Things Hurt

For this entry I decided to write a poem. If you asked my friends from high school about my skills as a poet, they would for sure tell you that I am no Maya Angelou. However, I was inspired to convey my thoughts on facing whatever it is that keeps you from fighting in something other than a narrative. Thanks to the wife, whom is an LAUSD English teacher and teaches writing to America’s youth for some tips and pointers. Hope you like it!


Buzz, buzz, buzz, goes the alarm

You shift your body

All you feel is tight

Make a fist, extend your arm, there is the pain


Climb out of bed

Plant your feet on the floor

Struggling to put on your clothes

Time to get ready and head out the door

THINGS HURT, YOU’RE TIRED, KEEP MOVING that’s how life flows

Don’t leave the house without grabbing your meds

Off to the car now is where you head

Breakfast is in the belly, so now you’re fed
Ready to go the day is about to start


The day rolls along, you feel depleted

Head to the gym to get some fitness

Your brain is in a fog; you start to get heated

You walk and run, you’re happy that you lifted

THINGS HURT, YOU’RE TIRED, KEEP MOVING, you must have persistence

Back in the car you’re ending the day

Off to see your love, you can’t wait for a smile

Walk in the door and there they are

A hug and kiss, you talk for a while

THINGS HURT, YOU’RE TIRED, KEEP MOVING, reminding yourself you’ve come so far

Illness, struggles or having it rough

Angry, mad, sad or feeling so bleak

All it really takes is a mental tweak

Head out of the game, heart in the wrong place

THINGS HURT, YOU’RE TIRED, KEEP MOVING time to reclaim your space

Friends and family they love us so

Support and guidance is what they share

Feeling understood, sometimes they just don’t know

Embrace it, acknowledge it, it’s not always fair

THINGS HURT, YOU’RE TIRED, KEEP MOVING show yourself you care

Things hurt, you’re tired, keep moving you must

Live your life, for you, your husband or your wife

Light your soul on fire, for you must have faith it will inspire

Don’t quit, don’t stop, and don’t ever give in


Why Me (Or Why Not Me)?

When life throws us curveballs, lemons or whatever metaphor you want to attach to it; we tend to internalize, feel some sort of blame, or question what we must have done wrong. Many of us, myself included, often say WHY ME? Why has the universe conspired against me to cause this negative thing to happen? We also tend to attach ‘why’ to a lot of other outcomes in this life that do not benefit us. Like, why him, or why her? We often do this when other people find success and we are still swimming in this ocean of life, arms flailing, and opportunities just not presenting themselves. Opportunity

Thoughts of why me are natural when bad things happen to us. This is especially true when we, as well as those around us, believe we are truly good people. Why is something bad happening when we lead our lives with such integrity and good intentions?

Take me for example; when I was diagnosed with Scleroderma my first reaction aside from crying and becoming depressed, was asking, why me. Why did GOD or whatever great omnipotent being decided this were my fate? This obstacle, curveball or lemon came hurling at me that April morning—and it hit me hard. The why me’s kept flowing day and night. I guess it is human nature when we have some form of bad news. We go right to the most negative aspect of it and sink into some form of depression.

Now, please keep in mind, I never said why me and then tried to wish this on my enemy or anyone else for that matter. Nope, it was just about me. As in why did Scleroderma have to come into my life? Why did life drop a 500-pound brick on to my lap? What was the universe telling me? Maybe it was a sign that I needed to slow down, time to stop burning the candle at both ends, stop leading a dual career life, stop getting only 4-5 hours of sleep, stop always wanting [and sometimes very often eating] pizza, just STOP. Sometimes I truly believe challenges come to us not just as that, but rather as opportunities. These opportunities are presented in a way to motivate us to rise above and be greater than one previously could ever imagine. They are presented to us as an opportunity to be the best version of us that we can be. To showcase who we really are right down to our very core and essence of our being.

We all have our battles, struggles, and demons. But what makes my struggle any different than yours? NOTHING. My plight is no different than yours. Whatever ails you, whatever disease afflicts you, whatever parent, sibling or friend is sick, maybe you lost your job, maybe your loved one just broke up with you—whatever it is; that does not make my situation any worse than yours. My struggle is my struggle, and your struggle is your struggle. How I chose to live with my struggle is all about how I see it and the world in which I live.

