Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Carlton: What Stacy would want you to know

Stacy Frank, a non-smoker, died six months after a lung cancer diagnosis.

Stacy Frank, a non-smoker, died six months after a lung cancer diagnosis.

When someone you know dies unexpectedly and too young, you tend to make them larger than life, maybe to hold on to the best things about them.

But with Stacy Frank, there was no need. Stacy spoke for herself.

If you knew her you felt one way or the other about her — no gray area. She was a political wonk who took wonking up a notch, a fierce Democrat on the phone to friends mornings after absorbing her newspapers and cable news. She fished and boated and loved everything about Florida, except the politics and politicians who seem determined to hurt it.

Long before I met her I knew of her mother, Pat Frank, an icon in state and local politics and Hillsborough's current clerk of the courts. And I was a little afraid of her father, Dick Frank, a judge I covered when I was a new reporter. Stacy herself was a force, a petite woman in big gold earrings shaped like starfish, a lawyer who started her own cell tower business, a strong supporter of causes and candidates, and a friend to a whole lot of people.

By last September, she did not feel right — something respiratory. At first they thought bronchitis, then asthma. Three days after Christmas she was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer. Except Stacy didn't smoke.

When people get very sick, we always say they fought, they were courageous, but she did and she was. On a voicemail message from last month, she is telling me that someone who had just done something politically dastardly was lucky she wasn't up to full speed, or she would, and I quote, go box their ears. She died weeks later, six months after she was diagnosed. She was 61.

Here is what Stacy Frank would want me to tell you:

That, according to a spokesman for the Moffitt Cancer Center, non-smokers are a growing percentage of lung cancer cases —15 to 20 percent and women in particular. That while high-risk current and former smokers can have early detection through low-dose CT scans, diagnosis is more difficult in people without a smoking history. That this means when diagnosis does come, for many it's already late stage. And that research is needed for early detection and "better outcomes" for people who did not smoke but got lung cancer anyway. Her family started a Stacy Frank Fund at Moffitt for donations for this.

Tonight her friends — and they are legion — her family, her allies, and those who just liked her will gather at the Tampa Museum of Art. No doubt there will be much telling of Stacy stories, of the seemingly contradictory things that made the whole of her: How she loved gathering people at her house at the beach but disliked actual sand. How she read the New York Times cover to cover, but always had the latest trashy tabloids on hand and loved a good Law & Order binge. How she was seen by some as fearsome, but took generosity to a new level for her people and her causes. How, at a recent gathering, a remarkable number of people said they thought they were her best friend, though in truth that was always Ladybird, her dog.

This week, campaign signs started sprouting around town like weeds. I actually reached for the phone to call her and ask which ones she thought worked and which were epic fails. I knew Stacy would have an opinion. Ditto Melania Trump's remarkably similar speech this week. Stacy would be burning up the phone lines.

When someone as alive as her is gone, you can't think it was for nothing. Stacy Frank would want you to know what she didn't, about a deadly smoker's disease that hits non-smokers, too. She would want something positive out of all the sadness. It's just how she lived, pushing to make it better.

Sue Carlton can be reached at carlton@tampabay.com.

Carlton: What Stacy would want you to know 07/19/16 [Last modified: Tuesday, July 19, 2016 8:47pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Buccaneers-Vikings Turning Point, Week 3: Overreaction vs. reality

    Bucs

    "None of us really know how this group of 53 guys is going to come together and how we're going to play this season."

    Vikings receiver Stefon Diggs torched a porous Bucs secondary Sunday with eight catches for 173 yards and two touchdowns. [Getty Images]
  2. Triad Retail Media names Sherry Smith as CEO

    Corporate

    ST. PETERSBURG — Triad Retail Media, a St. Petersburg-based digital ads company, said CEO Roger Berdusco is "leaving the company to pursue new opportunities" and a member of the executive team, Sherry Smith, is taking over.

    Roger Berdusco is stepping down as CEO at Triad Retail Media to pursue other opportunities. [Courtesy of Triad Retail Media]
  3. What to watch this week: Fall TV kicks off with 'Will & Grace,' 'Young Sheldon,' return of 'This Is Us'

    Blogs

    September temperatures are still creeping into the 90s, but fall officially started a few days ago. And with that designation comes the avalanche of new and returning TV shows. The Big Bang Theory fans get a double dose of Sheldon Cooper's nerdisms with the return of the titular series for an eleventh season and …

    Sean Hayes, Debra Messing and Megan Mullally in Will & Grace.
  4. Eight refueling jets from Arkansas, 250 people heading to new home at MacDill

    Macdill

    TAMPA — The number of KC-135 refueling jets at MacDill Air Force Base will grow from 18 to 24 with the return of a squadron that once called Tampa home.

    A KC-135 Stratotanker, a military aerial refueling jet, undergoes maintenance at MacDill Air Force Base. The planes, many flying since the late 1950s, are now being flown more than twice as much as scheduled because of ongoing foreign conflicts. [LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times]
  5. Bucs couldn't connect on or stop deep passes in loss to Vikings

    Bucs

    If two things were established as storylines entering Sunday's Bucs-Vikings game, it was that Tampa Bay was still struggling to establish the deep passes that were missing from its offense last year, and that …

    Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Stefon Diggs (14) gets into the end zone for a long touchdown reception as Bucs free safety Chris Conte (23) cannot stop him during the second half. [LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times]