We meet all types of people at Stark, many of whom are motivated to achieve optimal health and wellbeing. But few are as inspiring as this guy.
David Lacey is an architect from California, who had fallen victim to the standard American lifestyle. He had become successful at his profession and had a great marriage, but he had also become obesely overweight. Health problems were slowly creeping into his life and trips to the doctor became more frequent. Everyday life was becoming more difficult and fatigue was setting in.
That was until David decided to turn his life around, but it wasn’t smooth sailing.
A passionate man with a fortunate connection
Growing up in California, David developed a passion for fishing from a young age, greatly thanks to his father. This hobby developed into fly fishing as he journeyed through high school and university, and to this day he continues to share his passion with close friends.
David regularly heads to the Rocky Mountains, the Sierra’s, and into northern California is search for trout streams and the perfect catch. “I tie my own flies, I build my own rods; it’s really become an avocation in a way, more than just a hobby. I enjoy it very much,” he tells me.
As a child, David was also inspired by architecture during visits to his home town’s top architecture school. While wandering through the school admiring all the projects something resonated with him. David became fascinated with the creativity of problem solving and knew from an early age, that he wanted to pursue architecture as a career.
Being exposed to that around 5th or 6th grade and developing a connection with the discipline was really fortunate, he says.
“I’ve been an architect now for about 34 years, and I’ve never looked back”.
Not that often do I hear of people pursuing a career and fulfilling a passion that they developed during their childhood. Either it’s luck or a true testament to David’s character, having discovered early what made him tick. Perhaps it’s a bit of both.
While the reality of the business side of being an architect was more than he was initially expecting, David admits that, overall, his career has been what he imagined. “I’m inspired every day I go to work”. David says it’s the inspiration and energy in the challenges of the projects he works on and the people he meets along the way that continues to drive his passion.
“I love what I do”.
There comes a time in your life when you have to make a change
For many, there comes a time in their life when you have to make a change in order to continue succeeding. For David that time was in January 2015, about 18 months ago when he turned up at Stark.
“I had got to a point of my life where I’m obesely overweight and the health problems started to creep in. You could see it coming, feel it in your body”, he reflects.
Like most people who’ve decided to take the first step on their health journey, it was an emotional experience at first. David was on blood pressure medication, and the words ‘hypertension’, ‘obesity’, ‘chronic illness’ were being discussed in the doctor’s office.
At this point, some would continue the downhill spiral of poor health, but not David. However, his determination wasn’t without emotional challenges.
“I was at the time of my life when it was time to do something. If doing something means leaving that comfort zone and doing something you don’t really want to do, but have to do – that’s an emotional leap for anyone.”
Reflecting on this point in his life, David gets emotional. He says when you start to dread seeing yourself, you know it’s to the point where you need to say ‘hey, it’s time to do something’.
Starting the healthy journey with determination and big goals
David knew if he didn’t do something about his health now, his list of problems was going to get longer. Once he made the first step of contacting Stark, he was committed and determined to get his health on track.
It was a decision he would never regret.
David jokes one of his fears was coming into Stark and throwing up! “I just didn’t know what to expect. I think that’s part of the fear of the unknown – what’s going to happen to me? Am I going to have to perform?”
It was a challenge that required both emotional and physical commitment, he says. “And you have to be committed to doing that for yourself, not for anyone else”.
David has enjoyed a happy and fulfilling marriage of 28 years and for the majority of his relationship his wife, who’s a nurse, was at him to do some about his weight and health in general. But changing his whole lifestyle was a fear with which he struggled.
Going to the gym and changing how he was eating was simple, David says. Coming to grips and making it work in the real world was the challenge.
David set himself a big picture goal: to lose weight. Not just a little bit of weight; he wanted to lose 100 pounds. He wanted to be in better shape and in better health. It was a big picture goal, out on the horizon, but he was ready to “zero in on it.”
“What I liked about Stark is that you look at the total health picture. It’s a holistic approach. It’s not just going to the gym. It’s working out, eating, supplementation, physiotherapy”, he says.
David was impressed that the program was specifically tailored to him and his individual goals. “Every time I changed my goals, the workout changed too, the focus changed to accompany those goals. Same with the nutrition. And it all goes together.”
“It was the total package. If I’m going to address my health, it’s needs to be the whole package.”
Before David knew it, with the help of Brian and the Stark team, he lost 10 pounds. Then 20, 30 and he was well on his way to conquering his goal.
However, having lost 71lbs, David says his goals are changing. “We may not get to 100 pounds because it now doesn’t seem realistic. As I’m losing fat, I’m gaining muscle, so it’s offsetting the two.”
The real goal is getting better overall health.
“Now that I’ve made some progress, I’m noticing a difference in energy. When you’re obesely overweight, getting out of bed or out of a chair is difficult and taxing on your energy,” says David. Today he gets out of bed feeling rested and ready for what’s ahead.