Now, who knows how my disease will progress in a month, a year or down the line. I could have immense joint pain, a host of other complications, or I could remain as I am today. While no one can predict what the future holds, there is always a choice: to succumb to whatever ails you or embrace it. Work to understand it, then figure out how to work through it. How you view your struggle as it relates to how you see yourself in the world is your point of view and I will never question the way in which you live your life. However, I want to inspire you to look at your struggle, challenge, obstacle—you pick your word, and turn it upside down, kick it in the teeth and knock it sideways.

That is just what I did with my Scleroderma diagnosis. I could have easily let it become my life, influence my mindset everyday, let it get me down, let it bring my wife down and bring down others around me. Instead, I decided I was going to accept my challenge head on and live this Scleroderma life and live it fully. There is nothing it will do to me that I will allow it to affect my spirit and my zest for life. My spirit, will, and determination are my government, my congress, and my judge that will decide if the disease will be in charge or if I will be in charge.

So, take the first step. Make a commitment to yourself and be the champion that you are. Be the commander of your life, don’t let anything rule it, you rule it. I can’t twist your arm, but I can be that nagging, buzzing fly in your ear that says “YOU GOT THIS.” Under any and all circumstances in this life and with this disease or whatever afflicts you, you must not ever give up hope and have to keep fighting.

My decision was an easy and quick one. I saw Scleroderma as an opportunity to help others become stronger in the face of adversity—a spokesperson if you will for happiness, inspiration, strength and courage. My disease has lit such a fire in me to help others in similar situations. Now I see, my disease was a sign to slow down, but it was also a calling. A calling I have so longed for over the past 15 years of my life. I have jumped from job to job not knowing what I was supposed to do. I desperately tried to establish and figure out a career I was destined for, one where I could leave a legacy behind. And here it is Scleroderma, a rare autoimmune disease that is leading me to my path of awesomeness in order to leave this great legacy behind. Not only did I turn to writing my blog, I have also applied to graduate school to get a Master’s degree in Public Health so I can educate others on how to lead healthier lives.

I have such a renewed purpose in my life. Arielle and I are redirecting our efforts to just that—helping others to lead healthier lives through a total body and mind approach. Our company we started last summer, Confidence In Movement, began to inspire children and adults through movement and mindfulness. It had some direction, but let’s be honest—there was no real game plan, just a lot of great thoughts going in different directions. Now it has morphed into a specific goal. Help people afflicted with chronic illnesses that struggle with obstacles, and empower them to live healthier lives, be the greatest version of themselves, and ooze positivity through movement and education. Come join us on our journey as we try to make a lasting impact in this world.

HotComedyFinally, remember my friends, the next time you wonder why things happen to you, think about how things happen FOR you.


You Can’t Feel Sorry For Yourself

So there I was on April 3, 2017, hit with some the worst personal news I had ever been given. Sitting in the examination room with tears in my eyes, Arielle hugging me, waiting for the doctor to return, all my energy and fervor for life seemed to leave my body.

It was almost 3 hours before I had to head to Equinox in Downtown Los Angeles to teach a cycling class. I turned to Arielle and said, “I don’t think, I can teach.” My mental and emotional state was so shot that I could not fill the cup of other people. She immediately contacted my Group Fitness Manager and we started to find me a sub to cover the class. Luckily a fellow instructor agreed to do me a solid and teach my cycling class which was completely out of his way and without his cycling shoes.

After the nurse took vile upon vile upon vile of blood from my right arm, Arielle and I were finally finished at my appointment. We proceeded to drive our separate vehicles back home. While in my car, multiple times I fought back tears. I came home, sat down on the couch, and continued to sob—feeling like the world was caving in on me. The doctor had warned me to not read everything I could find on the Internet; but there I was, sitting with my computer, researching this disease called Scleroderma, which I knew absolutely nothing about.

I found the Scleroderma Foundation site and read about all 4 types of the disease and other various facts. I went to WebMD, and a hoard of other sites, as well as chat groups. All I kept focusing on were the negative outcomes that the disease could render upon a person. I read about Pulmonary Hypertension (PAH), Pulmonary Fibrosis, heart and kidney complications, and so on. Arielle and I went to bed that night and all I could do is feel my heart racing uncontrollably, my breath short and shallow. Suddenly, I thought that what I had read was actually happening to my body. I started to think that the disease had taken hold of me and I was succumbing to it. Mind you, these feelings and manifestations were despite earlier in day I had a complete work up: chest X-ray, heart, and lungs—all clear. With tears still in my eyes, my wife at my side telling me to relax, our teeny 6 pound cat Bleuy crawls up onto my chest. I always find it funny that animals instinctively can tell when their so-called parent isn’t feeling well. Plus, it also helps that Bleuy is pretty much human and acts like a cross between that and a dog. She sits outside the bathroom door when I shower. She runs to greet me when I come home, and daily, she walks me out when I leave to teach my morning classes. On this day, when I needed her most, she just knew. She laid down on my chest and purred for the next hour knowing that it was her duty to calm her “daddy” down. Bleuy

