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Brad Franzen has friends, a close family, a great attitude, a caring community — and colon cancer

By Judy Clabes
NKyTribune Editor

One of the great mysteries of humankind is why bad things happen to good people — and that’s the question the whole community of Independence and more are asking about young Brad Franzen’s colon cancer.


Signs and symptoms of colon cancer include:
• A persistent change in your bowel habits, including diarrhea or constipation or a change in the consistency of your stool
• Rectal bleeding or blood in your stool
• Persistent abdominal discomfort, such as cramps, gas or pain
• A feeling that your bowel doesn’t empty completely
• Weakness or fatigue
• Unexplained weight loss

Many people with colon cancer experience no symptoms in the early stages of the disease. When symptoms appear, they’ll likely vary, depending on the cancer’s size and location in your large intestine. (Source: St. Elizabeth Healthcare)

The community is rallying around this young man “who did everything right” as he is dealing with a surprising diagnosis at such a young age. At 24, without having so much as a clue, he learned he had stage four colon cancer and there was no cure.

Having been an active and popular athlete at Simon Kenton High School, playing football and baseball, and being a member of the National Honor Society, Brad graduated from the University of Louisville with a degree in biomedical engineering. He married his longtime sweetheart, Abbey, shortly after graduation — and they were on track for happily-ever-aftering. He was starting on his engineering career, he and Abbey were traveling, and he was staying physically active.

He never felt sick. Until one day, home from a brief vacation with Abbey, after three years of marriage, he had severe stomach pains and went to the emergency room. The diagnosis was colon cancer — and from there, his life and Abbey’s changed dramatically. Aggressive chemotherapy treatments have put Brad’s job on hold and permeate every aspect of his life.

“Here’s a young man who grew up in our community, worked hard and did everything right,” said Independence Mayor Chris Reinersman. “His parents have been active, contributing members — coaching kids and giving back. His mom Carol has served on City Council for 18 years. Mark has always worked with kids. His parents are pillars of the community.”

The community is definitely showing the family its collective regard. When news got around, the Mayor, City Manager and other members of council wanted to help. A committee was formed and multiple fundraising activities are underway and planned to help with Brad’s medical expenses. Independence Christian Church is helping with a GoFundMe campaign.

Stephen Kidd is spearheading an auction to be held April 17-23 on EBTH.com. He and the committee are accepting donations of value to be auctioned off — until the end of March. Offer your items on the email for at battleforbrad.com.

Councilwoman Amy Engleman is spearheading a raffle, to be held in June. There’ll be a charity motorcycle ride on October 16 sponsored by Cin-City and High Stakes Harley-Davidson.

As for Brad, he is beyond grateful for his community’s help — but he is becoming a #1 champion for colon cancer awareness and urges every man — especially young men — to get screened.

“Colon cancer is increasing in younger people,” he said. “I never thought that it could happen to me. I grew up playing sports. I was very active. It never occurred to me that I could have colon cancer.”

In late 2019, looking back, he said he was constipated a lot. He didn’t take that as a sign then.

“It seems like a fluke,” he said. “Even then, I’ve been lucky. They told me I had 2-3 years to live — but I aim to live longer. Everybody is different.”

He feels age is really his advantage — that, and a positive attitude.

“You just have to have a good attitude,” Brad said. And, he does, even given the aggressive chemotherapy which takes a lot out of him.

Brad reiterates for every man to be informed about colon cancer — thus the informational boxes included on this page — and that every man get screened.

“I don’t want this to happen to anyone else,” he said. “Early detection matters. Don’t wait.”

Risk factors

Factors that may increase your risk of colon cancer include:

• Older age. Colon cancer can be diagnosed at any age, but a majority of people with colon cancer are older than 50. The rates of colon cancer in people younger than 50 have been increasing, but doctors aren’t sure why.
• African-American race. African-Americans have a greater risk of colon cancer than do people of other races.
• A personal history of colorectal cancer or polyps. If you’ve already had colon cancer or noncancerous colon polyps, you have a greater risk of colon cancer in the future.
• Inflammatory intestinal conditions. Chronic inflammatory diseases of the colon, such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease, can increase your risk of colon cancer.
• Inherited syndromes that increase colon cancer risk. Some gene mutations passed through generations of your family can increase your risk of colon cancer significantly. Only a small percentage of colon cancers are linked to inherited genes. The most common inherited syndromes that increase colon cancer risk are familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) and Lynch syndrome, which is also known as hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC).
• Family history of colon cancer. You’re more likely to develop colon cancer if you have a blood relative who has had the disease. If more than one family member has colon cancer or rectal cancer, your risk is even greater.
Low-fiber, high-fat diet. Colon cancer and rectal cancer may be associated with a typical Western diet, which is low in fiber and high in fat and calories. Research in this area has had mixed results. Some studies have found an increased risk of colon cancer in people who eat diets high in red meat and processed meat.
• A sedentary lifestyle. People who are inactive are more likely to develop colon cancer. Getting regular physical activity may reduce your risk of colon cancer.
• Diabetes. People with diabetes or insulin resistance have an increased risk of colon cancer.
• Obesity. People who are obese have an increased risk of colon cancer and an increased risk of dying of colon cancer when compared with people considered normal weight.
• Smoking. People who smoke may have an increased risk of colon cancer.
• Alcohol. Heavy use of alcohol increases your risk of colon cancer.
• Radiation therapy for cancer. Radiation therapy directed at the abdomen to treat previous cancers increases the risk of colon cancer. (Source: St. Elizabeth Healthcare)

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