Life Update: A Challenging Road With MS

Hi everyone, today I’m sharing one of the most difficult and personal posts I’ve ever had to write, but thankfully Kendra Scott has partnered with me to help make this story a little easier to tell. I’ll warn you though… I write like I’m talking to a friend so please bear with me when it comes to grammar.

It’s kind of crazy that this story all started around this exact same time last year, but before I get in to that, allow me to fill you in on the backstory. This is my dad. His name is Frank Palpallatoc (most of you may know him as Coach Frank) and he is one of the kindest, smartest, caring, most creative and most talented dads I know. He taught me how walk, talk, dance, run, act, golf, drive and he even tried to teach me math, but I don’t think anyone can actually help me in that department. Haha!

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Outfit: Dot Lace Tiered Dress | Candace Cuff  & Katrina Earrings c/o Kendra Scott

When I was little he coached the jump rope club and track team at my school and taught the dance and drama club after class. He even volunteered to chaperone all of my field trips when I was elementary school and drove me to school everyday until I got my own car. Not to mention all the times he chauffeured me and my friends all over town and took us on 10-day long trips to California. Whoever voluntarily takes five teenage girls on two week vacations deserves a medal, but he just did it because it made me happy.

Unfortunately, my parents divorced while I was in the 8th grade, but he still remained just as involved in me and my sister’s lives as he was before. He even coached a lot of our friends in track, dance and volleyball so everyone knew “Coach Frank!” He lives to coach kids in sports!

Here comes the tough part…about a year ago, I noticed that every time I called my dad to go to lunch he was always at home resting. Even on week days when I called him thinking he was at work, he would say he was resting because he felt exhausted. I have a really strong intuition and knew something was wrong, but I just didn’t know what yet. Finally, he agreed to meet me for lunch and he you could actually tell that he looked exhausted. During lunch he explained that his job wasn’t working out well for him so he had quit and needed to find a new one. We would later learn that he was struggling with exhaustion and work because of his disease, but I’ll get to that part later in the story.

Since I could tell that something was strange about him I made sure to check on him more frequently and invite to lunch whenever I had time. My intuition that something was wrong was officially confirmed when his old girlfriend called me to tell me that she ran into him at Starbucks and said that he didn’t seem like his normal self. “He looked depressed and stressed,” she said. I told her I noticed the same thing and decided to keep a closer eye on him. I also prayed for him overnight before anything else.

One night I invited him to dinner at my house and while he was there he asked to use my shower because “he got some gunk on his head while he was moving the bikes into the shed outside.” This immediately raised a red flag to me. I wondered why he didn’t just shower at home. After dinner he lingered around much longer than normal just relaxing on the couch. When he got up to leave I asked him if he was still living over the same apartment and replied yes. I wanted so badly to follow behind him in my car to see if he really went there, but I knew I couldn’t. I’m his daughter not his mother. However, I knew deep inside that something was wrong so I prayed and prayed and tossed and turned in bed that night. Finally I just said, “God, I can’t do this alone anymore. This stress is too much to bear. I need you to take over and help me to be strong, but I’m putting all of my trust and faith in you. Just please do something to help him.” After that I was able to fall asleep.

The next day I called my dad to check on him and he said he was packing all of his stuff. I asked him what he meant and he said he couldn’t afford to live in his apartment anymore. I immediately freaked out and asked him why he didn’t tell me and where he was gonna go? Obviously no dad wants to ask the help of his daughter, but still! He told me that he was moving in with a friend for a while. This made me feel better and worse at the same time. I felt terrible that he was being forced to him, but I felt comfort in knowing that he had the support of a friend.

During our conversation I told him to meet me that night becaause he needed help with putting a new resume together for job hunting. My dad has always worked as a car salesman so he hadn’t created a new resume in over 20 years. Thankfully he agreed to meeting me at Starbucks that night. I brought my friend Anna along because she is mastermind when it comes to writing resumes and she was kind of enough to come help.

When we arrived to Starbucks, he was sitting with his friend Candace that he was moving in with. We got to talking and Candace said, “Did he tell you how I found him the other night?” That question immediately made my heart stop and I told her no and asked where. “Well let me tell you,” she paused, “We haven’t seen or talked to each over seven months, but recently I’ve been seeing his car parked in different spots all over town. So I tried calling him multiple times, but you know how he is with his phone!” I nodded my head nervous and concerned about what she was going to say next. She started again, “Well since I couldn’t get ahold of him  I decided to go put a note on his front door over the weekend hoping he would get back in touch with me. He never did though so the other night I was laying in bed and I don’t know what it was, but something kept telling me to go find frank so I did.” Y’all I couldn’t believe my ears! This was the same night that I was praying and told God that I needed him to step in and take over. “I drove back over to his place where I left the note and saw that it was still there, which I thought was so strange. Then as I was heading back to my car spotted his SUV and walked over to it to peek in. When I looked in I saw his feet and then realized he was sleep in the back of his car. I didn’t want to scare him so when I got back in my car I immediately called him and this was the first time he had answered my call in months. I told him to get his butt to my house right away and he could sleep in the guest room,” she said.