The next day, while I was still wallowing in my mortality, Arielle turned to me and said “I know you are scared and upset, but you need to pick a day this week to stop feeling bad and do something about your situation.” Suddenly it hit me, here I am this guy who pushes gym goers, clients, friends and family to be the best version of themselves, to face life challenges head on, conquer them and find greatness, yet I can’t seem to stop feeling sorry for myself when people in the world have it much worse.

It dawned on me that what I was doing was playing the part of a victim by wallowing in the what could happen; when instead I could be a great force to help not only myself fight a battle against my body, but to help others as well. So I decided to take action. I immediately went back to that dark, scary place known as the Internet and did positive research. Instead of looking for every document about the disease, I sought out and contacted support groups and the foundation itself. Every time I shared my situation with someone I started to cry. I shared my tears with wonderful people like Tina, who works in patient support at UCLA. And even though I cried because I was scared, I knew I was doing the right thing. Initially, I was scared to talk to people because I saw it as a sign of weakness within myself. However, instead of feeling weak, I began to feel empowered. After all, how couldn’t I? I was being was met with great compassion, support and resources from Tina and others. Their main objective was to help me with what could be a life-long battle. I was given referrals to additional doctors, support groups in my area, even contact information for other men fighting the battle. And there was good news too—I had reached out to Tina just in time as she informed me about a patient educational day at Cedars-Sinai Hospital. It would be a day where doctors, dentists and nutritionists who generously donated their time would inform patients about aspects of Scleroderma and answer any questions we as patients might have.

My aggressive action did not just stop with my research or attending educational meetings. I started emailing my doctor asking as many questions as I could related to my blood tests, lung tests, 2D Echocardiogram and CT Scan (which, by the way all came back great). Arielle and I discussed diet changes I would need to make and that she would make them with me to ensure I reduced as many inflammatory foods as possible. Then a lightbulb went off in our heads (ding!!!)

For years, my wife and I have struggled to find out what our true calling in life should be. Always disappointed with where we were in life (even though we have a great life), we constantly felt we had a higher calling. We have come to the realization that Scleroderma, while it is not what we would want as a sign, was just that. My diagnosis was a sign to use our passion for health and wellness to uplift and help others fight. We decided to use our ability to motivate and inspire others to rise up, no matter how tired they are, no matter how stiff their joints, no matter what fears they might have and fight to conquer this disease. One such idea that came to our minds was a fundraiser that involved movement. As a result, we are leading our first fundraiser in two weeks on August 5th 2017 at One Down Dog, a yoga studio in Silverlake, CA. Arielle will be teaching and I will be there with volunteers, who in the snap of a finger donated their time to come speak about the disease and meet anyone who wants to know more. If you are local and interested in attending, click here to sign up for the class. Can’t make it, but still want to donate and do your part? Click here to donate to the Scleroderma Foundation of Southern California.

I look at my face, touching and feeling my tightening skin, trying to accept the changes occurring in my body. I do cry sometimes and that’s OK. I am scared about leaving this world and the most important person in my life (Arielle). And naturally, when I cough, I tend to overreact and jump to conclusions but I am trying consciously to not feel bad for myself. Otherwise if you do, you end up losing. And I my friends, am a winner and my purpose is to help others win too.

I Am Not Invincible

For many years people that have known me have always asked me, “how do you do it?” Friends and students who have taken and continue to take my fitness classes and even my wife, Arielle, were always mystified and awed by my energy level. They were totally perplexed that I could wake up at 5am, teach a fitness class and get home at 11pm after 10-12 hours of running a restaurant only to do it again day in and day out. People would always inquire, they wanted to know if they could have some of whatever it was I was taking.

To everyone’s dismay, I was not on some form of narcotic or 5-hour energy drink. This was who I had always been for the last 13-14 years. Aside from having an underactive thyroid, which I was diagnosed with at the age of 20, I was an all-natural person, functioning on what my body could do. The only medication I had ever really take to help improve my energy level was the synthroid that was prescribed for me. I completely understand that living a life of burning the candle from morning till night is probably not the healthiest choice one could make, but what the hell it was not like I was doing coke or drinking excessively.

