exercises, we would run in formation. Formations are usually formed with 5 in the front and about 10 following the leaders. The right corner soldier was usually the one who would set the pace of the group. The Drill sergeant would be to the left of us and would call cadence to keep the group in sync and motivated. We usually ran 2-4 miles a day with a good pace and some soldiers would also help calling cadence. If a soldier fell out of formation during the run, the drill sergeant would make us turn around at the finish line and make the platoon run back to get those that could not make the run and we always had to finish as one.  

Williams was a soldier that was about 6’4 and probably 250lbs at the start of boot camp. He was a talented college football player that got hurt and had to leave football and join the Army. I swear, there’s tons of talented athletes in the Army that didn’t have the grades or the discipline to get into college. Williams, on top of being a big guy, struggled to finish the runs. He had a family that depended on him and the Army was a way to provide for them. After every run, we would encourage him to stay in formation as the group was starting to get frustrated at the fact that we had to run an extra 2 to 3 miles because we had to turn around and pick him up. We would run on the weekends with him and stay up at night working out to help him get in shape and finish the runs with the group. This went on for 2 months. Not only did he have to finish runs with us to graduate boot camp, but he also needed to finish the two mile run within a specific time. The Army will kick you out if you can’t accomplish passing grades on the physical test. Big Will needed the Army as most of us did at that time.  

We knew that a long run was coming up and it was an important one for him. He had been warned that if he didn’t complete the run, he would be kicked out. We made a plan for Big Will to be the pace setter and no matter how slow he would go- we would follow his pace. We told Big Will that he could not stop running or fall out of formation, BUT we had his back!!! We didn’t know how many miles we would run, but we knew it would be difficult. One mile, two miles, three miles and Bill Will was with us. This was the first time that he was with us at three miles. He controlled the pace and we sang loud and proud to let the others know that we were one. Around 6 miles we could see our barracks and knew we were coming back home. We were tired but also were filled with so much pride to finish as one. When we got to our barracks, we would usually stop, but this time the drill sergeant had something else in mind. The Army plays games with you at times and that day our drill sergeant had more miles in mind. Big Will was really struggling – as a matter of fact we were all struggling. We spent so much energy on the 6th mile thinking we were gonna stop that the platoon struggled to keep running. 7 miles and Big Will was slowing down, 8 miles and now we were really hurting. Suddenly, Big Will falls out of formation, but this time he just slowed down and let us pass him and he went to the left of the platoon and got behind the drill sergeant letting him know that he (Big Will) would call cadence. With a thundering voice, he yelled “Rock Steady, Roll Ready, You motivate me when you Rock Steady.” The group was reenergized and finished the run at 9 miles. You see on this day, we needed Big Will!

Tomorrow, I go see a heart surgeon in Houston to check on my heart. I have been really nervous about it. All week I’ve been hearing Big Will’s thundering voice reminding me of that day. “Rock Steady, Roll Ready, You Motivate me when you Rock Steady“. 
Thanks Big Will….I know you got my back!
 

Futbol Americano

YOU SAY

Migrating to a new country challenges all of your senses. What you see, hear, touch, smell, taste is new and different. Watching cartoons was terrible as all the characters spoke differently and I couldn’t understand them. Food was terrible, school was terrible, the weather sucked. I just hated the first 6 months.
From the window of my room, I watched some kids playing with a ball that was weird, and they also had something protecting their heads and something on their shoulders as well. They played on the street and took a timeout anytime a car came by. I could tell they would have fun, but I couldn’t understand them at all. A few weeks later, I decided to sit on my front steps and watch them play. The kids would make eye contact with me but didn’t talk to me. I just knew that whatever they were doing, it looked like a lot of fun.
A weekend passed by and one of them invited me to play. I played for hours with them. I even bought a Cowboys helmet and a Giants jersey. Oh yea, the stuff over their shoulders were socks taped to their shoulder. It was street ball at it’s best. I found some friends and even if I couldn’t understand them, it was great to interact with kids my age.

