Hello friends and detail buddies, I hope this post finds you well today.
So, 2016 didn’t turn out to be the year I was thinking it was going to be. January, February, and March of 2016, my head was still in the game and I was originally planning for another good year as always. However, by the time I reached April, “5am of April 26th, 2016 to be exact,” it all came to a stop. As many of you may know I was submitted to cancer treatment for the care of some very aggressive skin cancer on the left side of my neck. Little did I know when I wrote my last article here, “Protecting You Skin When Working Outdoors” I was going to end up in cancer treatment. Unbelievable… Go figure. I knew I was dealing with some relevant issues but never thought it was really leading me there. How ironic, and so quickly after writing that.
2016 started off very strong for me mentally! I had some new ideas, loads of communication with friends and a high level of excitement. Well that didn’t work out so well once I learned how my year was really going to go… It’s much like falling off a train, it’s very difficult to jump back on and pick back up where you left off. But that’s okay! Not everything needs to happen at this very moment and if you woke up this morning, that means you still have time. For so many years now, I’ve had my head up in the clouds, a puppet to my own creation, warped into this tiny box I built for myself, detailing this, detailing that. If you’re devoted it’s a never ending cycle and we want to believe there’s a “top” to the mountain being climbed. “Good luck in searching.” Sounds somewhat like a negative thought, right? Well it’s not meant to be. With good effort, every day is a mountain climbed, gifted with a reward, if found.
For those who don’t know, I had very aggressive stage 3 squamous cell carcinoma, skin cancer issue on the left side of my neck. They had to go in and remove a good portion of that side of my neck including the sternocleidomastoid muscle, 18 lymph nodes, nerves, and other things along with all my rear teeth. They did a skin graft taking a large portion of tissue from my left thigh to substitute as the new skin on my neck. I had 6 weeks to recover from the surgery before beginning a daily radiation process, totaling 37 treatments. I’ve had one reconstructive surgery so far with probably one more to follow in the next few months. Most all caused from sever sun damage over my years as a young child/adult and my years spent as an outdoor lover and laborer.
What I gained from my experience in short:
The year of 2016 ended up to be the largest blessing of my life and career despite the health situation I was in. I had the opportunity to re-evaluate my life and choices, a look outside of my own box. For myself, it had to be forced as I was a victim of my own daily practices and a stranger to my own family. My wife and kids love me regardless as I’m passionate, hardworking, motivated and all other qualities of a good husband and father, doing what needs to be done. However, I was never around, and if I was, my thoughts were selfish and geared towards my business and what needs to be achieved and eagerly quick to get back to it. This would be blessing number one that I’m most thankful for, a re-awakening. Not just for my family, but also everyone else I’ve had the privilege of spending moments with over the last year or so. I now feel I have something more to talk about other than what it takes to run and operate a detailing business, make a car shiny etc. After spending a few months (daily) in a cancer treatment facility you yourself would have a different outlook on life, I promise you. I had the chance to spend 2016 with some of the strongest people a person could ever meet, I’m so grateful for that. People with pure, genuine face value who actually have real world problems, not scratched and swirled automotive paint and protection problems, not branding problems and so on. But kids with only a few months left, mothers that embody true sacrifice, grandfathers and husbands that are remaining strong, and so many more… I consider myself to be very fortunate that I got a chance to experience and share moments with extremely talented individuals who walk in faith. Not to mention the amazing staff that showed me it doesn’t take a high quality image or a social following to care and be someone that makes a difference. As crazy as it all sounds, we are all human and we all become easily stuck in our ways. Still to this day, I have to remind myself to stay humble and not to forget what could be. Because it could always be far worse than the minor emotions that make for a rough day. Every feeling of stress, overwhelming thoughts, pity or whatever has you right now should be embraced and cherished as an opportunity to grow and learn from. This was the only thing going through my mind, usually while I was strapped into the machine getting my daily dose. I never felt terrible for myself while there, I felt for the others and their families way more, I felt for the people I saw giving up on the fight and I’m very blessed to have fought my own fight with such an amazing industry and family behind me.
It would be very difficult for me to mention every-single positive effect that has happened as a result of my own personal tragedy in one post. There’s just way too many people to thank and stories to tell, I’ll carry them with me forever.