Whenever I had down time I was tired and always found myself lying around and or sleeping. I figured it was a by-product of my underactive thyroid and just my intense schedule of fitness classes and restaurant work. As time progressed and I found myself entering my mid-twenties, then my early thirties and finally around 35-36 my body started to catch up with the inevitable. While I could still push myself, my body started to ache, my joints felt stiff and I became less motivated to hit the gym and I was even more tired.

TeachingGlendale4Then one day in the summer of 2014 when I was driving to Santa Monica at 7:30am on a Saturday to teach an early morning cycling class, my right hand went numb. My fingers swelled and it felt as if my hand was the size of a balloon. Freaking out I immediately went to urgent care at Cedars-Sinai that afternoon. The doctor on call told me I had bi-lateral carpel tunnel syndrome. WHAT!? That makes absolutely no sense, as I do not do a job that keeps me at a computer all day typing, nor am I in the service industry doing things like massage therapy. Oh, and in case you did not know, bi-lateral carpel tunnel usually affects pregnant women. In this instance, one thing is certain; I am a man so I am unable to procreate in my own body, so let’s cross this off the list. Later, I saw a neurologist that suggested I get a very painful electrode test to see if I were a candidate for surgery. Once again a big fat NO. Finally, I landed in the Rheumatologist office of Dr. Lillian Szydlo to ensure I did not have Rheumatoid Arthritis or Lupus.

While my antibodies for autoimmune issues (ANA number) came back high, she was confident that I did not have these severe diseases. Instead she diagnosed me with Hoshimotos Thyroiditis, an autoimmune condition that is related to my already diagnosed underactive thyroid. Dr. Szydlo told me I should come back in 3-6 months to follow up. She also briefly mentioned to me that sometimes individuals with one autoimmune condition could also develop others, so she wanted to monitor my progress.

Upon leaving her office, I breathed a sigh of relief. Ok, this is not a big deal as I have been dealing with my thyroid for sometime now. Superman Greg lives on. So I kept going at the same rate. Being a stubborn, macho man and an invincible one at that, I never did follow up with Dr. Szydlo in the prescribed recommend time frame. Instead, I kept on trucking.

Dealing and coping with my fatigue, joint tightness, numbness, and so on were just part of my daily life. That is until about a year ago when I started having issues with my fingers. I kept getting these little sores on the middle finger and pinky of my left hand. Thinking I had an infected cut, I decided to try and home remedy the problem. My thought process: soak the finger, apply Neosporin and other medicated products with Band-Aids, and that would certainly do the trick. However, these supposed fixes did not do a thing to solve the problem. I mean I am a fitness instructor, I have to do push ups and be on my hands when I do burpees. Imagine going down to the floor left hand in a fist, right hand palm flat on the floor to do a push up. What a weird fitness professional right!? The pain was unbearable every time the tip of my finger would come into contact quickly with a surface. While trying to self-fix the problem to no avail, my wife commented constantly on my excessive Band-Aids covering my fingers and hounded me to see a doctor. Reluctantly, I called and made a new appointment with Dr. Szydlo.

By this time, 2 years had passed since my original appointment in her office. Arielle accompanied me to the appointment, but we drove separately. Arielle called me from the car complaining about traffic and I could sense she felt bitter and inconvenienced. So being the nice person I am, and a bit upset I told her to turn around and stay home. She said no, and finally showed up just as I was taken into the examination room. Then the doctor came in, insert music here – dun, dun duuuuuuu.

The doctor asked me a whole barrage of questions, conducted a clinical exam, listened to my heart, touched my abdomen, looked at the white and purple digits on my fingers and toes (oh I forgot to tell you, now I also have Raynaud’s Syndrome), and then finally took a hand magnifying glass to my fingertips. Dr. Szydlo stepped back, had a seat on her chair, my wife sitting on another chair next to me as I was on the exam table and without any uncertainty in her voice said “I am diagnosing you with Limited Systemic Sclerosis.” Me, totally bewildered and caught a glimpse of Arielle, then I turned my attention back to my medical professional. She was upset and angry with me for waiting so long to come back to her office. She proceeded to tell me that my disease is an autoimmune condition in a family called Scleroderma and my diagnosis is the second most serious kind and could be life threatening as it could affect my kidneys, heart and lungs.

At this point my heart sank. The doctor left the room for a moment and all that happened were tears. They streamed from my face and my wife hugged me. All I could say to her is “I don’t want to die, I don’t want to leave you.” In my mind the reality of my mortality rushed to the forefront of my thoughts and there I was saying to myself “I AM NOT INVINCIBLE.”