Summarized by Donna Williams
BYU grad earns degree despite huge setbacks
Deseret News 11Aug99 L5
By Jeff Call: Deseret News staff writer
The average student's complaints about pressures and problems of
juggling the demands of college life pale beside the trials and
troubles David Frantz overcame to successfully complete his graduate
program. During his years at BYU, Frantz faced many unique
challenges. First, he learned his wife had contracted a rare,
debilitating illness. Then his son was born prematurely and struggled
to live. Later, Frantz dealt with the death of his wife, became a
single parent and eventually remarried all while pursuing a master's
degree and conducting rigorous cancer-related research.
Frantz's challenges began four years ago when his wife, Debbie was
diagnosed with scleroderma, a disease that causes skin tissue to
thicken; it can affect internal organs and gradually immobilizes
victims' bodies and has no known cure.
Then Debbie became pregnant, and her doctor recommended she have an
abortion because of her failing health. Instead, Debbie gave birth to
a son, Brian, who weighed just 2 pounds, 1 ounce. The baby spent
three months in intensive care with a hospital bill of $250,000.
Brian was given just a 50 percent chance of survival.
Frantz worked to keep up with his master's research involving the
effects of garlic on colon cancer cells while caring for his ill wife
and child. "I was going to classes sometimes with my son and his
heart monitor," he recalls. "My wife and son were going to doctors'
appointments three times a week. ... There were days when I wondered,
'Why am I doing this?' It was overwhelming."
Frantz credits understanding faculty members, especially Merrill
Christensen, for working with him to postpone his research while he
took care of his family concerns. "Dr. Christensen never lowered his
standards, but he bent over backwards to make sure I got through the
program," he said.
Finally after four years, Frantz was able to complete his two-year
graduate program. In 1998, his wife Debbie died after a valiant
struggle against her illness. Frantz recently remarried, and he and
his wife, Catherine, are raising Brian, who today is a happy, normal
"I've been blessed," Frantz said.. "With my training and background
in research, I want to study and treat patients with scleroderma. I
want to put myself in a position to give back. Hopefully I can take
the techniques I've used to help other people."