Ironman Fran

“Hey Beth, Tony texted me.”  Drawing near the kitchen table, my husband paused as he placed a hand on my shoulder.  “Frannie passed out, so he called 9-1-1.  They’re at the hospital.”

I hate news like that.

We’ve borne far beyond our share of bad calls within our family over the years, but to receive one pertaining to my dear friend, Fran Lombardi, rattled my cage.  In an instant, my Cheerios® and banana breakfast became pebbles in my mouth, the rest left behind in the bowl, morphing into a soggy, pasty mess.

It’s amazing how one phone call can jolt us out of the present, thrusting us into the reality of our own mortality.

Please, Lord!  Not Frannie.

I’d met Frannie two years ago at a church retreat, and as we chatted over a cup of tea, I found her to be one of the most positive people I’d ever met.  Over time, we became dear friends, as I gleaned much from her quiet, gentle spirit and loving ways.

I didn’t want to lose her.

Thoughts raced like Thoroughbreds through my mind as I fumbled for my phone.

Dehydration?  Heart attack?  Stroke?  I gulped.  Cancer?  

I shook my head.  Stop diagnosing, Beth, and call Tony!

I punched in his number.

Her husband didn’t answer, but Christian and I offered our prayers and support on voicemail.  We rushed the kids through breakfast, and as I began getting them dressed to go to the hospital, we got word that Frannie was okay.  Earlier in the week, she’d caught a cold, and the ER doctor believed that the OTC the medication she’d taken had caused her blood pressure to bottom out.

Thank God!

Frannie is a Stage IV lymphoma survivor.  She’s enjoyed remission as long I’ve known her, but the what-if has reared its ugly head the few times something unusual has happened.

Like when she and I had planned to race the Demarest Triathlon together back in June of 2016.  It was my first race, her third, and we were excited.  We trained hard.  Our amazing husbands supported us like crazy, and somewhere between homeschooling and writing, I squeezed in my workouts in preparation for the sprint distance event.

Roughly one month before race day, I got the call.

“Frannie’s in the ER.”

She’d been over-training, gotten dehydrated, and simply tanked, but the whole experience shook us all and left sweet Frannie completely wiped out.  We all knew she shouldn’t race, but hats off to Tony for the way he handled it.

“It’s her decision.”

Frannie chose not to race, but selfless as usual, she encouraged me to compete.  I hesitated, but when I saw how much it meant to her that I continue, my mind was made up.

Press on, I did.

The remaining training proved nothing short of grueling for me as I dealt with the “knowing” Frannie wouldn’t compete, but her episode at the hospital stirred something inside me, a growling, burning passion that compelled me to move forward, faster, father.  Gratefulness that her cancer had not resurfaced surged within me, and when June 6th arrived, I stood ready at the start.

I raced alone.  For Frannie.

For all of her seemingly wasted hours in the pool, on the bike, and on the road.  For all the disappointment she’d surely felt for not being able to race the tri herself.  For all of the recent fear she’d had to face and the questions her heart had undoubtedly asked.

For the fact that she was alive and cancer-free!

And there she was, on the sidelines, cheering me on every step of the way along with Tony, Christian, and the kids.  She’d poured all of her disappointment into one big lump of encouragement, offering me strength in spite of her weakness, the epitome of a precious friend.

Thank you, sweet Frannie, for your millions of smiles and thoughtful words.  Thank you for loving on my kids and calling them precious.  Thank you for making the calls that count and being our family’s friend through every storm.

A friend [who] loves at all times. (Prov. 17:17)

Frannie went on to race the following year.  I had to sit out due to injury, but I look forward to racing with her (Lord-willing) this summer.

What an honor it was to watch her run, bike, and swim (with our families and our good friend, Mark), to cheer her on from the sidelines, to witness these special moments of victory in her life!  I don’t remember who had the best official time that day back in August, but I will forever remember the winner.

Iron Man Fran.

Please click the link below if you’d like to see Iron Man Fran in action:

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