Trade Show TalesBlog

The Industry Gives Back: Word on the Street — Oct. 10th thru Oct. 14th

October 16th, 2011 4 COMMENTS
Randy Smith Memorial Golf Follow Up

Word on the Street by Kevin Carty

Randy Smith Memorial Golf Classic Follow Up

On Monday, October 10, hundreds of industry professionals gathered in Atlanta to honor those who are either going through medical hardships, lost their battles, or lost loved ones to sickness or accidents.

Like in past years, it proved to be a highly emotionally-charged event. And this year Classic Exhibits had one of their own honored, Mike Swartout, our Director of Design, who is currently battling stage 4 prostate cancer.

Mike, along with several others, were honored and ultimately helped financially through the funds raised before and during the event. And a lot of money was raised even during these uncertain economic times. The truly inspirational work that Rich Johnson, Jim Wurm, and Ted Peterson do on behalf of others never ceases to amaze me. Thanks again guys.

Mike Swartout at Randy Smith

Mike Swartout at Randy Smith

One of the highlights of the day-long event was when Mike spoke during the banquet. A perfect blend of comedy, reality, and emotion. He set the crowd at ease regarding his situation through his words. Mike has allowed me to post his speech, which I hope you will read.

Since my diagnosis, I’m continually amazed by the support I have received:  from medical teams, family, friends, co-workers, recently a stranger on the bus, and from many, such as yourselves, who do not even know me.

Thank you.

Unless you’ve been in similar shoes, and I suspect some of you have, my words can’t convey what it means to be able to draw on others strength during a “scary scary” at 2:30 am.

Huge thanks to Kevin Carty and Mel White at Classic Exhibits for their compassion and Kevin’s personal understanding of this cowardly disease.

Those of you who run a business and/or manage people know what happens when a critical employee is bouncing between their desk and appointments like a BB in a boxcar.

Somehow Kevin and Mel have managed to make it work. Heck, just recently I’ve been unable to drive and Mel picks me up at the train stop in the morning.

A little background . . . 28 months ago, I was being treated for suspicious back pain. 26 months ago, I made another appointment and was informed that my medical professional was no longer with the clinic. They assigned me someone new. Thank God.

August 4 — I remember that day clearly. It was an early morning appointment and before my wife Janet and I could get back home, we got a call from the Dr. It was a call to come back at three. At 3:40, I know because for some reason I was looking at the Doc’s watch, I was informed about this marker, that marker, and a PSA of 2640. A normal PSA is 1-5.

Angry, scared, and questioning, I went through a whirlwind of scary tests including a biopsy I wouldn’t wish on, if I had one, my worst enemy. Janet and I were confused and clueless. Not states we are used to.

Fortunately, I had support [there’s that word again]: friends, family, and co-workers who shored me up with hasty sandbags even though none of us knew for sure how high the proverbial flood water would rise.

That support bought me breathing room to remember a promise I’d made to myself. If I was ever to get sick, the going to the doctor can’t make you well kind of sick, I wouldn’t let the sickness go to waste.

As I stand here, this very moment, the insidious disease, cancer, is chewing away at my bones. But there are also some jacked up white blood cells having a say about that, thanks to cutting-edge research being done at the Providence Cancer Center in Portland. Those cells are working really hard at slowing the cancer bugs. Heck, why waste good cancer cells.

As I stand here, I hope someone who is scared beyond belief, just like me, has found my blog and the silly stories I tell. I hope it amuses them and takes some of the “scary scary” away. Why waste my scary scary.

Ladies, now you get to see your men squirm in their seats as I get on my soap box. Men get that digital exam, now. Digital means finger, index finger [told you they’d squirm]. It takes thirty seconds. If it takes longer than thirty seconds, consider getting a new doctor.

And, I don’t care what medical group or panel says about PSA tests. If you are of an age or have a family history with this disease, have the test. It is just a silly blood test. Armed with the results you can then make an informed and timely decision.

Lastly, I’m continually told I’m too young for this particular version of cancer. Whatever your age, prepare for your family.

Hopefully, these small things will support someone in the future. Selfishly for me, these small things provide a reason for having this unreasonable disease.

I hope and pray that nothing like this happens to you and yours. But I’m thankful knowing you are out there for those of us who do.

Thanks!  — Mike Swartout

One element that Mike did not really touch on, but that I want to mention is the experimental treatments Mike has been undergoing. These treatments are less about Mike and more about research for future patients. Some of the knowledge being gained through the trials will continue to be used on new patients, giving hope to many in the future. As a twelve-year survivor myself and someone who benefited from the trials of others, I can speak to the profound nature of what Mike is doing on behalf of those he does not even know. I was given a regimen at the time that was not even known two years prior, one that provided me a better opportunity of beating cancer.


Lastly, I always love this event for providing an opportunity to see and spend time with great friends in the industry. More than just work friends. Life friends.

For those of you who missed the event, please mark your calendar for next year. It really is the one event each year that truly makes you appreciate the quality of the people we all work with each day.

I hope you had a great weekend and coming work week.

Be well!

–Kevin Carty


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4 Responses to “The Industry Gives Back: Word on the Street — Oct. 10th thru Oct. 14th”

  1. Thanks for sharing Mike’s story. Having lost my Dad to cancer in the summer of 2010, I know “scary scary” from the family side, and how hard it is to watch a big tough guy go through that. My heart goes out to Mike & his family during this agonizing time. I echo his pleas to take the tests seriously. Had my father been able to get better treatment sooner, he would likely still be with us today.

  2. Mike Swartout says:


    Thank you for your thoughts. It is a good reminder for us all that our care givers, friends and family are going through the “scary scary” too.


  3. Sean Combs says:

    To hear of Mike’s strength, courage, and of course his sense of humor is nothing short of inspiring. We at Steelhead Productions have had the pleasure of knowing Mike and the Classic family since our beginnings some 15 years ago; and while those attributes are indeed inspiring, they are not surprising to us. Mike is always good for a chuckle no matter what the situation or more specifically in our industry- the timeline. Steelheaders wish nothing but the best for Mike, his family and everyone at Classic. And personally at 37 years old, I want to thank Mike for reminding me that I have an appointment to make:)

  4. Mike Swartout says:

    Thanks Sean to all of you for your thoughts and to you for making that appointment. Don’t forget the 30 second rule.

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