Monday, July 15, 2013

Last week I got the results of the CT scans as a follow up to the 12 rounds of chemo I received for colon cancer. The scans showed no signs of cancerous tumor growth so that is great news. I appreciate and am thankful for all the support and prayers I have received. It worked. So I do not have to undergo any chemo treatments for now. I go back to see my oncologist at Sloan Kettering in 3 months. They did find a blood clot in the main portal vein in my stomach. I get blood thinner injections to correct that problem. Evidently blood clots are not uncommon for chemo patients.  All in all it is good news. The frustrating thing now is waiting to see what happens next. It feels better when you are taking action steps like chemo to solve the problem.  For now I will exercise and eat right and move on and that will be my action steps.

My goal in writing this blog is to get people to schedule yearly appointments with their doctors. All to often these stories get glossed over and everyone just goes about their business. I hope that the details I am sharing will get people to take action. You have to go to the doctor every year to get blood work etc. done. It can save your life so get it done.

 Thanks again to everyone for their support and prayers. Here is the link to my Swim Across America page. SAA raises money for cancer research. It is a great organization and we would appreciate your support.


Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Frank Schwall Update

Tomorrow I start my last round of chemo for my Stage III C metastatic colon cancer. It is the 12th round. I started at the end of January after surgery in December. It’s been 3 days every two weeks. One day at the infusion center and then two days with a portable pump bottle. On July 8th the group at Memorial Sloan Kettering will do tests ( scan and blood work ) to see what if anything is going on and then on July 11th  I meet with the doctor to find out the results. Hopefully I will be NED – no evidence of disease. If that is the case I get some time off and will go back in 3 months for another scan. Most likely if there is a tumor growing it will be on the liver or lungs. That is how it usually works with colon cancer. You see I had a lot of cancerous lymph nods so most likely I have cancer cells floating around in my blood. They are looking to grab onto something and grow a tumor. The chemo is designed to kill those cells before they find a spot to grow again.  If there is a tumor in either of those areas I will be classified as Stage IV. Then they might do surgery or chemo or both. But I think that all will be clear.

The purpose of my telling everyone this is to get people to take action now. I don’t want people feeling sorry for me – no need to. I do what people to heed my advice. So I hope that describing this stuff in detail will at the very least scare you into doing what you need to do to take care of yourself.
Here is what I have learned.

