New here - cancer brought me back to landscaping

Discussion in 'Introduce Yourself' started by ragejg, Aug 30, 2009.

  1. ragejg

    ragejg LawnSite Member
    Messages: 14

    "Cancer brought you back to landscaping? What?"


    Hi folks. My name is John and I'm a serial landscaper. One of the greatest joys in my life is helping make a homeowner happier with the appearance of their property. In 2005 I worked my first season with Price Landscaping in Naples NY... a somewhat laid-back outfit with approx. 12 employees. I mowed and did some light landscaping, and also helped with plowing/shoveling in the winter. I was in my late twenties, and at the time I took the job, I just needed a job. I had previously worked as a professional in the field of industrial electronics and did some time as a chef and a cattle hauler, but I was never really satisfied with what I was doing. Being on a mow crew gave me my first glimpse into the potential satisfaction of being a landscaper.

    Into the '05 plow season I realized that I wasn't making enough money doing what I was doing, so I started cooking soups for a local sandwich shop and hauled lumber for a while.

    Then the desk job itch came back, regrettably. So I started as a Creative Director at a successful software company, doing web design and marketing work. It was very un-gratifying, but I made decent scratch.

    In early 2007 I was diagnosed with cancer(9 lb tumor in abdomen caused by two kinds of testicular cancer, and tumors in my chest from a rare form of sarcoma), and subsequently went through 3 major surgeries and twelve rounds of three different 3-drug chemotherapy regimens. I was given a lifetime-dose of most all of my cancer drugs, as my case had no real research data, so they basically just dumped as much chemo on me as possible. I wasn't supposed to make it out of this.

    After an October 2008 round of chemo, I was declared "in remission" in November. My road to recovery had many miles left, however.

    I went back to the software company, but informed them that I'd like to get back into landscaping. I was done on April 1, and by the 27th Price Landscaping picked me back up.

    I had a great time doing both mowing and landscaping for Price. His organization is known for basic, functional and good-looking work. Exmark Z's and 48" walk-behinds, Stihl and Echo weed-eaters and blowers. One of my close friends is a 10-year veteran of Price, and I learned so much from him. His name is Kurt, and he worked on Price's detail projects and longtime accounts that required special attention. Work on these accounts was actually somewhat slow and deliberate, and the results worked great.

    I was laid off, not fired, after a month. I was told it was nothing personal, but the recession hit the business and the crew had to be slimmed back down.

    Disappointed, I looked elsewhere.

    I found a guy nearby who needed a co-operator of his landscaping company. He has a comfy Ferris Z and an Exmark 48" walk-behind (no sulky though :(), and Stihl blowers and weedeaters. After a week of working for him I knew it wasn't going to work out. Yucky quality of work, WAY too hurried, he drove like a maniac, he didn't seem to enjoy what he was doing, and he had no idea how to carry on a friendly conversation. I got out after a month.

    So at this point I'm thinking "man, is landscaping ruined for me? Do I start my own outfit?"

    Then I found Gary Storms of Grassman.

    11 guys, one landscaping crew, two mow crews, a bunch of John Deere equipment, REALLY high quality of work, innovative grass work, very happy customers, a bunch of focused individuals who seem to be pretty nice guys... I was brought in as Gary's first non-friend non-schoolmate hire. He liked that I had experience in both mow crew work and landscaping crew work, and that my key focus is customer happiness and detail work.

    These guys work to a quality level that I haven't seen before in my area. I'm in my 3rd week working for them; and I'm happy that I decided to stick with landscaping.

    I'm going to buy and maintain some of my own equipment (I have an Echo commercial weed-eater that just needs a bit of work, and I'm looking into a lightweight backpack blower to help alleviate some of my fatigue), so that I can enjoy my tools more and put a bit more of a personal stake in my job. And yes, I use an official Felco sharpener for my Felcos :p.

    It's good to be here. I'm hoping this site can help me out once in a while, and I hope to contribute some valuable information over time as well.
  2. LR3

    LR3 LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 722

    Welcome to the site! It's true, there is a lot to gain by doing work you love and enjoy, a primary reason why I do this today. To answer your question, I would say yes, start your own and reap what you sow. You have the passion for it, and that alone will get you to where you want to be. Good luck and good health!
  3. g21

    g21 LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 326

    glad to hear you're winning the big fight! Seems like you have a real passion for the business. If you or Gary need any help with any part of the business, don't hesitate to ask...I'll do whatever I can for you.
    Good Luck!
  4. Ben's Landscape

    Ben's Landscape LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,438

    Welcome to the site. I know it must be hard with the cancer because my own mother had it and it was hard for the family. She is in remission 15 yrs now. Glad that you are doing better.

    From reading your post I can tell you have a passion for this field. I am just like you in that sense. Good luck.

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