My heart sank as I held back tears. This was so out of character for my dad and he had never been in this type of position in his entire life that I’ve known him. Later we would learn that it was a disease that caused this strange behavior. So obviously this story broke my heart, but I was so grateful to Candace for taking him in and call it what you will, but this was the work of God. I don’t know how else you explain it. They hadn’t spoken in months, yet something suddenly told her to  go out and find him, which just so happened to be on the same night I asked God to take the wheel.

Thankfully, it wasn’t too long after that before he landed a great job at the local Sheriff’s department. Everything was going great until this past March when we had to bring him to the emergency room because he was having stroke-like symptoms: double vision in one eye, numbness and tingling on one side of the body, slurred speech, dizziness and cognitive issues. We thought for sure that he had a minor stroke in his sleep, which was surprising to us considering how healthy and physically fit he is. However, after three days of blood tests and MRIs in this hospital, they were able to rule out stroke, heart attack, tumor and cancer. The neurologist and radiologist said they were pretty positive that my dad had multiple sclerosis. In case you don’t what that is, which neither did we at the time, multiple sclerosis (MS) is an unpredictable, often disabling disease of the central nervous system that disrupts the flow of information within the brain, and between the brain and body.

MS flare ups can mimic a mini stroke, which explained all of of his symptoms and why he had been struggling with exhaustion and cognitive issues while working. The worst thing you can do for MS is to let your body temperature rise. The key is to stay cool because the heat causes flare ups. All of the symptoms of MS explained why he had been acting so strange.

When the neurologist first us told us the news, it was so scary because we had no clue what the disease was capable of. However, we were slightly relieved when he told us that even though there is no cure for MS, it is a very treatable disease and there are thousands of people leading normal lives with MS. The doctor also said that my dad would still need to undergo a few more tests before they could officially diagnose him. They referred us to the MS specialist, Dr. Bridget Baggart of Ocshner in New Orleans who has been amazing thus far. After completing the remainder of the tests, she officially diagnosed him with MS in April and researched the best options of treatments for him.

Dr. Baggart prescribed him to one injection of Avonex per week and Ocrevus infusions twice a year. He has yet to undergo his first trail of Ocrevus, but we hope to schedule him the appointment in August. Dr. Baggart believe that this will be the most effective medicine for him to prevent new lesions from forming and worsening his condition. Every case of MS is different, which makes it difficult to predict the progression of the disease in each person, but I pray that these infusions are successful.

One of the most challenging parts of the disease for my dad is the depression that comes with it. He is one of those people who is always smiling and content. However, it’s hard for him to feel happy when he can’t do all the things that he loves like running or biking on the lake front and coaching his volleyball team. It breaks my heart to see him struggle to do regular everyday tasks when he is having a flare up from the disease, but I just always remind him that he is so lucky that it’s a disease he can live with. Not to sound morbid, but I tell him that so many people go to the hospital with strange symptoms and hear they’re going to die and you’re so lucky that you went in only to learn you’re going to live. You’re just going to live differently with more challenges.

Now to throw another curveball at you… the company my dad works for recently took a huge budget cut, which caused them to lay off hundreds of employees included my dad, which means he no longer has insurance until he finds a new job. This was obviously devastating news since we had plans of scheduling his first appointment of infusions in July, but we just keeping praying and taking everything day by day. I strongly believe in the power of prayer and I have faith that God will give us the strength and resources we need to get through this.

How You Can Help:

 Kendra Scott, being the generous philanthropist that she is kindly offered to dedicate her Fall launch event at the New Orleans store to help support my dad and MS Society after hearing his story. With that being said, I will be co-hosting a Kendra Gives Back event on Wednesday, August 9, 2017  from 5-8 pm at their New Orleans location to introduce their fall collection with Dashing Darlin and A Pinch of Lovely. We will have plenty of champagne, treats and 20% of the proceeds will go towards MS Society and hospital bills for my dad during this difficult time.

 If you’re unable to attend the event, you can always call the store and purchase over the phone: (504) 613-4227 and don’t worry they offer FREE shipping! Just make sure to let them know that you want your purchase to help support Frank Palpallatoc (Haute Off The Rack’s dad) and MS Society.

Any additional donations are welcomed at the event if you choose to do so and prayers are always appreciated.

When & Where:

Kendra Scott Fall Launch Event

5-8 pm on Wednesday, August 9, 2017

5757 Magazine St., New Orleans, LA | (504) 613-4227