In 2020, most people had the Coronavirus to worry about, but for Christina Franks, the pandemic was the least of her worries.
Franks grew up in Washington Township and attended Washington Township High School. Everyone knew who she was– bubbly, adventurous and inclusive. Most people gravitate towards her. She was involved in volleyball and softball and lived an extremely active lifestyle. She went to the gym almost every day, and if she wasn’t in the gym or in school or hanging out with her friends, she was involved in an after-school extracurricular program.
She eventually graduated from Washington Township High School in 2018 and was accepted into Rowan University as a marketing major. When she started school in the fall semester, she experienced more diversity and culture in the university than in her former high school.
For the next two years, she triumphed over some of her insecurities, such as her physical appearance. She would continue into her marketing degree and even began training for a promotion in her job as a building manager.
Then 2020 hit.
By this point, Franks’ whole life had changed. She went into lockdown for about two months and was finally able to resume a somewhat of a normal life. Once again, she advocated for herself that something was off with her body, and eventually started bruising easily and badly. She was finally able to get an examination and was diagnosed with an illness that would eventually become life-threatening.
“That was the first time I came into my parents’ bedroom truly afraid that I was going to die. I remember being in tears and having a complete breakdown over it,” Frank stated.
“I just knew that we had to be strong for her. Of course, we were hopeful for [the] best-case scenario, but we had to prepare to be her advocate and to fight for her and just be there for her for whatever she needed,” Franks said.
However, when Frank got a second opinion two weeks later, they discovered that she was misdiagnosed. Franks actually had A-Plastic Anemia, a disease that was eroding her bone marrow. While the disease itself was less fatal than the previous one she was diagnosed with, she ended up having to get a bone marrow transplant in August of 2020.
Even though the procedure went well for Franks, she eventually developed a major complication– cancer. She had post-transplant lymphoproliferative disorder (PTLD) cancer, a type of lymphoma that results from an increase in lymphoid cells after a person receives a transplant. She was hospitalized and had to receive multiple cancer treatments, including chemo and radiation. To say it was a battle would be an understatement for Franks. In May of 2021, she developed an infection called C-DIFF, which made it impossible for her to keep food or water in her system.
“It was so severe that they actually had to put me on a feeding tube,” Franks stated.
Her health only continued to deteriorate. In July of 2021, she developed pneumonia and had so much fluid build-up in her lungs that she had to get them drained about four times.
“It was so much fluid in my lungs that it was enough to fill a water bottle up. I had to receive oxygen, because I was suffocating.” Franks stated.
Her parents remember the experience clearly.
“I remember sitting in her room with her and her mom watching survivor, and I remember how ironic this felt because I literally am watching my daughter fighting for her life, and her desperately wanting to survive,” Paul Franks, her father, stated.
“It felt like months of constantly waiting for the other shoe to drop, but if I knew Christina, she would get through this and all we could do is give her hope, advocate for her and be there for her whenever she needs us,” Liz Franks, her mother, stated.
Although Franks did have to take a semester off and complete another semester virtually, she eventually returned to Rowan and is currently thriving. This experience impacted her perspective on life. She changed her major to social work and wants to help other children who might be experiencing medical complications of their own. She has also learned that you have to be your biggest advocate and you can create your own positive energy.
Finally, she learned not to take things at face value because things can change in an instant. Her favorite show now is Survivor, how fitting is that for Christina Franks?
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