You couldn’t see the top of her head but there was no hiding the smile on Sandy Davis’ face.
“I’m a fighter,” she said as chemotherapy treatments poured into her veins inside a dark, Tampa General Hospital room. “If you allow the negative to get into your head … then you’re going to die.”
Davis doesn’t even entertain the idea. Since being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in May of 2015, she hasn’t even taken time away from work. She’s been all-in to beat this disease.
“Most people on chemo are at home,” said Davis, a retired school principal who now works as a car salesman at Century KIA in Tampa. “I even had a customer the other day and he took ten weeks off work and was at home. That works for some people but for me I think if you keep your same routine and stay active the disease can’t catch you.”
She hopes nobody will be able to catch her in sales.
Davis admits she doesn’t have a bucket list, per se. She’s too busy for that. A day after enduring two hours of chemo treatments at Tampa General Hospital, she was back pacing the steaming hot car lot off Hillsborough Avenue for another 10-12 hour work day.
This is where she feels like she’s beating her disease.
“There’s no better feeling than selling car,” she said while cruising through the parking lot in a white KIA Soul. “I’m a people person so I like working with people, and I like cars. So, it goes good together.”
She needs to sell 33 vehicles to reach the top of the KIA mountain. It’s a number that has sentimental meaning. When diagnosed in May 2015, at the beginning of her treatments, Davis’ son, Kalum, died at the age of 33 from complications from sleep apnea.
She wants to honor him by reaching 33 sales in a month.
“Cancer is nothing compared to the loss of my son,” said Davis from her hospital bed. “I thank the Lord he walks beside me every step of the way.”
The sales record is her focus now. The year she was diagnosed with cancer Davis was named salesman of the year. She’s earned the honor three times (2013-15) in her five years at Century.
“Her perseverance and dedication were apparent from the beginning,” said her KIA general manager, Todd Nelson. “She has always had the attitude, ‘I’m going to beat this’.”
The record gives her something to keep her mind aimed towards. It’s a distraction from the poison inside of her. Eighteen months after having part of her pancreas removed, doctors found that the cancer crept into her lungs. s
Still, she’s not worried.
“It’s tough to watch her go through this,” said her husband, Bill Hilbrands. “She’s an amazing woman. She not only is an inspiration to people at work but she’s an inspiration to me.”
She’s been told numerous times that she only had a few months to live. Those estimates haven’t proven true.
The disease that defeats so many hasn’t gotten the best of Davis.
“She’s a trooper, man,” Hilbrands said. “Seeing what she does day in and day out is incredible.”
Maybe it’s the cars that keep her rolling.
“That would be a feat if I could do that,” she said of the sales record. “That would be a dream.”
Century KIA is located at 4340 W Hillsborough Ave, Tampa, FL 33614.