David’s world was rocked in an instant
Edging closer to his goals, David was well into his journey to optimal health, even competing in his first MEP competition. Then life threw him a curveball, one that shocked and saddened us all at Stark.
“Two weeks into the competition, I was diagnosed with esophageal cancer”, he says.
While being monitored for another condition, two months after his last test the gastroenterologist found a tumor that hadn’t been there on the previous scan.
“I was fortunate to have caught it extremely early. That was a big advantage”.
Although the cancer was discovered early, that didn’t make it any less daunting. “Your world comes to a stop. Short-term and long-term plans just stop because you don’t know what it is and how it’s going to affect you. Things go pretty dark. Your mind goes to a lot of dark places.”
Questions such as ‘how severe was it?’, ‘has it spread?’, ‘what’s going to happen to my wife?’ continued to run through David’s mind.
When you’re initially diagnosed, the first few weeks are all about testing says David. Not a lot happens in regards to treatment; a whole lot of thinking time. While David had no control over the planning or the treatment, he did have control over his outlook on the cancer.
During regular trips to the hospital, David found himself exposed to a lot of people who were far sicker than he was. As he reflects on this time, David is still overcome with emotions. Often he would wonder whether they were going to survive the next week, he explains. Seeing the children deal with illness was also incredibly tough as he struggles to think what their parents and families were feeling at the time.
There is only going to be one winner
“You sit there and think here is this tiny little blip, and it’s not really hard to find some courage to keep going. Your bomb isn’t too bad compared to what they are going through”, explains David.
It’s in this moment where David’s inner strength shines. Deciding to keep working full-time, and to keep showing up at Stark to workout, he chose to endure.
“This was going to be a fight with only one winner and it’s not going to be the cancer.”
For David, stopping meant the cancer was winning. Once his treatment began, he felt life was a little easier because he knew he was doing something; he was fighting back and going to “kick some ass.”
Over the course of 5 weeks of chemotherapy and 28 daily radiotherapy treatments, remarkably David never stopped doing what he was already doing.
There were moments he didn’t want to get out of bed and go to work. Moments at the gym when he didn’t think he could do it. But David wasn’t going to give in.
“The support I got at Stark was tremendous,” he says. “You really went the extra mile.”
I’m immensely proud of my team for the additional support they offered David in his fight for his life.
David’s hard work certainly paid off during his four months’ of recovery post-surgery. “I lost a lot of muscle mass during that time which Brian (David’s Coach at Stark) said I can get back. It was like cashing in at the bank. To have that 8 or 9 months’ work as a resource really paid off.”
David was in good physical and emotional shape after surgery and immediately began pushing himself to get back on his feet. He says he didn’t want this thing to beat him, maintaining an attitude of wanting to fight back. An attitude that shocked many of the staff at the hospital.
Faced with either winning or dying, life is now a bit different
“How I see life has been affected. Life is a little bit different; it’s taken on a sense of mortality.”
David reflects on the fact that when you’re younger you don’t see the end, or an expiration date. “Now, I don’t waste a lot of time on things I don’t care about.”
He has a greater appreciation for the things he really enjoys in life. After all, you only have a certain amount of time for that. Take fishing for example, David says. Your time in doing that ends before death. The point when you can’t get out to the stream, that’s your last fish. Streams can be dangerous places. If you’re older, weaker and have poor footing, standing in the middle of the stream is not a good place to be.
“Maybe I’m overacting a little because this is new to me, but I see myself more critical about the time I spend on things now. I’ve gained a greater appreciation for time. Time is scarce.”
David is one of the lucky ones. Not only did his battle have a happy ending, he also has a second chance to live life to the fullest and aspire to total wellness.
A survivor’s words of wisdom
Life is short, soak out of it everything you can get. Don’t pass on opportunities and make every minute count, because you’re going to get to a point where there is a finite amount of time left. Nobody lives forever.
Don’t be serious! Type A personalities and workaholics are all too serious. You have to have a sense of humor about what you do or you’re going to go crazy.
Health and fitness:
Get your ass over to Stark right now! Don’t neglect it. Get regular check-up’s with your doctor and do the tests. It saved my life. In regards to fitness, seriously go to Stark. They’ll take care of you. They figure out everything you need and pay attention to you as an individual. A fitness program and diet that’s tailored to you. All you need to do is do it and that’s the easy part.
Meeting a man like David is a total inspiration. Not only did he make the commitment to turn his life around the minute he joined the Stark team, he strapped his gloves on and battled out a tough opponent in a fight where there is only one winner. Determination, inner strength, and commitment is what saw this guy through.
“I want to thank everyone at stark for their support and encouragement, you guys have been awesome!!! And lastly, I want thank my wife”, says David tearing up.
“Thank you honey for keeping our light on so I could find my way home in the dark. It was a pretty scary time”.