 One day at school, my friend Martin Starr and I were messing around in gym class and upset a girl. When the teacher came up to us and started yelling at us, I could hear and see that Martin was blaming me and kept saying, “He said it! He said it!” and I started yelling “YOU SAY, YOU SAY”. For the rest of the school year, I was known as “YOU SAY” because I didn’t know any words. Every time they would come looking for me to play football they would yell “YOU SAY, let’s play!”

Bottom Line

That summer some of my friends encouraged me to try out for the local football team. At their encouragement I went to the first practice and was cut. They just didn’t have another uniform to suit me up. As I walked away from the field I heard someone calling for me. As I turned around I saw one of the Coaches running towards me. He asked me if I could kick the football and even made a physical gesture to show me what he meant. I nodded yes and that’s how Coach Abe Brown found a spot for me on the BottomLine Bandits. For the next three years Coach Brown would pick me up with his two sons that became my brothers, Wakeem and Rashee, and take me to practice. I wanted to play center and that failed when the QB was not getting the ball from me. I didn’t know when to snap the ball. So Coach Brown decided to put me in front of the ball as a nose guard and told me to watch the ball gesturing every time so that I understood. 

That first year we lost every game. Coach Brown continued to work with me and taught me what a 3 point stand was and how to fight thru lineman. He even got me a forearm pad that I used frequently in the next two years. The next two years we dominated the P.I.M.F.L and I even became part of the city All Star team. Coach Brown was instrumental in my development in the game and also taught me a thing or two about being passionate about the game and to always help others when needed. I’m one of hundreds of kids Coach Brown impacted in a positive way. Coach Brown passed away a few years ago, but I would never forget what he did for me.

Championship High

My sophomore year in HS we lost every game. Not only did we get beat, but we got our asses kicked and it didn’t feel good. I finally got to play center because our JV/Varsity team only had 18 players. Most players then played offense, defense and all special teams. It was a long year. If you lived on the east side of town you went to Eastside HS, and if you lived on the west side of town you went to Kennedy HS. My mom decided to transfer me from Eastside my freshman year because of the problems Eastside was having. Crazy Joe Clark from the movie “Lean on Me” had his hands full, and my mother decided to move me to Kennedy HS. A few other players’ parents made the same decision and joined me. We took a public bus 45 minutes to school. 

After our horrible season, one of my neighbors and teammates Devon McDonald showed extreme work ethic and took the lead to motivate all of us to prepare for the next season. By the way, Devon would go on to play football for the University of Notre Dame, win a National Championship, play in the NFL for the Colts and the Cardinals, and have the chance to play alongside some cool dudes by the names of Rocket Ismail, Ricky Waters, Jerome Bettis, Chris Zorich and others. We noticed that Devon started to lift at 5:30am and I think a teacher finally gave him keys to the weight room. His offseason commitment was unreal. We bought into it and started meeting him and getting ready for the season. Devon’s twin brother Rico who stayed at Eastside also had success on the football field. He started his 4 years at Pittsburgh and played Linebacker for the Bears for a number of years. 
In 1987, the crack epidemic hit Paterson hard. Crack bottles were found everywhere along the playgrounds, schools, streets. It was sad, we all knew someone who was “Cracked Out”. People would steal and kill for crack. Crack killed many and destroyed many families. Our school guards would even sell them in school. We only had 38 players on the team, but we stayed out of trouble. We held each other accountable and would walk from the school to the stadium together everyday…just in case there were problems.
My junior year our first game was against the number one school in the state St. Joseph’s Montville HS at home. We beat St. Joes 12-9 and it started an incredible undefeated season that also included a State Championship. Our team got the school and community together. It was cool to walk around the city and be noticed by everyone. Our HS Head Coach would drive around neighborhoods and the projects on Friday nights to make sure his players were at home getting ready for the game. My Linebacker Coach Bill Pursley was the most influential person for me in High School. His passion, spirit, competitiveness was unreal. He had the ability to teach and coach us the game. We knew tendencies, personnel, formations, plays like our life depended on it. I would often hear opponents tell us that we knew what they were doing all game. The stats are insane, the defense allowed 4.87 points per game. We had six shoutouts and half the teams never crossed the midfield. We went undefeated that year. Quiet a change from the year prior when we lost all of our games. I still have his game plans and often visit them because he always had a message for us. Some of those messages have helped me during difficult times. He’s been a father figure to me and I appreciate his mentorship. I love you Coach!
Our championship was followed that year by the boys and girls basketball teams. The track team would also win a state championship. Other sports would also win the state championship. Our Principle Mr. Tool would change the name of our High School for one year. It went from John F. Kennedy HS to CHAMPIONSHIP HIGH!!!!
The game has taught me many lessons that would carry me through some difficult times. I truly believe that championship teams practice differently, play differently and expect – or perhaps demand – more than other teams. The 1987 team was the only public school in Paterson to win a state championship. I’m indebted to so many Coaches and Teammates who taught me the game and expected more out of me, which in turn made me a better player. All of their efforts in turn made the TEAM better! 