1.You have to go to the doctor every year. Not every two years or every 5 years but every year. If you don’t you are a wimp.  Feeling fine is not a reason to skip your annual checkup. You have no idea what could be going on in your body. So suck it up and get it done.
2. If you are 50 or over you need to get a colonoscopy. If you have a history of colon cancer in your family – even extended family like a great aunt or uncle you need to get a colonoscopy now! Colon cancer is called the silent killer. Blood work and a colonoscopy are the ways to know for sure what is going on.
3. You have to know your family’s medical history. For the most part this stuff if genetic. Yes you should eat right and exercise but even if you do that you can still get cancer. In large part because you might be predisposed to get it because of your genetic makeup. So here is my suggestion. This does not need to take a lot of time. But ask your parents questions. Ask your aunts and uncles if they know of anyone in the family with medical conditions. I know that the last thing you want to do is find out what is going on with your crazy uncle’s colon. But doing so might save your life and allow you to walk your daughter down the aisle at her wedding or make a great toast at your son’s rehearsal dinner or coach your grandkids little league teams – all the things I plan to be doing in the future. You can send or email or even better at the next family gathering take 2 minutes to bring it up. Then get back to having fun. Your doctor has to know what is up with your family – even great grandparents count. (as it turns out my great grandmother had colon cancer as did my great aunt) Think of it like this. If you are a financial advisor or CPA how can you give your client advice if they don’t tell you all the facts of their situation? If you are a lawyer your client is doing themselves a disservice if they don’t tell you all the things that apply to their case. Doctors are no different. If you can’t tell them the facts of your extended family’s medical information then you are wasting everyone’s time.
So if I got your attention and you are going to take action you can quit reading this now. (expect you need to check out the link to my Swim Across America page – fundraising for cancer research) Otherwise I will fill you in on some more details.
I have not lost my hair. For the most part I have kept a regular schedule. I have also been running our church’s junior youth group and coaching my daughter’s 2nd grade softball team. But one of the drugs I was getting Oxaliplatin was really strong. In the cold weather it caused me to feel like a thousand needles were sticking in my face. I could not drink anything cold for several days after each round because my mouth and tongue would also feel like they were full of needles.  I could not hold anything cold because my fingers would sting. Anyway after 7 rounds of that stuff my platelets were so low that they had to quit administering it. But that was more rounds than most people could tolerate. By the way – scare technique alert – if your platelets are too low you can bleed to death – even internal bleeding from a fender bender. So it underscores the power and dangers of chemo. At one point my white blood cells were too low so they gave me a booster shot to get the counts up. That was probably the worst time. I was moving slow and really tired for a week. Usually I slept some in the afternoons during each of the rounds. In 4 or 5 days I ended up feeling fine. One of the side effects of chemo is numbness in the fingers. I am experiencing that now. It feels like my fingers are asleep. Not that big of deal and it is supposed to end soon. I also want to mention the steroids I was given to offset the chemo. The steroids helped to keep the nausea at bay and too boost my immune system – I never got sick with flu or fever so that was great. A lot of people really struggle with their immune system during chemo so I was lucky.  It also helps to stimulate the appetite. Steroids work …so I am now losing the weight I gained i.e. Swim Across America. I used to think that steroids were no big deal. I did not care that much about the performance enhancing drug thing. But now I will say this. Steroids suck. At first you can feel the energy but in the end it just feels weird and not right. So if you have a kid playing sports who is looking for an edge tell him it’s not worth it. It is a great drug for doctors to prescribe to help with specific things but I now believe it was not meant to just help you get stronger so you can show off.
The worst part really has been having to see others – many people younger than me - deal with cancer.  I see them at the treatment center and hospital. It is depressing. I can take it but it is heartbreaking to see some of the other cases. I almost start dry heaving when I walk into the place each time. But I thank God it is me and not anyone else in my family or among my friends. I do believe that God gives us what we can handle.  The reason I got this is to spread the word of the importance of early detection. And as my buddies who love the blues know we just call it some more mileage.
Two more things. I really appreciate all the support and prayers and good karma I have gotten from people I know and people I don’t know. It makes a difference and I am luckyfriends. It has been proven many times. So thanks.
Last thing. For the last 3 or so summers I have participated in and event called Swim Across America. It is an organization that puts on swimming events which are used to raise money for cancer research. Most of the swims are in open water. The one that I participate in takes place in the Long Island Sound. I started doing it not because I knew anyone who had cancer or had some cancer related story but because it seemed like a good cause and it is really fun. The swim gives me something to get in shape for and it makes for a fun day. Little did I know that I would end up swimming as a patient/survivor this year. What is really weird is that Memorial Sloan Kettering is a sponsor and their logo is on the towel that all the competitors are given. I just noticed that last week. So here is the link. If you can, I would appreciate your support. Please nothing crazy. $10 or $20 would be so appreciated. You can do it all online. The web site has all the information about the organization.
I will let everyone know how things go on July 11th. Take it easy. Frank


Thursday, January 17, 2013


I have been diagnosed with Stage III C metastatic colon cancer. I had 12 inches of my colon and 32 lymph nods, 14 of which were cancerous, taken out on December 14th. I start 6 months of chemotherapy tomorrow, Friday January 18th. I will get 3 days of chemo every two weeks for a total of 12 treatments. At that time CT and PET scans will be done to see if there are tumors growing. If yes then I will keep doing chemo. If nothing is growing then I might be able to take some time off. The general consensus is that I will need to "manage" my cancer for the rest of my life. As I always say 85% of all statistics are made up so I am taking the stats that apply to my condition with a grain of salt.

