A large travel company employing dozens of staff. A sterling reputation in the community. A family who loves and adores him. Arthur Salus, founder and CEO of Duluth Travel, has a lot to be grateful for. Perhaps number one on that list is another chance at enjoying life with the people he loves after being diagnosed with two different types of cancer within the span of years.
Native to the north, Salus moved to Atlanta when he was just nine years old. By the time he graduated the University of Georgia with a degree in marketing, the Vietnam War was in full swing and he was immediately drafted into the army, where he would serve for a little over a year.
On his first few days in the army, Salus and his fellow draftees, a total of some four hundred or so folks, were pulled into a room.
“How many of you are college graduates?” the commander asked the group.
Arthur raised his hand alongside about one-fourth of the crowd.
“Okay, the ones with the hands up, you’re going to jump school,” the lieutenant said.
At jump school, or the United States Army Airborne School as it’s officially known, Arthur and his comrades were trained on being paratroopers for the United States Armed Forces, jumping from aircrafts and navigating with a parachute to land and move onto a combat objective.
“I was in shock and not at all excited about the decision to be trained in that field,” says Salus. “But we had no choice.” The authorities surmised that college grads would have the most sense in handling the most challenging and strategy-riddled training, and so Salus’s fate was determined. Right away, training started.
However, one particular jump mission proved particularly fateful. Upon attempting to land, things went awry and Salus ended up cracking the bone in his leg. When he was helped back to meet with his commanders, they gave him a choice: either agree for them to operate on the leg or go home. Arthur chose the latter.
As soon as he arrived home, Salus started reaching out to doctors and arranged to have his leg fixed. Once he was fully recovered and recuperated, he considered his options, ultimately deciding to join his parents in operating the family’s chain of maternity retail shops scattered across the city. Things were going smoothly, until his father was diagnosed with prostate cancer. As luck would have it, his parents passed away within months of each other, with his mother succumbing to diabetes and heart disease, but also being diagnosed with cancer. With the disease present on both sides of his family, Salus recognized that his odds of also contracting cancer in the future ran exponentially high. He also knew that if he wanted to enjoy a good quality of life and longevity with his future family, he’d have to remain vigilant and mindful of his own wellbeing.
Immediately, Salus made it a point to start monitoring his prostate health. Every year, like clockwork, he’d schedule physicals and insist on a PSA test, a blood test specifically designed to detect prostate cancer.
Life trudged slowly ahead. Salus gained employment at an automobile dealership and worked his way up through hard work and perseverance into a management role. Soon it dawned on him that anytime he was pulled into a brainstorming session or meeting to discuss how to increase sales, make processes better, and prepare for the future, he was inevitably the primary contributor of unique initiatives and innovative ideas. Gaining confidence in his ability to shape foresight for the future, Salus declined an offer to relocate to New York for the dealership. Instead, he decided he had the chops and drive to go into business for himself.
With this confidence and hope, Salus launched Duluth Travel–a well-reputed and locally recognized travel company in Gwinnett–in 1994.
But operating a business wasn’t always smooth sailing–or a steady feat. During COVID, for instance, sales dipped nearly 74 percent for three years. But by a stroke of luck, Salus managed to make it through the turbulence and come out stronger on the other end. “Somehow,” he says, “God is always with me and helped keep me afloat.”
In the meantime, he didn’t relent on his regular visits to the doctor, even taking a step further to visit Virtual Imaging–a medical chain with only a handful of locations around the country where full body scans proactively detect life threatening diseases. In 2015, his proactive and diligent efforts proved wise–Salus was diagnosed with the early stages of prostate cancer.
“My first thought was, but I don’t feel anything,” says Salus. “The diagnosis was unexpected because I thought there would be some sign of pain or discomfort with cancer. But that simply wasn’t the case.”
Salus’s wife and kids were just as shocked as he was with his results. “They think of me as a strong individual, as something like the gladiator in the family. When I told them, their faces dropped.”
But they remained by his side every step of the way, for which Salus is eternally grateful. “The family support system is crucial,” he says. “There are so many people that go into hospitals for days and have no visitors–they have no family support. But I thank God that I have a close-knit family, and my family was always by my side.”
After several rounds of chemo and radiation as well as the removal of his prostate, Salus was cancer free. He was grateful to find that the entire process had, surprisingly, proved largely smooth and painless.
For several years, Salus enjoyed his return to good health. Then, a few years later, Virtual Imaging detected a speck on his lung. After a closer examination, the physician informed him the spot was benign–and his assessment remained the same until the early part of 2023 when a second spot appeared. This one, he was told, was cancerous. This took Salus by surprise as someone who had never smoked or touched a cigarette in his life.
The first doctor Salus spoke with from a renowned hospital was quick to come to a decision and schedule immediate surgery. But Salus was careful to procure second and third opinions from nationally renowned oncologists, including Emory. After weighing his options, Salus underwent a lobectomy, having the lower lobe of his left lung removed. For the first two days following the procedure, he remained under the influence of medication, on the third day, he experienced some light pain and on the fourth day, he was discharged to go home, where he remained in convalescence for three weeks. Once again, Salus was thankful for yet another seamless cancer treatment.
“Going through something like that weighs heavily on your heart and mind because you want to live,” says Salus. “For anyone who faces a similar ordeal, my best advice would be to first, invest in preventive prognosis. The earlier a disease is detected, the milder and less extensive your treatments can be. Second, don’t go with the first opinion you hear–get two or three opinions from medical professionals who are specialists in the specific organ and type of treatment you’re seeking. For example, don’t speak to an oncologist for cancer in your thorax, instead try to work with a thoracic oncologist.”
Today, Salus is once again several months into being cancer free–and extremely grateful for it. Duluth Travel is doing well and Salus is proud of his staff of seventy plus employees–and for their extensive support throughout his cancer journey.
With his people-first mindset, Arthur has managed to maintain low turnover rates–less than 1.5 percent–at Duluth Travel. In the meantime, he continues to draw inspiration from his spiritual leader on all aspects of life, who has given him an enlightening perspective on his new bill of health.
“I remember my spiritual leader saying to me, ‘Arthur, if God wanted you today, he’d take you. If he wanted you yesterday, he would take you. You have a purpose here on earth. Find your purpose.’”
Salus has taken these words to heart, opening his thoughts to what more he can do to live meaningfully for himself, his loved ones, and those around him.