From The Heart…..

Coming home from class one day while in college I witnessed an accident.  I remember pulling over and rushing to the car that was smoking from the crash.  Upon reaching the car I saw an elderly women who was shaken by the accident and looking lost.  I asked if she was ok but I quickly noticed that she was not coherent.  Her car was crushed in the front and the car was smoking.  I quickly tried to open the door but realized that the driver’s door was stuck from the accident.  I also saw that she was in need, and I put my right foot against the side of the car and with all my might I attempted to open the door.  The smoke was getting heavier and I looked up to heaven to gain an extra strength to open the door.  I cracked the door open and got the lady out of the car and waited for the ambulance to take her to the hospital.  I never saw her again but I knew that she would be ok.  Lately, since my diagnosis I have had dreams and thoughts of seeing an accident, running to it and seeing a lady stuck in the car.  This time, I weep and scream because I can’t pull or use my strength to get them out of the car.  I understand that the moment I try to use my strength to open the door also might mean that I might lose my life.  I’m broken hearted in the dream when I turn and see my family on my left and then see the person stuck in the car on my right. I’m stuck in a difficult decision.

2nd Opinion

It’s great to have people around you that love you and care about your well being.  Shortly after my diagnosis, a friend of mine, Jim, who provides medical equipment to cardiac surgeons reached out to me and offered his support and suggestions on some of the top cardiologists in the Midwest.  You see, after seeing my original cardiologist, he advised me that I was not in danger at this moment despite the aneurism and advised me to live and enjoy riding my bike again. He still told me to stay away from competing and taking my heart to extreme measures, but I could at least joy ride again. He then asked to see me in a year.  Shortly after meeting with him I started to have some episodes of dizziness that concerned me.  I decided to call the office and tell them about my symptoms. The nurse would always call me back and suggest that I needed to take it easy as my body was getting adjusted to the blood pressure medicine  and would call me back once she shared with my doctor about my symptoms. Now, please understand that I was not feeling this crappy in the past but I needed to be assured that I was ok.  To my disappointment, I never heard back from them. I called Jim and asked him to help me find the top cardiologist in the area.  He suggested I talk to one of his friends that was a recognized cardiologist and at least get his opinion on my situation.  He had already spoken to him about me and suggested I call him on his cell phone.  I called and left a voice message and he quickly called me by the end of the day.  He suggested I send him all my medical records to review and we would meet to discuss.  My wife and I met with him last week.  He quickly explained that my heart was very healthy besides the aneurism.  He also explained that my heart valve was healthy, but he suggested the option of surgery to fix the aneurysm and save the heart valve.  He also advised me that aneurysms don’t get better and usually get worst thru time.  He also recommended I take a proactive approach  and not wait till “something happened “. It would require an open heart surgery.  It’s a risk but waiting was also a risk.  If the aneurysm “went” there was a high likelihood that I would die.  He told me that I can go back to lifting after the surgery.  Not that I lift anymore, but I was happy to hear that if I ever came upon a car accident, I would be able to help.

