Sunday, June 18, 2017

On Adversity

At age 18, a wild wrestling scramble left me with damaged facet joints in my spine, two bulging discs, a torn labrum in my right hip, a torn hamstring, and a meniscal tear to my right knee.The repercussions of one compound traumatic injury changed the course of my life in less than a second. The fallout from this compound injury sent me into a cascade of misdiagnosis and chronic pain. Nevertheless, I launched a mildly successful career as an amateur mixed martial arts fighter. 

As a young and impressionable athlete you listen to your coaches and your doctors. When your doctors fail to diagnose, and your coaches tell you to stop being a pussy, you have two options. Succumb to chronic pain or fight through it. I chose the latter.

Post Hip Surgery March 2016

At age 26, my eight year battle for a healthy body continues. 

Obamacare locked me down to the state of New Mexico for my medical care. The affordable care act functions on a state-by-state basis. Each state pools its resources to offer plans which maintain financial stability in local hospitals and providers. It just so happens that, as a New Mexico resident, I was unable to go out of state for treatment.

North Carolina, on the other hand, hosts a larger pool of higher paying contributors, enabling companies like Blue Cross to offer broader plans, plans which allow for treatments out of state. Dr. P referred me to Dr. Struan Coleman, a world class surgeon at the Hospital for Special Surgery in NYC; an option which I have realized is my best in order to return to world class competition. 

With mom - Post Knee Surgery 2016
Working my ass off  and stressing my body out wasn’t conducive to the healing process, especially with the compiled stress of back to back surgeries. 9 months post knee surgery and there remains a sharp metal anchor floating around in my knee, tearing things up. Turns out my hip surgery wasn't done correctly either, as the bone wasn't shaved enough to protect against joint impingement. As an athlete, it turned out to be a mistake to put my career in the hands of surgeons who primarily operate on senior citizens. I've lost a year to muscle atrophy, de-conditioning, and worse pain than what I started with.With hindsight at 20/20 I shoot for a real specialist, as not all healthcare is created equal.

Good times working at Pain Free New Mexico - 2016

It’s through adversity that we find the deepest parts of ourselves. Parts usually overlooked in ambivalence, we look onward from these spaces as a practical matter of time and utility. But it is in the depths of these layers, deep into the subconscious, that we find our cleanest and most resolute reflection.

Nevertheless it is an adventurous experience to be a human being. Lessons learned and battles fought educate me moving forward. Improvisation and adaptation take center stage in the trials of misfortune, as I learn to accept both the gifts and the trials received.

Early 2016 - My Sunday Kickboxing Class

Teaching at Jackson's Academy - 2014

Albuquerque gave me everything needed to be a world championship fighter, despite having arrived as a prospect with physical challenges. Looking back on my experience at Jackson’s, I can see that I was thoroughly bred to be game, through a grind of ferocious battles in the gym and in fights against regional standouts. My life experiences made me tougher than I ever knew possible, having been tested into the depths of my will only to discover gems of humanity.

World Champ Danny Romero in ABQ

The “Land of Enchantment” hosts a unique cultural substance, back dropped by mountainous peaks, an acquired taste for Green Chile, and the Zia sun's outpouring array of distinguished radiance. The wild and unforgiving spirit of the Southwest is highly invigorating and in many ways introspective. Here exists a land two hours behind the east coast, offering a freedom to create without the stress of urban hustle, tucked under a watermelon colored mountain and elevated into the sky. It seems to me over the last six years that time stood still, channeling my energy into the mastery of skill. I meditated alongside masters of craft, learned the values of warriors.

Thanksgiving Day Training 2014

World class is in many ways insatiable. It is agreeably insane, in the best possible way. It is fundamentally excellent, relatively simple, and very much outside of the box. World class is a different set of priorities, a different set of values and life principles. It is sacrifice; it is unbreakable and simultaneously adaptable. It is fortitude, leadership, humility, and individualism. World class is creativity, and encompassing self-belief outside the realm of general perception.  

My brother Diego Sanchez

The universe speaks, it teaches us to appreciate its subtle edging and filing. We set out to establish who we are, only to discover that the inner workings of who we are were set into motion long ago. Our gifts demand appreciation as something borrowed rather than something possessed as our own.  The butterfly effect calls us to a broader scope than we may give ourselves credit for, holds us accountable to our deepest potentials, and forces us to confront parts of ourselves which require growth. 

I have learned in large part that I am a witness to my destiny, that I play my part as summoned by a purpose larger than myself. The significance of the ego is largely misconstrued by the individual. Ego is a pervasive remnant of the survival oriented human psyche. The best part about having your ego broken is realizing that you cannot swim against the ripping current of life's challenges, as the reality of its power exists independently of your personal inclinations. The forces of nature mandate that we adjust to their accords, to ride their currents in search of nothing more than our most natural progressive path.

With Carlos Condit and our buddy Santos

My life as a young man has consisted of a nearly decade long struggle to regain my health. It just so happened that I simultaneously pursued a career as a professional athlete. It's been a rough ride, a wild ride, a painful one, and most definitely a humbling one. I am solely focused on regaining my health for the sake of its value, outside the context of athletic competition.

While I am optimistic about my long term prognosis with the right operation, I also realize that two hip surgeries and two knee surgeries will take its toll on my structure. My path back into martial arts will be a mindful one, with an emphasis on long term durability. I await my path one day at a time, waiting for physical performance to arrive in whatever context it chooses.

I see many possible paths for myself, and I do believe that God has tested me for a reason. I also believe that the scale of my trials will be related to the scale of my successes, and the many lessons I have learned along the way will guide me in wisdom. 

I ride the wave, I get healthy.