Carlton, a fulfillment associate at Amazon in Tracy, California, was at a church choir practice seven years ago when he received a phone call. The conversation that followed turned his world upside down.
“My doctor called me and said, ‘I just want you to know, you have prostate cancer, and it’s already stage four,’” Carlton said. “I didn’t really believe it for a while. I was scared. I felt like I was young and still needed to be here. I have young kids.”
In addition to his family and loved ones, Carlton had a whole team of kids counting on him to be healthy: He was a youth football coach in his community in Tracy, a city about 60 miles east of San Francisco.
“I have a lot of kids on my team who are in broken homes, so not only am I a coach to them, I'm a mentor and a father figure to some of them,” he said.
Several days before receiving the call, Carlton had used the health care benefits provided by his new job at Amazon to visit his doctor for a routine appointment. His past employer hadn’t offered health benefits. When his physician called with the cancer diagnosis, Carlton was able to immediately focus on his health.
“My doctor told me we needed to hurry up and make a game plan,” Carlton said. “I went ahead with the surgery.”
In the years following his surgery, things have looked up for Carlton. “I feel awesome,” he said. “I feel like I’m on top of the world. Everything is going in the right direction. I’m here, I’m healthy.”
“Because of that visit and those benefits, I’m here today,” he added. “If I didn’t have these benefits, who knows if I would still be here?”
Prior to starting at Amazon, Carlton didn’t have benefits to cover health care costs, and the idea of a role that offered them on day one seemed unlikely.
“My last job didn’t have benefits, and that can be kind of crazy,” he said. “When I started at Amazon, $15 an hour was tremendous, and the benefits were the best. They start the day you sign on the dotted line. What other job does that for you?”
After taking some time off to recover from his surgery, Carlton—or “the mayor”—as his colleagues affectionately refer to him at the Tracy Fulfillment Center, returned to work, eager to greet his colleagues with a smile.
“I've met some great people along the years I've been at Amazon, and they turned out to be lifelong friends,” he said. “They’ve turned into family members.”
He has continued to enjoy his work at the Amazon facility in Tracy, lighting up every room he enters with his relentless positivity and a personality that friends and colleagues say is “larger than life.”
“Any time I can put a smile on somebody's face at Amazon, then it's a plus,” Carlton said. “I seem to put a lot of smiles on everybody's faces when I walk through, so work is a good time for me.”
He’s also carried on with his dream job of coaching football.
“I love to teach kids who share a passion for the game that I love,” he said. “My schedule allows me to be able to go coach after work. Then I have the whole weekend off, so if my game is on a Saturday or Sunday, I don’t have to worry about taking time off. It’s awesome.”
And as a coach, his influence extends beyond the field, positively impacting his community and preparing teens for bright futures.
“I always want to send my players out as better people, because the world is hard,” he said. “I want to teach them how to be honest and set goals for themselves, to show up and show out.”
Most importantly, Carlton lives a happy, full life at home with his wife and five children.
“My kids are my everything, and my wife is my rock,” he said. “I feel like I’m the luckiest man, maybe not in the world, but in Tracy.”