Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Using Their Challenges as A Teaching Moment

Photos by Steve Stefanides


When those who choose a profession which we commonly refer to as “first-responders,” such as law enforcement, EMS or firefighting, they already know the risks they will face. Those dangers and challenges are more in evidence today than ever before, and we are thankful for their service and dedication to duty. 

However, these men and women are also human beings, susceptible to the many maladies and illnesses that we all are exposed to, in addition to the risks they take on in their professional lives.  

The advances in modern day treatments and medications have been a lifesaver for so many of our family members and friends, allowing them the opportunity to live long and productive lives and continue on in their pursuit of their professions. 

Recently, two of our own dedicated public servants have begun to face their own set of medical challenges. In the unselfish tradition of aiding others in need, they wanted to share their stories to allow others to learn from their experiences. It is their belief that through education and a better understanding of the challenges they are facing that others might benefit. 

Police Chief Tracy Frazzano has been diagnosed with breast cancer, while recently retired Fire Chief Michael Murphy was diagnosed with prostate cancer. Both have begun their regimens of treatments and procedures to overcome these challenges in their personal lives.  


Chief Frazzano  

Throughout her life, Police Chief Tracy Frazzano has been presented with challenges. Academically, athletically and professionally, she has overcome them all, regardless of the circumstances. When her physician’s office confirmed the diagnosis a month ago, she was determined that she once again would be prepared to fight with every ounce of her being, for she would be in what she says today is the largest battle of her life. 

“You have breast cancer. Those are words you hope never to hear in your lifetime. I just hope I can be the example that others look to when they are presented with this set of challenges,” said Frazzano  

Prior to coming to Marco Island, Frazzano had a stellar career within the Montclair, NJ, Police Department, rising through the ranks as its first female detective, sergeant, lieutenant and captain, prior to being selected as its first female Deputy Chief. 

Although she will always consider herself a “Mountie” for life, she quickly has been adopted by the citizens throughout the Marco Island community since she assumed command of th36-person department last year. 

In 2020, it was estimated that 276,480 new cases of invasive breast cancer were expected to be diagnosed in women in the United States, along with another 48,530 new cases of non-invasive breast cancer. 

There had been no evidence of the disease among immediate members of Frazzano’s family. It has never been an issue with her mother or her two sisters, so the diagnosis came as a surprise to Frazzano. The disease itself is only seen as 5 to 10% hereditary.  

The average woman in the United States has a one in eight (12%) chance of developing breast cancer. One of the best ways to detect the disease early is through routine mammograms which can see inside the structure of the breast, as self-examination is not always effective.  

Researchers are evaluating blood tests which may be able to identify what is known as tumor-associated antigens that have the potential to diagnosis possible tumors five years before a patient may exhibit clinical signs of a cancerous tumor, according to research being done in the U.K. 

There are varying opinions as to when regular mammograms should start. Some find recommendations beginning as early as 30, others at 40 and some after 50. However, all agree that a person should move forward on that decision based upon a full risk assessment of their specific needs by their physician if a determination is made as to whether she is high-risk candidate for the disease.  

“Until you are faced with a challenge such as this, you can’t really appreciate the value of the support system you have that is committed to seeing you through to a positive outcome. I feel fortunate that my family, the department and the city family are my rock. That’s a pretty awesome support group, plus the wonderful team of medical professionals who are guiding me through the process of beating this,” said Frazzano. 

Frazzano has begun a series of chemo-treatments as part of the arsenal of weapons her medical team is deploying against the foe she is fighting. Her determination and sheer will likewise will be weapons she surely will bring to bear against this opponent as she continues her battle.


Chief Mike Murphy 

Murphy was one of the first Florida Paramedics and a leader in prehospital emergency care within the fire service, so he is no stranger to some of the challenges facing individuals due to sickness or injuries. As Marco Island’s Fire/Rescue Chief, he helped to propel the small department into a first-class provider of both fire/rescue and professional EMS services through improved education and training. 

When the COVID-19 Pandemic was sweeping the nation, it was Murphy who City Manager Michael McNees looked to for the creation of a plan to help keep all city employees safe, including his personnel. 

Murphy came to Marco Island in 2001, after a failed attempt by city leaders to create a Public Safety Department, which would have seen firefighters and police officers share similar duties. That experiment failed and Murphy came out of retirement from the City of Miramar, FL, after a distinguished 30-year career with that agency to take over the helm of the Marco Fire/Rescue Department. 

After the loss of a great friend and fellow Fire Chief, David DiPetrillo, on the East Coast of Florida, Murphy had a serious conversation with his wife of 45 years, and together they came to the decision that it was time to close the book on his 50-years of experience in the fire service and open a new chapter in their lives that would include traveling and enjoying their grandchildren. 

He and his wife Barbara would enjoy the life of traveling in their RV that they shared with his sister and brother in-law, and do a trip into the mid-west and returning back to Marco late in the Fall to volunteer as usual with the Christmas Island Style celebration. It was during the holidays that he would be diagnosed with prostate cancerand by January, after consulting with his physician and family, a treatment program was established. 

Although prostate cancer is a relatively slow growing cancer, early detection is one of the key factors in a successful outcome of any treatment. Aside from non-melanoma skin cancer, prostate cancer is the most common cancer among men in the United States. Almost one man in eight will be diagnosed with prostate cancer during their lifetime. In 2019, it was estimated that 192,000 were diagnosed with prostate cancer. 

One of the common means of diagnosis for prostate cancer is a PSA test, which easily can be conducted via normal blood testing. For men in their 40s and 50s, a PSA test greater than 2.5 ng/ml is considered abnormal. The median PSA for that age range is 0.6 to 0.7. For men in their 60s and above, a PSA greater than 4.0 is considered abnormal; the normal range should be 1.0 and 1.5 ng/ml. 

“I can’t stress more strongly that early detection is the most important weapon in a person’s arsenal as you undertake this challenge. Also important is having confidence in your physician and the course of action he or she is recommending. Sometimes a second opinion can make all the difference in the world. I was extremely fortunate to have a wife and daughter who are medical professionals who have been wonderful advocates for me,” said Murphy.


What The Future Holds 

Both Frazzano and Murphy are positive in their outlook for the future and feel confident about the individual courses of treatment that they have chosen. They are extremely thankful for the support they are receiving from family, friends and the community. 

“I think if the goodwill you receive from those around you could be bottled, we’d have a vaccine which could cure most any illness out there today,” said Frazzano with her familiar broad smile and positive attitude. Murphy would agree. “The support from family and your friends is a big portion of helping a person successfully move on and succeed in this challenge,” said Murphy. 

Chief Frazzano continues with her duties and treatments, while former Chief Murphy is already looking forward to his next traveling adventure on the open roadonce he has completed his treatment regimen and recovery.


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