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Frank Thomas of Brooklyn, New York, has a new breath of life – and a powerful message for all.
This is after overcoming rare tissue cancer and a devastating diagnosis of heart failure.
A New York Police Department detective for 23 years and a father of three, Thomas told Fox News Digital exclusively that he thought he was “just about done” when he was diagnosed with angiosarcoma – a cancer that forms in the inner lining of blood vessels and lymphatic vessels, according to the National Cancer Institute.
Patients with angiosarcoma have a low chance of survival, experts say.
“I thought I wasn’t going to see my kids grow up and my biggest fear was that they wouldn’t remember me,” Thomas, 56, told Fox News Digital.
A decade before his cancer diagnosis, Thomas helped ground zero recovery efforts following the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center on American soil.
“It was a horrible day and I saw things that day that I would never want anyone to see,” Thomas said.
He added: “I saw with my own eyes the greatness and the kindness of the people. I also saw how evil can destroy, but then, as a country, how remarkable we are. The September 11 is a very sad day for my family.”
“We not only relive the events of that day as New Yorkers, but we reflect on our friends who have died or become ill since and my own health issues since 9/11,” he said. .
Thomas’ cancer resulted in a massive tumor and his lung collapsed during the removal of this tumor. After four cycles of chemotherapy followed by radiotherapy, he was in remission.
“I thought I wasn’t going to see my kids grow up and my biggest fear was that they wouldn’t remember me.”
Then, last year, Thomas was retaining water in his body and struggling to walk – symptoms he says could have indicated COVID-19.
He was hesitant to see a doctor, so his 28-year-old wife, Joan, did some research and found a heart failure specialist at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York.
“With cancer, it was scary because the kids were small and it was a very rare type of cancer,” Joan Thomas told Fox News Digital. “Ten years later, we are dealing with the heart and [we’re] once again at Mount Sinai. We listen to the incredible team of doctors and [Frank] did what he had to do.”
“An Angel on My Shoulder”
Cardiologist Dr Anu Lala diagnosed Thomas with severe heart failure in 2021. Thomas underwent several stenting procedures to relieve artery blockages. Ultimately, he and his cardiologist both credit his lifestyle changes with improving his heart health.
“His heart muscle function, normal being in the range of 55-65%, was written at less than 15%,” Dr. Lala told Fox News Digital of his once declining health. Thomas.
“Not only did I feel like I had hope for a good quality of life, but she made me want to.”
“The heart was wreaking havoc all over his body,” she added. “Your mental, emotional and spiritual state is also significantly impacted. For me, it’s also a reminder of the intertwining aspects of well-being.”
The cardiologist said she tried to empower Thomas to improve his heart function, rather than focusing on the negativity associated with the words “heart failure”.
Thomas said that before working with Lala, he only slept four to five hours. Meals consisted of pizza and other fast food choices.
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“I really wasn’t living well where I was taking care of myself,” Thomas said. “I was eating the wrong foods. I took a more hands-on approach to what I eat now, how I exercise… I didn’t exercise a lot before.”
“Now I watch everything that goes into my body,” he added. “I eat more organic foods now, low fat, low calorie, lots of vegetables, fruits…I get enough sleep.”
Thomas leads an active lifestyle – exercise, travel and walking. Before that, he was unable to climb stairs.
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Once weighing nearly 300 pounds, Thomas said today he has lost around 100 pounds.
Thomas’ heart failure is now in remission.
“Dr. Lala is an angel on my shoulder,” Thomas said. “Not only did I feel like I had hope for a good quality of life, but she made me want to.”
Family “means everything to me”
With his health in good standing, Thomas is now focusing on the lives of his wife Joan and their children, Emily, 24, Francis Thomas, 20, and Joseph, 11.
Thomas reflects on recent memories he would have otherwise missed. He took part in a 9/11 relay at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, with his son Francis – who Thomas says will “carry this torch for the next generation”.
“It was emotional for me because my child is really aware and [cognizant] of the events of 9/11,” Thomas said of Francis, who attends the Naval Academy. “He is a very caring person. He wants to help in any way he can, others too, not just me.”
During the Memorial Relay, the American flag flies for 24 hours.
“My son ran the last leg with some of the commanders from the Naval Academy,” Thomas said. “It was a very proud moment for me. In front of Bancroft Hall, World Trade Center first responders were standing on the stairs. I was there when my son raised the flag, a moment I will never forget. .”
With Thomas’ cancer and heart failure both in remission, his wife Joan said she was ready to retire in order to spend more time with family. She worked for 35 years in education.
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Frank “had the opportunity to see his two older children graduate from high school and he’s going to see his daughter graduate from law school,” Joan said. She later added, “He got to see so much of their life.”
“Don’t wait, go see a doctor”
Frank Thomas offered advice for anyone with health issues.
“When you feel something is wrong early, go see the doctor early,” he said. “Don’t wait. If you don’t feel 100 percent, if you don’t feel well, go see a doctor.”
Thomas said he was grateful for the support from Joan and their children.
“I have an amazing wife and a very strong family. I wake up every morning happy to be here.”
“My prognosis wasn’t good, but my wife wouldn’t accept any outcome other than fighting it with everything we have,” he later added.
“I wasn’t living the healthiest life because I had worked night shifts my whole career, and I wasn’t always eating the best food. I learned that the blockages were a combination of that lifestyle and the radiation that were used to save my life.”
“As far as my mental health goes, I’m fine,” Thomas said.
“I have an amazing wife and a very strong family. I wake up every morning happy to be here. My saying is, ‘It is what it is. I get nervous when there are medical tests or my cancer checkup.”
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“But I know I’m living the fullest life possible for as long as I can,” he said.