Feb 10 , 2019
“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change the courage to change the things that I can and the wisdom to know the difference”
It has taken me thirteen years to share my story. I’m a very private person who tends to stay within my comfort zone. Time has allowed me to develop the wisdom to understand the magnitude of how I can positively affect and change lives and so today I am ready.
2004 what a year! I was thirty-three years old and I was on top of the world my life was perfect if you ask me. I worked out three to four times a week, played golf; I gave up basketball because of two knee surgeries. I had a nice car, a successful barber shop, and a beautiful woman -- life was great, until one day it all changed. I started to experience double vision. I went to the ophthalmologist and they said that I had good vision but because I was experiencing the double vision they prescribed me glasses. I actually liked the glasses they were sharp and I had no problem pulling off the new look, it was sophisticated. The double vision continued and months passed but I continued to experience more symptoms now I began to have drooping eyelids so I went back to my Medical doctor who began to run more tests on me. I’m not too sure of the time frame however series of symptoms continued and I had to complete more tests until that dreadful day when I was diagnosed with Myasthenia Gravis (my-us-THEE-nee-uh GRAY-vis). What is Myasthenia Gravis (MG) I thought to myself? I was told that it is an autoimmune disease. MG is characterized by weakness and rapid fatigue of any of the muscles under your voluntary or even involuntary control.
MG is caused by a breakdown in the normal communication between nerves and muscles. This means your body’s immune system (which normally destroys foreign substances) mistakenly attacks healthy tissues.
A flood of thoughts hit me and I began to reflect on my life because up until the diagnosis of MG that was my only adversity in life. I was coasting through life with no stories of a rough upbringing (childhood was great!). I was very fortunate and blessed to have great parents, my mother was great and I had an okay dad (LOL, that’s another story). I was spoiled, taken care of and wanted for nothing. Growing up people thought that I was cocky and arrogant but I called it strong minded and confident. I never thought that I was better than anyone, I just knew that I was better than what some people were doing, i.e. selling and doing drugs. I knew that my mother had put her all into raising my brother and I, so I made a conscious effort to never shame her by being that kid. It was my DUTY to make her proud!
MG came in like a quiet storm that I clearly was not ready for. MG attacks people differently, symptoms can be visible or inconspicuous. In extreme cases, MG can develop into a Myasthenic crisis which is a life-threatening condition that occurs when the muscles that control breathing become too weak to do their jobs. Emergency treatment is needed to provide mechanical assistance with breathing or death can occur.
My symptoms were visible from the start, my eyelids started drooping and I became crossed eyed and I acquired double vision, it was horrible. I would look in the mirror and I hated what was looking back at me. I hated taking pictures -- honestly just looking at someone was difficult for me. I went from being on top of the world, confident and strong minded to an insecure, why me, ANGRY man. On top of all of that I suffered every day silently, I didn’t tell anyone how I was feeling, I put on this pseudo act that I was ok but on the inside, it was killing me.
I remember going in for a routine doctor’s visit and the doctor said to me you don’t smile anymore! Have you ever thought about suicide? WOW, I thought to myself, was how I'm feeling about myself really this visible? I thought I was hiding my pain well--but clearly, I wasn't. I never thought about suicide, so I vociferously told the doctor, "NO"! I've never believed in taking your own life, so for someone to ask me this was really an eye-opening moment for me. I left the doctor’s office and it was all I could think about. What message was I really giving off and what do I need to do to get my smile back.
I still had some work to do, I remember complaining to my then girlfriend about the IV medication infusion, which took over 6 hours and when finished gave me the worst flu like symptoms and headache I've ever experienced in my life. I hated taking all the oral medication too. I complained about going to work and feeling that I had to prove myself all over again (I was a barber for over 12 years) thinking that customers would stop patronizing me because I was the one-eyed barber. Yeah…they teased me a bit, that was one of my new nicknames.
I complained very regularly until one day, while eating at a restaurant, a gentleman with a visible disability helped shaped my reality. I was going to place my tray in the garbage figuring I was helping him, but he stopped me and said that he wanted to do it (actually, he said “please, please I want to do it”). I still wanted to help him because I felt more physically able to do so—I figured it was my duty to help those who I deemed, in need. Instead, his passion about his job and his life, regardless of his disability, taught me one of the most important lessons in life. He didn’t let his physical disability get in the way of his work ethic, attitude, joy or passion. I was speechless, I left that restaurant in awe. This experience snapped me back into reality. As I walked to my car I told myself that I would never complain again. I was humbled and inspired by him. I promised myself that I would never take anything for granted and would appreciate the small things, and make the best out of what I have, in every situation. It was time to let go of the negativity in my life and make room for the positive!
Of course, this wasn’t as easy as I’d initially thought—especially being constantly surrounded by it in my line of work. One day while I was at work a young man came into the barber shop wearing a tee-shirt that was offensive, it had a vulgar message on it and I just could not understand why or how he would want to promote such negativity. On that day I began to cultivate the idea of people wearing clothing that was uplifting, positive and impactful in a positive way. The idea stayed on my mind and in my heart for years until one-day Positive iNK was birthed. I felt so passionate about the concept that I discussed it with a few friends and they all fell in love with it. In 2012 the official launch of Positive iNK made its debut. It was so exciting to see our idea come to fruition, our idea of people being the vessel, a walking billboard for positivity! So many people have been touched including me, our passion has never wavered our love of the brand is stronger than ever. The people I’ve meet and the conversations I’ve had impacted me and made an imprint on my heart forever and I want to thank all of you for that.
Fast forward to 2017—yes, I do experience some of the physical limitations associated with my diagnosis, but my mind is stronger than ever and I’ve kept my promise to myself to remain positive through all difficulties. I know that I was given this life because I am strong enough to persevere through any adversity, and so are you! I no longer take anything for granted and have decided to use the message of “LOVE YOUR LIFE” and live by it—until I take my last breath.
I want to thank the beautiful woman, who has shared 18 years with me, 9 of those years as my wife, for being my biggest supporter. You are truly an angel sent from heaven. To the iNK team past and present, thank you for getting us where we are today and for the voyage ahead and to my close friends and family, a very special thank you.
“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change the courage to change the things that I can and the wisdom to know the difference” I’ve seen that prayer at least a hundred times in my lifetime, but one day, while searching for positive affirmations to lift my spirit up, I came across this prayer and told myself that these are the words that will make me love my life and forever smile again.
Founder, co-owner, Positive iNK