I was diagnosed with severe hemophilia B at birth. I’m the first person in my family to have a bleeding disorder, so nobody really knew what to expect. The doctors told my mother that I wouldn’t be able to do much, so that was her belief for many years.
Growing up, I spent a lot of time at home because of bleeds, and I watched a lot of SportsCenter on ESPN. I loved to imagine what it would be like to be a professional athlete, playing at such a high level. But I didn’t know if that could be in the cards for me.
By the time I was around 8 or 9 years old, I decided I really wanted to play a sport. I learned about an indoor soccer league that played with a Nerf ball, so I thought this was my chance. I wrote a long letter to my mom, pouring my heart out. All I wanted in life, I wrote, was the opportunity to play in this league. I guess the letter was good because she allowed me to play, and I loved it.
Unfortunately, the softer ball didn’t keep me from getting kicked in the shins and such, and the bleeds were just too difficult to deal with. After that, I convinced my mom to let me play baseball, but it was the same story. I’d get hit with a ball or collide with another player and have a bleed, and it was just too dangerous to continue.
In my early 20s, I contracted hepatitis C from contaminated medicine. A few years later, my liver was failing, my new medication regimen made me really sick, and I had to quit my job and move home with my mom. I truly hit rock bottom. I just felt so awful all the time and I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life anymore. I was tired and thought how ridiculous all of it seemed. Life for me was nothing but one health hurdle after another.
Then I started to think about the things that made me happy. And I realized that if I could use my experiences with hemophilia to help other people, that would be worth living for. So I started to imagine how it would feel to be a leader in the community. What would that look like? How would that feel? How would I want to be represented?
I started to picture that person and I knew I wanted to look different. So I joined a gym and began to go regularly. I had no idea what I was doing. But I watched other people and I figured it out. One day, I saw a poster of an elite bodybuilder. I knew nothing about bodybuilding, but I loved the way the guy looked. And I began to research and eat differently and I completely changed my body. I did have bleeds at the beginning—there was a big learning curve. But the more I taught myself about how to train properly, the fewer bleeds I had.
For the first time in my life, I had control over my body. I knew I could create whatever I wanted, mentally and physically. I began to document it all on social media and I started to get messages from people with bleeding disorders all over the world, saying they were inspired by my experience. Finally, I felt like I was doing something right. I realized this is what I’m supposed to be doing—using my journey to help other people.