Owner of Rejuvenate Spa Salon, Waters is currently overseeing her business’ latest expansion efforts as construction wraps up this week on an addition, which will more than double the spa’s current footprint, from just under 1,300-square feet to more than 2,800-square feet of spa, salon and massage space.
The expansion though, is one Waters wasn’t sure she would live to see. Her diagnosis 14 years ago was for a rare blood disease called amyloidosis, complicated by multiple myeloma.
“People said I was crazy,” Waters said. “People with a terminal illness don’t open a business, but I felt this is where God was leading me and this is my ministry. Of course there’s been bumps in the road, but I’ll continue as long as God gives me breath.”
The Mayo Clinic describes amyloidosis as the build up of abnormal proteins, which can be deposited in any tissue or organ in the body, causing major disfunctions and ultimately failure.
“The exact cause of primary amyloidosis is unknown, but doctors do know that the disease begins in your bone marrow,” says www.mayoclinic.com. “In addition to producing red and white blood cells and platelets, your bone marrow makes antibodies — proteins that protect you against infection and disease. After antibodies serve their function, your body breaks them down and recycles them.
“Amyloidosis occurs when cells in the bone marrow produce antibodies that can’t be broken down. These antibodies then build up in your bloodstream. Ultimately, they leave your bloodstream and can deposit in your tissues as amyloid, interfering with normal function.”
Symptoms of amyloidosis include fatigue, abnormal heart beat, swelling in extremities, shortness of breath, swallowing problems, weak hand grip and weight loss. Being a rarity, amyloidosis can be difficult to diagnose, but blood tests can show protein abnormalities indicating amyloidosis. For Waters, a string of unexplained illnesses finally led doctors to locate the protein buildup.
“I was always sick because it affects your immune system. I was constantly sick and not feeling well. Every two to three months I was sick with something and then I developed an ulcer and during the endoscopy they noticed an accumulation in the stomach. When they had it biopsied, they realized it was amyloidosis,” Waters said. “I’ve been going to the Hope Center every month since I was diagnosed to check my blood levels and protein levels. In 2006 when the disease took over again in dangerous levels in my blood system, there was a lot of people in Cartersville that donated blood. I was always in need of plasma cells and platelets and there was a drive at NorthSide Hospital and there are so many people that I have to thank for going out of their way to donate.
“So many people in Cartersville helped support us and our church families were always supportive. I can’t thank them enough.”
Between 1,200 and 3,000 cases of amyloidosis are diagnosed each year in the U.S. There is no known cure and treatment options are limited. The primary treatment method is a stem cell transplant, which Waters underwent twice, first in 1999 at the Mayo Clinic and again in 2006 at NorthSide Hospital. Stem cells are first donated, in Waters’ case they were able to use her own, then heavy doses of chemotherapy are administered before the donated stem cells are reintroduced to the bone marrow where new growth begins.
“I was my own donor, so they collected my own stem cells and then they give you a high dosage of chemotherapy that will kill pretty much all your [blood] cells, good and bad, every single one, white blood cells, red blood cells — it just wipes it out,” Waters said. “Then they introduced the new stem cells and they find their way back to the bone marrow to start producing again from zero. It’s like a new birthday. I’ve been reborn three times, my first birthday then July of 1999 was my second birthday and November of 2006 was pretty much my third birthday. You start all over again, like a baby.”
After the first stem cell transplant, Waters completed massage therapist training and continued working throughout Cartersville for many years. She performed massage therapy in salons, chiropractic offices and at her home, but in 2006 with the second stem cell transplant she was ready to call it quits. At times, she wasn’t sure she would survive and never once thought she would open her own spa, much less witness her own business flourish through two expansions.
“I went to massage school after my first stem cell transplant and after my second transplant I never thought I’d be doing this at all. I really didn’t think I was going to make it. I almost sold everything I had except my massage table when I was going through the second transplant, but God had other plans,” Waters said. “The miracle of the whole thing is that I never thought I would be doing something like this. It may have been a little dream I had once, but I never thought it would happen. Because of what I’ve been through physically with two stem cell transplants, and while I’m not completely clear of the disease, everything is under control and this whole business has been by faith.
“I just take it one day at a time. I know this for sure, that this is where God wants me to be and do. I just take it one day at a time and it’s by faith each day. If people think I’ve been successful, I don’t look at myself that way because I’m no business person. I never took any business classes. I’ve only graduated from high school. I just have a heart to serve and this is one way that God has allowed me to do that.”
About four years after her second stem cell transplant, Waters opened her own spa offering message therapy at 175 Pine Grove Road in Cartersville. With her own spa, Waters made her first hire, esthetician and stylist Jaime Mauk.
“It’s been really good growing with the business. Damaris and Bryan are really good to us,” Mauk said. “She’s very strong. She’s done very, very well. It’s pretty amazing.”
Just months after opening, she approached Aveda about becoming a licensed retailer of aromas, candles, and skin and body care products. An Aveda representative visited Rejuvenate Spa and certified Waters as a licensed retailer. It was again an Aveda representative that made the suggestion for Waters to add a salon as an avenue for growth and just over a year later Waters expanded to create Rejuvenate Spa Salon. Building out the open space next door to her first location, Rejuvenate Spa Salon has found success largely through repeat clientele and referral customers.
Rejuvenate’s latest expansion will place all the services under one roof with additional privacy, an added relaxation room and three massage rooms, including two adjoining rooms that can be used for couples massages.
Waters is a native of Bronx, N.Y., and moved with her family 15 years ago to Cartersville following her husband’s job. With her husband and business partner Bryan Waters, the couple has two children, Josh Waters, 29, and Katie Smith, 26.
Rejuvenate Spa Salon, 175 Pine Grove Road, will begin expanded hours this week with the completion of its expansion efforts. Beginning later this week, Rejuvenate will be open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
An open house will be held at Rejuvenate Spa Salon on Thursday, April 4, from 5 to 8 p.m.
For more information, call 770-334-2734 or visit www.rejuvenatespasalon.com. Rejuvenate also can be found on Facebook and Twitter by searching for Rejuvenate Spa Salon.