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Moment of Silence Tribute (excerpt from Valerie Fraser speech)
Frances Audrey Arzu
June 17, 1963 to July 4, 2017
This moment of silence is to honor the passionate, unstoppable, unchallengeable, unforgettable Frances Audrey Arzu. Frances exuded a strong spirit ! She was truly a “force of nature” wrapped up in a heart of gold.
At the age of 15 in 1978, she left Belize, the home of her birth, for Houston, Texas with her parents and six siblings to create a new life. Her sibling, Charlene was her fraternal twin.
Though the transition was difficult, the young Frances would conquer each struggle with grace and tenacity, go on to graduate high school with honors, receiving a BA in Economics and a Law Degree from the University of Miami. She practiced law throughout her life, and was a fierce and passionate advocate for her clients, especially the juveniles. She embraced life fully, loved to travel and was an avid scuba diver exploring the diving beauty of Fiji, Bali, Australia and Spain to name just a few. An undeniable inspirational force that touched you deep, destined to leave her footprint on your heart.
In 2001 the unthinkable happened, Frances’ parents were tragically killed in a horrible automobile crash. In their honor Frances and her siblings would create an educational foundation providing 4 year college scholarships for 5 Belize high school students and leave an enduring legacy of their parents’ love of quality education. Frances would be an integral part of the process with interviewing and monitoring each child’s progress. This continued to be a great source of pride for her !
Then two short years later, in 2003 Frances would be faced with her greatest challenge, she was diagnosed with Stage 2B, ER+ Invasive Ductal Carcinoma. It was terrifying. She was 39, newly married and trying to conceive her first child at the time. She would endure 6 months of an aggressive chemotherapy, 5-FU, Adriamycin and Cytoxan, followed by Taxotere, surgery and weeks of radiation, then continue with Arimidex for 3 more years.
Throughout the many ups and downs of her disease Frances continued to set the example for others to follow. She was unstoppable. She ran marathons, took up bodybuilding and even climbed the Matterhorn. In her quest to eat healthy and keep active and strong during treatment she came upon the ancient Chinese sport of “Dragon Boating”. When she learned that breast cancer patients had formed teams of 20 paddlers, a drummer and a steer person in a 40 foot floating “breast cancer dragon boat support group” she was instantly hooked ! In 2007 Frances was the founder, President, coach of the first Texas year-round, all breast cancer survivor dragon boat team, Pink Phurree, and the spearheaded the incredible fundraising effort that was necessary to purchase the team’s pink dragon boat. Pink Phurree’s mission was to help breast cancer survivors reclaim their lives mentally, physically, spiritually and emotionally. Frances and her team paddled in races throughout the US and Canada.
Frances refused to be just “a patient” throughout her 14 year cancer journey, dedicated to being an active participant and her “own best advocate”. She challenged her doctors and nurses every step along the way.
Along her treatment journey the cancer would eventually become resistant and she became metastatic in 2010. She was placed on a number of SERMs, Afinitor, Faslodex, Xeloda and finally Ibrance, but the cancer continued to progress metastasizing to her lungs. Throughout her own journey, Frances’ mission was to inspire others. There is hardly a breast cancer community or organization in the Greater Houston area that has not come to know Frances. She visited their support groups, participated in many community events and attended many conferences over the years. Her legacy will undoubtedly live on through her many accomplishments.
On July 4, 2017 Frances lost her 14 year struggle to breast cancer. The loss is great, she will remain forever in our hearts. The greater pain is that we shall never know how many more lives would have been touched by this amazing woman, or the impact she certainly would have had in the years to come. She was a tireless, inspirational and selfless advocate for encouraging others through her words and deeds, inspiring others to rise above adversity and thrive !
I ask that you please join with me now in a “moment of silence” in remembrance of this truly remarkably courageous and inspiring woman, Frances.
Just So You Know Interview
“I would like to be that woman that somebody else can say, ‘she is an X number of year survivor’.”
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Texas' 1st All Cancer Survivor Dragon Boat Team