The Come Back Blog
New Year’s Day should be a time for new beginnings… This New Year’s Day, I felt lost and broken, so I was really ready for a new beginning. I take responsibility for my actions though. How did I get here? That’s what I’ve got to set the record straight on, what’s been happening since I started on this journey.
Last year I hurt myself. I kept working out and training with my injured foot, and I know I shouldn’t have, but I’ve never wanted anything so bad so yeah, I kept working out even in pain.
I have a great team around me, including all of the doctors that helped me. I met with three different podiatrists but Dr. Kourosh Harounian DPM cared so much, I needed him on my team. Dr. Harounian studied at UCLA and completed his degree at the New York College of Podiatric Medicine. He tried everything he could to help my foot before we decided on surgery. I was in a boot, he gave me shots, but finally we decided I needed to meet with Dr. Steven W. Meier, MD.
Dr. Meier works with recreational and professional athletes. His specialty is complex joint disorders and you know he’s a good surgeon because he’s where people go who’ve had surgery before but it didn’t work.
The surgery was scheduled for early December 2014, but this was major surgery. One week it would be on, then off, something would happen and everyone involved would need to find a better time. Dr. Meier gave me a spark of hope, but some days it was so bright and some days, it seemed so far away.
This was a low point for me. My entire life I’ve worked. I’m a proud man, I’ve always supported myself and been self employed, I’ve always been able to take jobs. But for once, I had to turn down work. Right before my surgery in January, I realized I had about a month left in rent. It’s a shitty place to be at, you realize how money changes people. I had to ask people for money. Some of the people that helped me, they were almost strangers. That’s how I ended up driving for Uber on New Year’s Eve, from 6pm to 4am and I made $80. At the end of the night, I was lost and broken and kept thinking, “How am I going to survive?”
In search of a new beginning, I decided to do a 22 day juice cleanse. With my weight at 248, I wanted to do something that gave me a feeling of control. I was able to get down to 212 but we still didn’t know when my operation would be. I had so many things going on, I was frustrated that the surgery hadn’t happened yet, I was learning how weird money could make people, everyday was up and down. But there’s somethings you just have to do. And going back to Morocco to visit my brother’s grave eleven months after his passing was one of them.
In Sephardic culture, the family comes back eleven months after someone passes. It’s a time to remember. So on February 12th I arrived in Casablanca to spend time with my family. On Friday morning, I visited my brother’s gravesite with both of my parents, one of my brothers, my aunts and uncles, and even though I was in the middle of a battle at home, this time abroad meant more than all the frustration and stress.
Finally on February 24th it was time for the surgery. I remember the nurse telling me, she was taking my blood pressure, she said “you know you’re about to have surgery right,” and I said “yeah, why?” and she said “you’re extremely calm” and I was just so grateful to start back on my journey.
After not knowing when the surgery would happen, after knowing that Dr. Meier couldn’t make any promises, even if he is the best, I just wanted a chance to try again. I was holding on to my hope and I had such gratitude for everyone that had helped me that I just wanted it to be my turn again. I wanted to be back on my journey, no matter how much I’d fallen behind.
The surgery went well and Dr. Meier worked a miracle. Now it was my turn. All of the doctors’ hard work was dependant on me getting very serious about physical therapy and recovery. So one week after my surgery, Vladislav Shut, PT, DPT, MS, ATC, CSCS started working with me on my physical therapy. The relationship I created with this man was very important. I told him my story and he joined Drs. Meier and Harounian in becoming sponsors of the film. Because we were so serious about my recovery, it went as well as I could hope. And hope was something I’d been chasing for months.
My weight went up again before surgery so I started my PT at 240lbs. Now that I had Dr. Slava working with me though, I started to change my diet. I remember thinking, “if I can get down to 197, I’ll be boxing like that.” But life has a way of taking normal and turning it upside down.
Around the middle of April I got a call from my mother in Spain. She tells me in tears that my father is in the hospital and that two specialists have told her he doesn’t have much time. So on April 21st, I flew out to see my father. These are the kind of decisions that if you don’t make right, you regret them for the rest of your life. In the hospital I imagined having conversations with my dad about his life, talking about all his kids, about me, but we didn’t. Instead, I played music from his childhood and listened to him hum along to it. I realized it was time for me to start back on my journey, I left with a sense of peace and returned home.
PT with Dr. Slava Andre Azoulay
But before I could, fate had to step in. In early May, before I left for home, I made a trip to Morocco. The day before I left, I received an invitation to meet Andre Azoulay. This man is the senior advisor to King Mohammed VI of Morocco. He was also the advisor to his father, King Hassan II. To say I was honored is an understatement. This is a man that I more than respect. He’s a Moroccan Jew like me, but I consider him unlike any man I’d ever met. He’s greatly educated and cultured. When I met him, I was struck by his poise and quiet strength. Growing up in Morocco, I didn’t feel that our Jewish community had leaders that I could relate to. I felt that growing up, value was placed on wealth or possession. But as an adult, I’m glad to have met a man like Andre Azoulay.
Before I returned to America, I received word that I could start doing light workouts. That was on May 5th. I wasted no time when I returned home on the 6th and made steady progress. Because I kept to my physical therapy so closely, I was given a green light to start boxing again on June 15th. Every week I drop more weight. I know this past year I lost a lot of ground on my journey, but now I’m back. I’m healthy, I’m fit, and I’m ready to fight.