It was the luckiest coin toss Toné Perez ever lost.
He and his wife, Nicole, had their third child two years ago, and juggling two busy careers and a small business with seven employees, “We were done” having kids, Toné told me.
One of them would see a doctor to see to that, and they flipped a coin to decide. Toné lost the toss, and won his life.
The doctor’s visit last August was good luck in disguise.
"The kind of cancer I had, if I hadn't gone in when I did, I would have been expected to live four more years," Toné said.
Rocky Mountain Cancer Center in Colorado Springs started aggressive chemotherapy immediately.
Toné got the news by himself, a necessity and sad reality in the time of COVID-19.
“When the doctor was there telling me I had cancer, everything was just flying right by me,” he said. “You’re like, ‘What? What did you just say to me?’ ”
It was the last time Toné would have to face it alone. That's because we are still a nation mostly of good people, and the people around him are "awesome people," he said.
The government gave back, but first it took away.
Toné is a hair stylist who has been helping Coloradans look their best for two decades. He was forced to shut down his Pueblo business, Uptown Salon, in March, because of the pandemic.
He reopened in May, but with tough restrictions to keep his customers and staff safe. It wasn’t easy or cheap, but Toné was keeping his head above water, until his cancer diagnosis kicked up major waves.
His story of keeping his small business afloat is one that might be retold millions of times across our country. In Washington, the people who talk so much about standing for the people need to step up and, as the new president might say, cut the malarkey.
Washington being Washington, the federal stimulus packages to date have been gunked up with politics and bile. Stimulus and relief, however, are just government words for shared desperation.
“It’s been a tough six months,” Toné said.
He and his wife, Nicole, have three children — a 12-year-old daughter, Tristan, and two boys, 7-year-old Anthony and Kai, who, as I mentioned, is about to turn 2. Nicole is working from home at her job with a tech company, which has helped manage costs and kids.
Managing the business was a whole set of other problems.
"I was freaked out. I was like, ‘Is this going to close my doors? Am I going to lose my business?’ ” Toné recalled.
He missed out on the first round of Paycheck Protection Program money, but he was luckier in the second round, and it proved a lifeline for him, his family, his business, his employees and their family. The money passed through a lot of need.
When his stylists were out of work during the shutdown, they were able to get unemployment benefits. Gov. Jared Polis did his part for families like Tone’s, even channeling extra state money directly to those who were out of work last year.
“My crew, they all qualified for unemployment, and it worked out, it helped people,” Toné said. “It helped pay their bills, and that was the most important thing, just to be able to handle your bills at home.”
He had good landlords, too, in Pat and Anne Henrikson.
“They said, ‘Don’t panic or anything,’ ” Toné said. “As soon as you start making money just start catching up on your rent,’ and I was like, ‘That is awesome.' That was a life saver, right there.”
He and his wife tried to be smart with every nickel.
“What we would have had to do is just borrow some money and hope we could pay it back when things go back to normal,” Toné said.
Don’t bruise your palms applauding the federal government here. Most of the paycheck protection money didn’t benefit small businesses like Tone’s, but rather major companies, including national chains, The Washington Post reported.
We shouldn't be throwing open the bank doors to those who don't need relief. I don't need a government check, and hopefully you don't either. We could solve a lot more problems with a tighter focus on keeping small businesses afloat and their workers working, rather than putting money in every palm that would like to be greased.
Now, however, is the time to live up to our standard, "one nation, under God, indivisible."
Here’s my favorite Ronald Reagan quote: “If we love our country, we should also love our countrymen.”
Here’s my second favorite: “All great change in America begins at the dinner table.”
But for clarity of purpose, you can’t do better than President Warren G. Harding. As the nation staggered back to its feet after World War I and the Spanish Flu, the 29th present said, “America's present need is not heroics but healing, not nostrums but normalcy, not revolution but restoration.”
A final bit of news, I talked to Toné on the phone on a Thursday. The Monday before, a PET scan showed he was cancer-free. He hopes to be back in the salon when his immune system is ready, hopefully by the end of February. He and Nicole will celebrate their anniversary in May.