So why am I telling everyone about this? Yes, I have always enjoyed attention, but only for good things. Attention, sympathy - pity party - or being a downer are not the reasons for this post or for future posts. My reason for writing about this is to raise awareness that will lead to each of you taking ACTION! Physicals every year and colonoscopies BEFORE you turn 50. This applies to the girls too.

I have heard about cancer stories before, good and bad including Katie Couric's husband and Tony Snow the White House Press Secretary for GW Bush, but I never paid attention mostly because the stories were not explained in detail and were not graphic enough. I want to make people WAKE UP and internalize what can happen if they do not take action now.

So here is my story. My last physical was in the summer of 2009. Everything checked out fine and the doctor told me I did not need a colonoscopy until I turned 50. Starting about 1 1/2 years ago I noticed I would get short of breath when I exercised or walked up stairs or hills. It would not last long and I was not short of breath when I was sitting. I would get frustrated while swimming or attempting to run on the treadmill. I have always been decent at distance things but I figured that I was getting old and was out of shape. I would get tired at the end of the day but who doesn't? I would fall asleep on the train home but when I got up to exit I would see half of everyone else asleep so I did not think anything of it.

I went for a physical in December 2012. The doctor gave me the thumbs up but that night the on call nurse called to ask if I was ok. She suggested I get a blood transfusion. The blood work showed that I was severely anemic which meant I did not have enough blood in my body. I was told to go back to the doctor the next morning so that they could re do the blood test. They thought it must be some sort of mistake. It was not a mistake. The doctor could not believe I had been operating with this condition. He said I must be bleeding. (They call colon cancer the silent killer because it can go undetected - even the bleeding)

I got a colonoscopy on December the 12th. The doctor found a big tumor that was almost blocking my colon plus a lot of lymph nods. When I woke up from the colonoscopy he told me I had cancer and needed to check into the hospital for surgery. The surgery was successful. We then interviewed several oncology groups and decided to use the group at Memorial Sloan Kettering in the city. So tomorrow I get a "port" put in my chest. It is like a hole that allows the tube from the chemo to be injected into my vein. I will go to the infusion center for a day and then take home a portable bottle of chemo that will continue to go into me for the next 48 hours. So it works out to be about 3 days of chemo every two weeks. There are side effects but they are different for each person. I don't plan on having any side effects and will power on through the whole thing. I will not let my kids see me as anything other than the guy they have known their whole lives. That is the most important thing to me.

This is not going to be pleasant but I can take it. I don't want it to happen to you so take action tomorrow. Call your doctor and schedule a physical if you have not had one in the last year and also request a colonoscopy. Don't let your doctor tell you to wait till you are 50.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Toastmaster Speech 4 - The Elevator Speech - Oh! Tell Me More