A story to be most grateful for though:
Once in consultation with Orlando Health Cancer Center, before everything started, I foresaw a lot of doors around me shutting. I was somewhat devastated, not because of the situation but more so because I had to stop what I was doing. I was pretty bummed out to be honest. And I honestly thought I’d be able to continue detailing while going through treatment. Waking up from my surgery, I learned how wrong I was for believing that. I realized in that moment, I was done with work for longer than I thought. My body took a major hit, especially my leg that wasn’t even an issue. My good friend Corey Carruth, owner of CarPro-US a.k.a., Sky’s The Limits, came up to visit me after the surgery and helped me around on the walker! Bless him. He also started a donation deal for my family and I. That was incredibly thoughtful and humbling for me as our detailing industry and like-minded friends learned of my situation this way. The out-pour of well wishes and kind words was and still is completely overwhelming. I found that the words that were said to me, posted publicly or privately, to be far greater than any donation amount. For anybody reading this, you know who you are… THANK YOU! With all of my heart, THANK YOU, for all the kind words, generous thoughts, donations, and some. My family and I are so thankful for every single one of you and I learned a very valuable lesson through this. I’ve always been a believer in the saying, everything happens for a reason, but never really gave this particular metaphor full credit for its value. I remember so many nights out in the garage thinking about the hours I’ll never get back while polishing away. I know so many men and women in our industry that can agree with this. All the phone calls, messages, going above and beyond on every job, the extracurricular activities caused from an idea and all the hours spent marketing myself and my thoughts to build my stature in today’s marketplace to feed my family. Oh yeah, and the limited amount of time spent with family and friends. Well I can honestly say, it’s 100% worth it and that’s what it takes to make it work, it takes sacrifice. It takes everything you got and some, mentally and physically. You should be crying from pain when at your highest point and you should be grateful enough to realize it when it’s happening. We often forget how far we’ve come and we don’t realize it’s happening due to our nature, emotions, and drive to continue and we often think, it’s not getting me any closer to wherever it is I’m trying to be or get to. Having the several months of downtime with my focus elsewhere was a blessing in itself for so many reasons.
A fresh start and likely the very best thing that has happened for me was my official start with Swissvax USA. Over the years, I’ve worked very closely with Swissvax USA and could easily say the product line has captured my passion for auto detailing over the years. My longtime, dear friends Naim Sedik and Georg Weidmann (owners/CEO’s of Swissvax USA and Swissvax AG), have the largest hearts you could ever meet and the phone call from Naim, couldn’t have come at a better time for my family and I last year. The fact that Swissvax cares so much for my health and my future is absolutely priceless and I look forward to what the future has in store. This last year or so has been an awesome learning curve and I’m enjoying every moment of it. Going from service to sales and never saw it coming, I was just getting started with the radiation process when the opportunity presented itself and that alone provided me with an incredible amount of relief, knowing I had some detailing related involvement, a job, etc… I finally had a clear understanding as to what was taking place in my life and the new possibilities that were coming to be as a result of something that broke me down initially. So happy I fell in love with Swissvax and those behind it years ago and so happy to have another passion become reality. Again, I’m a firm believer in everything happens for a reason. More now, than ever. I’m very grateful for the medical circumstance I’ve had the privilege to experience. This awesome opportunity may have never happened, if….
The photo above was from a jetport event back in 2011
For those who have followed me and my work or have known me personally over the last several years know, Swissvax has always been my favorite choice in car care. Swissvax took me in and treated me like family from day one and with world class hospitality. All the events, product testing, collaborative editorials and always having a bed for me when I was ever in town. Our relationship over the years has stemmed far past anything work related. The family owned values and friendship within the Swissvax network is a dream come true and I absolutely love my job! It’s been a pretty long road with all the hospital and doctor visits over this last year and a half or so and I’m happy to say that most of it is behind me now. I’m down to occasional visits, currently with scans every 6 months now and one more reconstructive surgery to go. I can’t tell you how happy that makes me! And again, so grateful I had the support from Swissvax, friends and family all the way through.
My personal social media activity has been terrible over the last several months, and to all my friends, I’m sorry for that. Keeping it as real as possible, I think my body transformation has played a few psychological games with my head to be honest. A certain amount of depression is typical with cancer treatment. However, I wouldn’t say I’m depressed in any way, I don’t have time for that. Plus, I have an awesome wife and 4 kids that need someone stronger than that. Depression is not allowed around here! I think I’m just trying to figure myself and my body out all over again, physical capabilities, stamina etc. The accomplishment for myself in this article is to try and put that behind me. I have a scar and I need to be more proud of it. I know I’m proud of what it’s gained me so far. I’m getting there though in terms of being more comfortable with myself. That’s a difficult transition / topic and a humbling thing to try an explain. I thank everyone for understanding though. So here I am! Working my way back and putting myself out there.
I certainly don’t have a steady work flow of detailing in front of me these days… with exception to my own cars and maybe a few friends here and there! I’m very thankful for Detailed Image and all they’ve done for me through the course of it all, all the way from the start. Especially for keeping my name around after a long absence. Thank you so much guys! I’ve got a lot of making up to do, I know that. I’m hurdling my transition and I’m happy with wherever it is that I’m jumping back on the train.
In conclusion, if you’re working or playing outdoors, doing whatever on a hot UV active day… please protect yourself and your skin. I’ll probably follow up with some leather articles in the near future and the similarities of care. We’ll see. It certainly feels good to finish an article, it’s been a while.