It’s not easy for me and truthfully I’m terrified.  I’m afraid of going into the surgery and never waking up.  I also live afraid everyday wondering if “today” is the day.  I truly believe that having the surgery is the best option for me.  Yesterday, I called my doctor to schedule the surgery.  I don’t have a date set but I will make sure to have my family around me.  It’s because of them that I choose to fight and stand tall even though I might lose my life but I wouldn’t do it any other way.  I will fight, I will open that door and even if I don’t make it- they will know I did it fighting and it came FROM THE HEART!

Too Blessed to be Stressed!

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God is good.  I’ve been humble to receive so many of your calls, texts, private messages and emails since my last post.  Your thoughts and prayers are appreciated.  I’ve also received messages about others’ symptoms, calls about an exam you’ve scheduled, or someone struggling with life and the challenges it brings on all of us.  Life is not simple but it’s a privilege!

One of the questions I get asked frequently is ” Aren’t you afraid to live with your condition?” The answer is, YES!  Of course it’s not easy.  I’m mostly mad that it took something major to happen to me to fully understand how precious life is.  You see, life is not guaranteed to any one of us and life can change in an instant.  Today, I wake up every morning with a purpose to love, live, forgive, smile and make an impact on others’ lives.  I get to love a little more and listen and learn from my surroundings.  I’ve become more aware and get to appreciate the little things sometimes we overlook or get to busy to see.  Time has slowed down for me and truthfully, I’m loving it!!  I’m not going to focus on death because none of us wants to die! I mean, who wants to talk about dying?  I want to focus on living!  

So, the funniest thing happened to me at the gym last week.  Since my diagnosis, I’ve made a commitment to continue to stay active.  Being “active” has changed for me, but I love the new adventures.  I usually work out 3-4 times a week with a walk around the park or a joyful ride around town.  So at the gym I usually will spin on a stationary bike for 30 minutes.  Nothing too crazy just enough to get the heart rate up.  I spin about 80 RPM’s while watching one of my favorite Netflix shows.  Right now, I’m digging House of Cards!  So a middle aged man got on the bike next to me and started his work out.  I smiled and nodded as he started his workout.  Within 10 minutes my man was working it. At one point we made eye contact and he gave me one of those looks, you know those looks that said “why are you even here?”  I decided to turn my attention back to my show but I could tell he wanted me to notice how hard he was working.  I glanced back at him and I felt my fast twitch muscles TWITCH and it took everything for me to not prove that I will kick his ass on the road…. But the new me had to divert to stomach breathing, to calm my self down. 🙂

Cyclists are a different breed.  There’s a belief in cyclists that the moment your body starts aching, hurting so bad you want to cry where you feel your legs tremble with lactic acid and your heart pumping so loud you can feel it in your head, that the longer you can hold on to that threshold, the better cyclist you’re becoming.  It’s the craziest thing I’ve ever experienced — and to all my cycling friends: I’ve learned that it’s not cool to take your body and heart to those limits.  My cardiologist will highly recommend for you to reconsider!!

Life has changed, my friends, but I’m focused on controlling what I can control.  My blood pressure is back to normal and weight keeps coming off.  Learning to eat healthy has become its own adventure and I’m enjoying learning about healthy foods.  I eat about 5 times a day with a combination of fruits, veggies, good carbs, fish, chicken and occasionally red meat.  I also supplement my snacks with a protein shake to keep my hunger in check.  I drink about 140 ounces of water a day and occasionally have a glass of wine. All the changes are good for me both physically and mentally.  I’m too blessed to be stressed!