Toastmasters Speech 4 – How You Say It
The Elevator Speech – “Oh! Tell Me More!
Frank Schwall
Imagine for a second that you are at an airport on a Friday - about to board a plane for the ride home from an industry conference.
Your objective at the conference had been to establish business relationships and get follow up appointments to sell your company’s service.
 You are very tired and disappointed in your lack of success.
Finally you and your fellow passengers are called to board the flight.
As begin to file down the jet bridge you realize that one of the industry leaders you wanted to meet is walking right next to you.
 Your spirits briefly soar as you introduce yourself.  But reality sets in quickly when she asks you “so what do you do?”
You quickly estimate that you will have this person’s attention for about one minute before she takes her seat in first class.
(You of course are relegated to an exit row in the middle of the plane.)
How do you respond?
Are you prepared to give her a clear, concise and compellingly descriptive account of what you can do for her? 
And most importantly does it set the stage for a future conversation?
Filler words and rambling on will not get the job done.
What you need is an “elevator speech”. 
The term elevator speech comes from the idea that in real life you only have the time it takes to ride in an elevator to get people interested in you or whatever it is that you do. 
As Mike McDaniel says –“The goal of an elevator speech is to get the person you are talking with to respond by saying” – “Oh! Tell me more!”
Tonight I am going to talk about how a brief combination of descriptive words can help make your elevator speech a great one!
An advertising executive in the 1950s and 60s named Rosser Reeves (a real lifeDon Draper from Mad Men)really perfected the idea of the selling sentence or elevator speech.
The Mars Candy Company hired him to design a campaign to sell M&M’S. Do you remember the line? M&M’S melt in your mouth not in your hand. Pretty good selling sentence right?
It got people’s attention and caused them to want to know more about the product. Remember – you want people to say Oh! Tell me more!
Now let’s think for a minute about an elevator speech or selling sentence that did not go well.
This is a little bit of a stretch so give me some latitude here to make my point.
How many of you have you seen the movie The Christmas Story about the kid who wanted a BB gun for Christmas?
Ralphie was the kid’s name. He practiced and practiced his form of an elevator speech so that he would be prepared when his mom and Santa asked him what he wanted for Christmas.
When the time came and he got the question he said…
“I want an official Red Ryder, Carbine Action, Two Hundred Shot, Range Model Air Rifle.”
He spoke to fast and sounded and did not leave anything open to the imagination.
What was his mother and Santa’s reply to Ralphie’s request?
--- Did they say “Oh! Tell me more!”
No. They said “You’ll shoot your eye out.”
His request was dead on arrival. There was no room for any follow up questions.
Maybe he could have said “I want a special toy that that will help me emulate the great pioneers that settled the west.”
That might have gotten his mom and Santa interested and set the stage for buy in follow up questions - so that it would be easier for Ralphie to get into the details of describing what he wanted.
Now think about what you want the essence of your elevator speech to be.
Let’s say you are working on your elevator speech for work.
First you need to brain storm.
Write down all the things that you and your company do for your clients.Do you provide convenience, comfort, safety etc.? 
Don’t be specific at first.
Write down everything that comes to mind.
Remember, no one wants to hear titles. For instance that you are a Managing Director of the Global Trading Desk at Goldman Sachs -  boring! 
They would rather hear that you make people rich!
You can give them all your titles after the client says “Oh! Tell Me More!”
Now, narrow down all things that you do to it most simple form.
Try to make this elevator speech 15 words or less.
Pretend you are talking with your 82 year old aunt. Be creative and get the client so interested that they say – “Oh! Tell Me More.”
The last important thing to remember is an old adage from comedians.
“Don’t step on the punch line!”
Stick to your selling sentence and then stop.
Let the person you are talking with speak first after you are done. If you have been successful they will say – “Oh! Tell Me More!!”
Thank You.

PS – My Elevator Speeches -
1.     In as little as 4 hours I can provide my clients with the fastest, safest and most beautiful private jets in the world, without long term contracts, so that they can get to their destination in the most convenient  way possible. Any jet,anywhere , any time.
2.     I provide clients with safe, fast, cost effective private jets on demand at any time andany where in the world.

Elevator speeches are sometimes referred to as a selling proposition or a selling sentence. You have to be able to explain what you do without taking all day and leave enough out there so that the client gives you permission to go on.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Wake Up - Speech for Toastmasters

Wake Up !!

Toastmaster Speech 3 – Get To The Point

In 1875 a committee was formed in the US House of Representatives to study the impact that the Horseless Carriage would have on the country. The committee was labeled the Horseless Carriage Committee. The committee report can be found in the Congressional Record. Here is an excerpt from the report.

 “Horseless Carriages propelled by gasoline might attain speeds of 14 or even 20 miles per hour. The menace to our people of vehicles of this type hurtling through our streets will call for prompt legislative action. The cost of producing gasoline is far beyond the financial capacity of private industry and the development of this new power may displace the use of horses which would wreck our agriculture.”

