CLEVELAND - After surgery in January 2012 to remove a tumor on his temporal lobe, former roofer Doug Weyrick was on his way to many months of radiation treatments at the Cleveland Clinic's oncology treatment floor.
His experience in the waiting room with others needing treatment prompted him to try something to produce a few more smiles.
A trip to a costume shop changed the floor forever. He decided to wear a different one every time he came in to the clinic.
"It was kind of a way ... If people are all stressed out and mad at the world about this, I don't think they do as good. But, if you're laughing and having fun, I believe you are better prepared," Weyrick said.
His wife, Anna, said she at first panicked at the news of Doug's tumor, but his positive attitude and laughter-inducing costumes soon put her at ease as well.
"He would say that you have to keep a smile on, got to keep on going and just stay positive about the whole thing. You know, God will get you through it," said Anna Weyrick. "There's no other choice... You can be happy or be miserable, so chose happiness."
From Darth Vadar to a pirate to a member of Run DMC to his oncologist, Doug kept people guessing.
The clinic's oncology staff is used to Doug's smile-making costumes and look forward to what his next costume might be. But Wednesday was Doug's graduation from the radiation treatment floor.
Doug, while wearing a graduation cap and gown, rang a bell ranging in the waiting room to celebrate his final treatment on the way to recovery.
After a staff member read a poem, ending with, "...for those who listen, his story he'll tell. Celebrate life by ringing that bell," Doug hugged almost every staff member on the floor. He'll be missed by everyone, in a good way. His radiology oncologist, Dr. Erin Murphy, may be at the top of that list.
"He's been a fantastic example. He really did all this, wearing new costumes every day, to enhance the experience of all the patients in the waiting room, and you'd see all the secretaries, the nursing staff, the therapists, nobody could wait to see what he would wear the next day," Murphy said.
Two of the most memorable costumes seemed to be his Clark Kent-turns into-Superman entrance, and his Tom Cruise impersonation from "Risky Business" with only a dress shirt and a pair of underwear. No one complained that it might be inappropriate or politically incorrect. Laughs on a sometimes grim, hospital wing were Weyrick's target.
"The thing was, they would always ask me, ‘What are you going to be tomorrow?' I'd go, 'I can't tell ya'. I'd even do that to my wife. I'd just show up and send her the pictures," Weyrick said.
On his way out of the main floor's waiting room, Weyrick turned, uttering one more quip from his last costume, "Hope I don't see you again."
(Costume photos courtesy of the Weyrick family)