My legs won’t lift off the chiropractor’s table.
Susan, my fiancé, says that I have to go to the Emergency Room.
I agree to go after my Sunday 7 am meeting, August 8, 2011.
ER is too expensive, so I go to Urgent Care instead.
Go to Urgent Care and my personal Doctor, Dr. Yee is there.
He’s in Urgent Care on a Sunday at 8:30 am! That’s odd.
Dr. Yee is the Head of Internal Medicine at Kaiser Permanente Hospital.
They say: “If it’s odd--that’s God!”
Dr. Yee examines me and says: ”This is not you, Frank.”
He has someone put me in a wheel chair and they roll me over to the ER.
They start running tests on me. They put a camera down my throat to look in my stomach.
They put a catheter in me so now I pee in a bag. What’s happening? What’s going on?
Dr. Yee says that I have to go to see an Oncologist and he sets up an appointment for me.
Is an Oncologist a cancer doctor? What’s happening? What’s going on?
A few days later we are in Dr. Pakanati’s office with my fiancé Susan, my son, Dylan, my daughter Elizabeth, and her wife, Cia. Dr. Pakanati says that I have a rare form of cancer.
Everyone gets out their smart phones and they Google the name of the cancer.
Doctor says that there are seven tumors in my stomach and they are growing aggressively and I must take aggressive Chemo immediately.
She says that there is a 10% chance of my surviving the stomach cancer and the chemo.
She says that if the Chemo kills the tumors too fast and they leave holes in my stomach, I will die.
She says that there is cancer in my spine and that there is a 0% chance of my ever walking again.
I say that I want a second opinion. Everyone else says no and a wheel chair takes me down to the Chemo Floor of the hospital and they begin the Chemo.
I say that I don’t mind dying, but I want to marry Susan before I die
Everyone says focus on getting well. What’s happening? What’s going on?
The chemo begins and I get sick. My hair is falling out.
I won’t eat anything except a lox and bagel sandwich. This is scary.
My Chemo nurse is an Indian from India. I tell her that I am Indian too. She says your name is Italian. I tell her that my biological grandfather is Swami Paramananda, so I have Indian ancestry.
She is polite, but thinks that I am confused because of the Chemo. Gradually, she lets me tell her my story. I tell her that when I was 18 and about to go to Europe for the summer in 1960, my mother tells me that I am going to spend August with my father, Mario.
She says that now that I am 18, I need to know that my father, Mario, is really my uncle and my uncle Chad is really my biological father. Have a nice summer.
Wait! My father, Mario, is my uncle, and my uncle Chad is really my father?
I grab the biggest bottle of Vodka and stick it in my bag and drink it all the way to London. Is this a nightmare? What’s happening? What’s going on?
The nurse says: “How does this mean that your grandfather is the Swami Paramananda?”
Well, this is really crazy. It turns out that my Grandmother Lily Braggiotti had an affair with the Swamiand she had a baby with him and that was my biological father Chad.
Sorry, this makes me sick just telling her all this. Time to throw up again.
I didn’t even like Chad. I really liked Mario. It’s the family secret and no one wants to talk about it. Turns out that my mother, known as Baby, couldn’t have a child with Mario, so she decided to conceive a child with Mario’s youngest brother, Chad. So, that is how I have an Indian ancestry.
About this time, my heart starts beating real fast. They race my bed up to the heart floor.
Now they tell me that I have a heart condition called Afib, an irregular beating of my heart.
They stabilize me after a few days and send me back to down to the Chemo floor.
Happy to see my Indian nurse. She says why don’t you write a book about your story.
I tell her that is a good idea, but I don’t feel like it right now. Besides I have more stories.
It’s like they say that when you are dying your life flashes before and you see things from your
past like a movie. My son, Dylan, gets me a tape recorder so that I can begin to tell my stories.
I try but it is very difficult. I see things and hear things but I just can’t to get them down.
There are so many memories. They come and then they go. There is more Chemo and now the Doctor starts injecting the Chemo right in my spine. They give me medicines to kill the pain. Makes me sleepy. Awakened by Elizabeth bringing me a lox and bagel sandwich. Maybe I can remember something.
In 1962, I built the Three Fountains apartments. In 1964, I went to work with Kaufman and Broad, Phoenix Division. Then moved to Los Angeles to be the Assistant Division Manager of the Los Angeles Division. After a year, I was let go. I was hired to create a home building company for the California City and Colorado City communities. Return to Phoenix to build a shopping center.
In 1968, I was in Las Vegas consulting on building the first McDonalds that was not the red and white tile on Maryland Parkway. Located McDonald locations over the western United States. Met Ray Kroc. He took us to see Fidler on the Roof and then ended my client’s relationship with Sheppard & Tupper. This was described as a $5 million dollar hamburger fiasco.
Started a home building company in Phoenix with Kaufman and Broad plans. It was called Tempo Homes. Built hundreds of homes. I was called the “Hippy Home Builder.”
On July 4, 1972, I declared that I would run as a Republican candidate for Governor in the Recall Election to replace governor Jack Williams when he was recalled.
On September 16, I rented the Phoenix International Race Track and had a rally to protest the U.S. expelling the Beatle John Lennon. It was broadcast live on KDKB radio and made into a record album. Interrupted by Susan who prayed over me and gave communion like she did every night that I was in the Hospital. On November 19, 2011, my children and Susan were called by the Hospital and told that if they wanted to see me before I died, they must come ASAP because after I had survived the cancer and heart issues, I now had pneumonia and the medicine they were giving me wasn’t working. My son, Dylan, convinced the head nurse to continue the saline solution because I was severely dehydrated.
I was almost dead, unable to talk nor write. When the intravenous solution began the dials on the machines began to show improvement. Susan came as the children were leaving.
Again, I said that I didn’t want to die without marrying her because I knew that when I would be absent from my body, I would be in Heaven. Susan got a Pastor to marry us the next day,
November 20, 2011.
On November 27, the Hospital decided that I should be moved to a skilled nursing Facility called Grand Valley Health care Center. What’s happening? What’s going on?
They teach me how to eat again. They put me in a machine to make me stand up. After 2 years, I am able to take my first steps in parallel bars. Then walk with a walker. I spent two years and eight months there and was able to walk out of there July 3, 2014.
Now Susan and I go back there the first Friday of every month to our “church” of people in wheel chairs. We give them our hope, strength, and experience. Also we give them stuffed animals and handouts.
FRANK BRAGGIOTI was born in New York City, raised in Arizona, and graduated Arizona State University.