It is obvious that many of the US Political leaders of that time were out of touch with what was happening in their world.

I believe that is happening again. Our political leaders are focused on the wrong issues and are unable to see how the world is changing.

The goal of my speech tonight is to “Get to the Point”. My point is that our political leaders need to --- WAKE UP!!

I hope to persuade you to agree with me that the political conversation from both our political parties needs to first focus on recognizing today’s global realities and secondly to lead us in finding ways to enhance our countries natural advantages.

In getting to my point and persuading you to my way of thinking I will discuss how our political leaders see the world differently than CEOs. I will discuss how as Tom Friedman of the NY Times states, average is over, and that our country is well positioned to take advantage of this new world paradigm.

Think about what a politician sees when he or she looks at a map. They see states that contain voters. They want to be popular in each state regardless of the reason. Now think about what a CEO of a premier company that makes great products sees when he or she looks at a world map. They see places where their products can be made and sold. Michael Dell is always reminding people that 96 percent of his potential new customers live outside the US – the rest of the world. He points out that it is helpful to make at least some parts of the products he wants to sell in the countries where he wants to sell them. Many companies consider themselves to be global companies and citizens of the world. They have offices and factories and design teams located all over the place. The do not view things in terms of exports and imports. Tom Friedman writes that these CEOs rarely talk about outsourcing. The topic of Outsourcing is so 10 years ago. Their world is integrated. There is not an out or an in anymore. Many of their products might be designed/ imagined in the US, manufactured in the China, marketed in France and orchestrated by people here in the US. So the old phrase Made in America or Made in Japan are outdated. Most things are Made in the World. So our political leaders need to recognize this fact and quit acting like this is the 1970’s. They need to lead us in making policies that won’t attempt to fight the trend like the Horseless Carriage Committee but to take advantage of the trend.

Now let’s talk realistically about jobs. In the past here in our country people with average skills, doing an average job, could earn an average lifestyle. But as Friedman says – average is over. Adam Davidson writes in The Atlantic magazine that in the 10 years ending in 2009 US factories shed workers so fast that they erased almost all the job gains of the previous 70 years. Companies now have access to technology, software and automation not to mention access to cheaper labor in other parts of the world. These companies are not going to look the other way and pay US workers for jobs they don’t need to fill. Now our political leaders of the day blame the loss of jobs on political policies – taxes being too high or too low or greed or some other reason that is an easy scapegoat. Or they change the subject entirely i.e. birth control. But one of the main reasons we have lost jobs and are seeing higher unemployment is that the world economic paradigm has changed. Of course this is a hard pill for the American worker to swallow. I’m sure all the horse owners and horseshoe makers, not to mention the horses, got pretty upset too when the car starting putting them out of business. The point is to adapt to the trend. Instead of placing blame our political leaders need to be leading the charge in empowering our people to adapt and thrive in this new world.

The last point I want to make is that this is not bad news. Think about it. What country has historically welcomed talented people / immigrants from all over the world more than the US? What country has the best capital markets that are safe and credible? Our currency is strong and our stock exchanges are stable. The US is a great place to register for patents. And in our country .we have benefited by government funding of research and innovation that has led to huge gains in space research, bioscience and clean energy. There will be plenty of jobs for our citizens to design and market products and to manufacture and retail high end products. And of course all aspects of these products need to be shipped places and that shipping will continue to be a growing industry.

So our political leaders need to learn a lesson from the Horseless Carriage Committee. They need to change the political conversation and focus on today’s global realities and help lead our citizens to compete in a global interconnected economy where products are Made in the World, where average skills can no longer support an average life. Our political leaders should not fall back on petty placing of blame for the changes we are experiencing but instead embrace the changes and help to empower us to thrive. So to get to the point – our political leaders need to Wake Up!