GREEN BAY — Three years ago, Frank Lamping and his wife, Andrea, got the news nobody wants to hear.
The diagnosis of Stage 4 prostate cancer was devastating for the couple, who have been together for more than 40 years. Frank immediately needed to undergo surgery to begin fighting the disease with a round of chemotherapy soon to follow.
His doctor planned to schedule the operation on a Monday, but that wouldn’t do. Lamping, a lifelong Packer fan and season-ticket holder, had a prior obligation.
The Packers had a home game on Sunday. His seat at Lambeau Field was calling him.
“I said I can’t miss it,” Lamping recalled Tuesday. “The doctor kind of looked at me funny, but I told him I can’t miss a game.”
Lamping didn’t. His doctor agreed to push the surgery back a couple days, so Lamping could take his rightful place in the front row of Lambeau Field’s south end zone.
Wearing his Packers hardhat and the size 11 cleats of former backup quarterback Ty Detmer, Lamping accepted the honor in front of more than 60 of his closest friends and family.
Lamping was selected out of 10 finalists during a voting period that ran from Jan. 1 to Jan. 30 on packers.com. More than 60,000 votes were cast through the United States and countries around the world.
“This is the biggest award I’ll ever get in my life,” Lamping said. “I again want to thank (Packers President/CEO) Mark Murphy and the Packers for everything. I get goosebumps just coming in this place and now I’m in it forever.”
Cancer can be a wake-up call for a lot of people, but not Lamping. The farm kid who used to take a 3-hour break from chores on Sundays to watch the 1960s Packers with his father has always lived his life with purpose and sense of duty.
Long before cancer invaded his body, Lamping was known for being one of the most charitable and giving people in Racine County. He’s the president of the Lion’s Club in Union Grove, overseeing its Punt, Pass and Kick competition.
The community produced "Go Frank Go” T-Shirts to help raise money for his treatments. Instead, he and Andrea redirected the funds to the American Cancer Society, raising more than $3,000 for its Relay for Life intuitive.
“He’s got Stage 4 cancer yet he’s still volunteering to serve pancakes at the local pancake breakfast,” said Don Schauf, a longtime friend who nominated Lamping for the honor.
“He’ll ride a bike in the fourth of July parade, a high wheel bike. He doesn’t slow down. He doesn’t sit around and say poor me. He says I have a responsibility to these people.”
Wanting to do something for Lamping, Schauf and a group of his friends came up with the idea of nominating him for the Packers FAN Hall of Fame, the only of its kind in the NFL.
Schauf penned the essay and passed along the application, but the real hero was his daughter Lizz Tyler, who actually reminded her father to nominate Lamping with the deadline quickly approaching.
“I lost sight of it,” Schauf said. “My daughter sent me a text on Nov. 29, saying, ‘Dad, have you nominated Frank yet?’ I just saw on Twitter that nominations close today.”
Although Lamping was limited to 10 people to accompany him inside Lambeau Field’s media auditorium for Tuesday’s announcement, a bus of 50 people made the trip from Union Grove with another dozen individuals driving themselves.
The extra onlookers were perfectly content watching a livestream of the announcement from the bus before finding out the entire group would be permitted in.
Lamping said the community support has been overwhelming. More than 300 people turned out for a rally in his honor last month in Union Grove. A Facebook group also was established and has gained more than 1,800 members.
“(If) they put all this support in for me and I lost, I’d feel terrible. I told them that,” Lamping said. “They said don’t feel like that but that’s how I feel. It’s just amazing.
Lamping, acknowledging Tuesday was Valentine ’s Day, fought back tears while thanking his wife. He also used the platform to reiterate the importance of getting annual physicals and examinations, especially for men older than 45 years old.
While the cancer metastasized to his bones, Lamping remains optimistic about his forecast. He recently wrapped out a round of chemotherapy and will soon begin a transition to immunotherapy, which is intended to build up his own immune system to battle the cancer cells on its own.
Lamping received good news last week when he was told his Prostate-Specific Antigen numbers have continued to drop, signaling the treatment is working.
“He’s very positive, while me I’ve always been a Debbie Downer,” said Andrea with a smile. “That’s just me but he’s very positive, very upbeat and he always has been. I think this is why things go so well for him. He’s always upbeat, positive and happy. I’ve never seen him sad or down or anything like that. It’s never been a why me thing. Never.”
After the ceremony, Lamping walked down the Packers’ tunnel and onto Lambeau Field. He quickly pointed out the spot that his childhood idol, Bart Starr, scored the winning touchdown in the Ice Bowl off a quarterback sneak.
He takes pride in being the first one in the stadium on game days, making sure he’s in his seat in time to catch field goals off the nets during pregame warmups.
Finally, Lamping recalled seeing a sign at Super Bowl XXXI that read, “The journey is the reward.” After everything he’s been through, he feels that line sums up his situation and passion for the Packers.
“They’ve helped me forget about it,” said Lamping of the impact the Packers have had on his cancer battle. “I come here or I think about the away games, it gives me time away from having to think about this stuff going on in me that I can’t control. I do the best I can, but they give me that out, I get this joyous feeling and I’m happier than all get out.”