Through the years, we’ve known David Wagner as an
inspiring stylist, a leading salon owner, an association president, a
celebrated author and a Daymaker. But for those of us who’ve known even
one of these Davids, it’s emotionally difficult to know him as a cancer
patient. While it’s a role he wouldn’t have chosen, in his typical
fashion, he’s finding a creative way to leverage the experience to help
and inspire others.
Like many stylists,
Wagner, who owns JUUT Salonspas with locations in Minnesota and
California, suffered back pain for years. Living in Maui with his wife
Charlie and two young daughters, he had been dealing with the pain
through a combination of massage, acupuncture and physical therapy.
Last October, a physical therapist wanted to do some more aggressive
work on his hip, but recommended Wagner have an X-ray first. Wagner was
surprised when the X-ray, then a subsequent bone scan and blood tests,
suggested he had Multiple Myeloma II, an incurable cancer of the blood.
At first, doctors told him he had three to five years.
Wagner returned to his home state of Minnesota, seeking additional medical
opinions first at the University of Minnesota and then the Mayo Clinic.
Contradictory tests led to a biopsy of a lymph node, which resulted in
a new diagnosis: B-cell Lymphoma, an aggressive form of cancer, yet one
that responds quickly to treatment. By this time, it was April, and
Wagner was using a wheelchair and couldn’t get out of bed.
days after his Wagner’s first round of chemotherapy, the cancer had
receded from his shoulder, ribs and back where it had spread, and was
reduced in hip bone, and he was up walking around. Before his last
round in early August, he had regained weight and was walking three
miles a day. In a few weeks, Wagner will undergo
another scan which will reveal whether his body is free of Lymphoma or
whether he’ll need to pursue other treatments.
the process, I felt all the emotions—the anger, the ‘Why Me?’ the
looking at the bright side of things,” he says. “We decided to capture
that in a series of photos that bring people through the journey of
cancer. We started right after the first round of chemo, and we
chronicled the treatment, losing the hair, getting my head shaved at
JUUT, regaining strength.”
For Wagner, the
process of creating the images, which he hopes to put together in a
book, was healing. “I wasn’t able to work on my business or be involved
in the marketing, and I missed the creativity. Doing this project
helped me heal emotionally.” He shares the first series of these
portraits with this MobileMe video.
Throughout the process, the author of Life as a Daymaker, is
grateful for the daymakers in his life. “So many people reached out,
dropping off food and helping with the kids, sending their thoughts and
prayers, and calling to share their own experiences,” he says.
I’m so grateful for my JUUT team,” continues Wagner. “This illness hit
right when the recession did, and I haven’t been able to step foot in
any of salons more than a half dozen times. Yet the business continues
to do well and that’s a tribute to my management team and my staff.
I’ve always said that a leader didn’t lead my business, the purpose of
daymaking did. That purpose is alive and well.”