When Frank Herner III arrived at Bancroft School in eighth grade, life hadn’t been kind to him. He lost his mom to breast cancer when he was 10 years old and was living with his grandmother.
Today he wears a black “I love boobies” rubber bracelet in his mother’s memory.
“I wear this all the time,” said Herner, snapping the bracelet against his right wrist. “She fought cancer long and hard.”
A year after his mom’s death, Herner had a grand mal seizure.
After lots of testing he was diagnosed with limbic encephalitis, an autoimmune disease that causes swelling of the limbic area of the brain.
“That’s the area that controls emotions and memory, among other things,” said Herner, who underwent extensive treatment once he was diagnosed. “It was like chemotherapy: two eight-hour days in a row of sitting in the hospital with needles in my arm. And I did that 12 times.”
He’s had eight grand mal seizures since then and still struggles with paniclike episodes where a severe headache descends out of the blue, and he suddenly feels sick. Doctors are working on finding out exactly what’s going on, and how best to keep him seizure-free and healthy.
Graduating from Bancroft School – which Herner said is a lot like the alternative high school Havermale, but with students from third grade and up – was not a given.
“I found out in March that I had enough credits to graduate,” Herner said with a big smile. “That meant I had to do my senior project super fast.”
He’s a car enthusiast, so in three weeks he produced a 7 1/2 page report on the history of cars, from the first one to the future ones he hopes to help design.
“I had to do that on top of everything else I was doing,” Herner said.
He’s attending classes at the New Tech Skills Center for part of every school day and plans to study at Spokane Community College for two years before moving on to Washington State University.
“I want to go for a master’s degree in mechanical automotive engineering,” Herner said, “and I want a degree in computer science and technology.” His dream career would be to design and sell blueprints for modifying cars for racing.
Like many 18-year-olds, Herner loves video games and music. His favorite band is Green Day; he said he feels a special connection with the band because lead singer Billie Joe Armstrong lost his dad to cancer as a young child. Herner said he used to listen to classic rock with his mom, so he’s also a fan of the Eagles and Lynyrd Skynyrd.
Making it to high school graduation has been a great, long haul, Herner said.
He said he doesn’t have a good relationship with his dad, but he’s looking forward to visiting his sister in Illinois this summer.
“And I am grateful for my grandmother,” he said, pausing briefly. “She promised my mom on her deathbed that she would see me through graduating from high school. And she did.”