My father has always been an “outside of the box” kind of guy as he likes to describe himself. I say he is eccentric, but call it what you will, he is who he is. My brother and I came to accept his idiosyncrasies at such a young age that I believe we just thought the lifestyle we lived was how everyone else lived. As we got older I think we started realizing that our life was a little different than most.
To the credit of my father, sometimes he had such ingenious ideas that I was left ecstatic with delight. For instance, one day when I was around ten, and mom was out grocery shopping, dad and I sat in the living room and I could tell he was creating something great in his mind. The moment I saw the light bulb go off, dad exclaimed, “I’m going to put a swing in the living room!” It didn't occur to me that "other" people didn't have swings in their living rooms, not one bit. All I could think was “Yes! We are going to have a swing in the living room!” But my dad, being who he is, didn’t care what anyone else had or didn't have, he did as he dang well pleased. My mom, on the other hand, wasn't always so pleased, especially when she came home from shopping and found things like....swings in the living room. On that particular day, dad crawled up in the attic, performed whatever magic he had to to make sure the swing was stable, and hung fancy ropes and a padded seat cushion from the ceiling close to the south wall with the window. From there on out, I spent hours on that swing, right side up, upside down…sometimes laying on the floor while hanging my feet over the swing and falling into a deep sleep as the rays of the afternoon sun warmed my dreams. Oh how I loved that swing.
Then there were other things…inventions, ideas, odd creations laying around our house which left visitors raising an eyebrow and asking “What is that?” My dad loved that question. He would then proceed to explain the greatness behind his cup holder invention, or his magnetic engine that would change the world as we know it. He isn't crazy, he is just one of those guys that given enough time in life, might just do something to change the world. When everyone else is exclaiming that the world is flat, my dad is insisting that the world is round.
But the most eccentric "invention" of all, were the nipples. Yes, that's what I said...."the nipples." My dad didn't just follow brilliance, he also followed the market. During the 1960’s when bras were meant to be burned dad decided if he could create rubber stick on nipples to enhance the sensuality of women who went braless, he could sell them in the back of magazines and ultimately make a fortune. He never sold them because, somewhere along the line, I imagine the nipples took the back burner to a more lucrative and ingenious invention. Consequently, rubber nipples were left hanging around our house, side by side with magnetic engines and the multitude of other creations that are too many to list. I thought nothing of it; that is, until the cheerleading squad came to practice at my house and someone pointed out the nipples...to which I'm sure they went home and told their parents leaving me unknowingly by far the kid from the weird family. I would always respond with “Oh, my dad’s just inventing something” and shrug it off like it was the norm. Only in my world it was the norm.
Fast forward to yesterday and my nine hour appointment with at least a dozen Stanford surgeons, radiologists, geneticists, oncologists, and every other fancy term for doctor one can imagine. I met with a “tumor board” which really is a group of some of the greatest medical brains in the nation. They ooohhed and aahhed as they felt “the tumor” and took turns as if they were children giving one another turns at inspecting the first rock that had ever fallen to earth from the moon. “No, no, go ahead, you can go next.” They stood in line with almost a sense of anticipation, “Go right ahead Dr. Oz, you can feel it next.” “Why thank you Dr. Welby” and then the next one would inspect. I sat straight up, in my best form, feeling confident that these men and women who work for the 12th ranked Cancer Clinic in the United States were using their brains to determine the best course of action for my treatment. How lucky was I?
The problem came when my surgeon met with me an hour later to tell me the Tumor Board could not agree on the best course of treatment. At that, I imagined a conference table with highly opinionated medical staff puffing on big cigars while saying “Put the money on the red!” “No! Put the money on the black!” (Sorry, but all I know from gambling is playing odds and evens, red and black at the roulette tables in Reno).
Finally, my surgeon, Dr. Frederick Dirbas, big brain Dirbas who received all of his credentials at Stanford and was named one of the best doctors in America by Best Doctors, Inc. from 2009-2011, and one of America’s Top Oncologists by the Consumers’ Research Council of America in 2009 and 2010, offered me not one possible treatment option, but four. Yes, four. They all have serious implications, permanent and long term. Being one to trust my gut after asking some very pointed questions about recurrence with lumpectomy and radiation vs. mastectomy, etc., I chose "Door Number Two," praying I won't get a donkey and a pig.
Door Number Two involves a central lumpectomy and radiation with a biopsy of the lymph nodes and five years of hormones. If there are no nodes involved then I may not need chemo, but of course, we won't know anything until after the surgery.
Yes, I know this is all serious stuff, but somehow, seeing so many people in wheelchairs, and young women going through chemotherapy who will be thrust into the throes of menopause with little hope for ever having children, my problems seem insignificant in comparison.
But what I didn’t tell you is that a Central Lumpectomy means, they take my nipple. There, I said it. Now everyone knows. That was "Door No. Two. The cancer has simply grown too close and possibly into that part of my breast, and I'm not one to gamble with my life...so I made my choice.
After I left the hospital I was relieved. Although some of the doctors felts like a mastectomy was the best route, my surgeon didn't, and I trust him, and I trust the statistics in my specific case; so I was overcome with relief and needing so badly to laugh or cry, or do anything to offset the seriousness of my day.
And so, one of my first comments to Richard, who held my hand from 8:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. when the last dose of blood was taken and the last doctor was seen, upon leaving the clinic was simply.... “Well thank God my dad has extra nipples laying around.”
If only you could have seen the look on Richard’s face.
Sweet Dreams and Always GOOD Dreams,