Before I met you, I was 12-0, an undefeated professional boxer. I was featured in national Super Bowl commercials. My fights were in some of the world’s most famous arenas, including Madison Square Garden, Cowboys Stadium and MGM Grand in Las Vegas. I had fans and I had fame, which made me feel invincible.
Then, in 2012 you came into my life. I was getting ready for my first fight on an HBO undercard. During a media workout, I had to run to the bathroom because I thought I was going to pass out.
You, pain, were all over: my joints, my back and my head.
It wasn’t after a fight or a blow to the head, so I knew you weren’t from boxing. But other than that, I was clueless about your cause.
I spent two years in and out of hospitals and removed from fighting just trying to figure out what was wrong with me. Doctors performed surgeries I did not need. At one point, I was on eight different medications.
My rock bottom moment was when I spent 12 days in a hospital in Chicago. I had a full-blown anxiety attack and you overwhelmed my body. Doctors were testing me, prodding me, poking me, putting drugs in me, trying to break your cycle, the cycle of pain.
Several medical experts told me my boxing career was over.
I felt hopeless. I felt depressed. I felt like this would be the rest of my life.
I became damn near suicidal.
Even though doctors eventually diagnosed me with an autoimmune disease, Ankylosing Spondylitis, which is a form of arthritis, knowing what was wrong only identified the problem as opposed to solving it.
Finally, I decided I would either take an entire bottle of pills or I would figure out how to get better, but nothing in between.
During my visits to the hospital, I began to read books, which influenced me to stop trying to beat you with medicine and instead attempt to overpower you with my mind.
I consumed myself with positivity, shifting my attitude. Instead of depending on pills and prescriptions, I searched for alternative options where my body could heal itself. Meditation, acupuncture, breathing exercises and a good diet all became part of my routine.
I began to read books, which influenced me to stop trying to beat you with medicine and instead attempt to overpower you with my mind.
While my disease is chronic, my new mindset made it manageable.
But even more important than managing you, I began to find meaning from you.
Some of the greatest people who ever walked this planet have experienced you. Top athletes, businessmen, life coaches and entrepreneurs came out of the hurt you caused them because they used you as a lesson and as a tool.
You put a chip on my shoulder and gave me the motivation to get back in the ring, which I did despite some medical experts saying it would never happen. I just fought for a world title in front of millions of people. And even though I got handed the first loss of my professional career, you taught me to use that disappointment to drive me and to grow.
You taught me life is about getting knocked down seven times and getting back up eight times.
You taught me failure isn’t hitting the canvas but refusing to get back up.
That’s not all.
Until I faced you, I didn’t know true empathy or gratitude.
Before I encountered you, my life was about me, me and me. I wanted to win titles, watch myself on TV and make money. You took away my egocentric mindset and gave me an unshakeable desire to devout the rest of my life to helping others defeat you.
I became an entrepreneur, creating a Cannabinoid (CBD) company, which helps me and others cope with you. I speak publicly, motivating people to fight through their rock bottom moments. I meet face-to-face with children who are suffering.
Family Reach is a foundation helping families impacted by cancer. Recently I worked with them to send a child, who is now in hospice, to Disneyland.
Also, I share my story every chance that I get to show others they can thrive despite you.
A few months ago, parents approached me at an event, explaining their daughter went through a similar experience. She was a collegiate athlete and became very depressed. With tears in their eyes, these parents told me my story gave their daughter hope.
That moment was better than any knockout inside the ropes.
While I am guiding others, I still have my struggles, as flare-ups remain a part of my life.
There are days I wake up and feel like I am 80 years old, grabbing the railing to come down the stairs and putting heat packs on to manage the aches and discomfort you cause me.
Even so, I still see you, pain, as a gift in my life. My empathy and desire to help people would have never happened without you.
While others curse you, I say thank you.
You brought me from selfish to selfless. And as bad as you make feel in my joints you will never compare to the way my new-found passion for giving makes me feel in my heart.
Stronger than ever,
About the author:
Mike Lee is a professional boxer, who graduated from The University of Notre Dame with a degree in Finance. He has a 21-1 record as a pro boxer.
About the sponsor and the charity:
Family Reach is a national organization dedicated to eradicating the financial barriers that accompany a cancer diagnosis. A friend of The Unsealed is donating $25 dollars to Family Reach in honor of the first 25 shares of Mike’s letter.
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Sweet Lauren, I agree completely with the promise that Brian asked you to make. Frankly, it is the only way that I know to love; totally, completely, wholly and unconditionally. You deserve nothing less, nor does your future love.
Wow. What a truly moving and powerful story. We often take for granted the small gifts we give each other just by being present. I'm sad for the heartache. I'm glad you stayed and became. Who knows what little girl or boy will be attributing their life's purpose to some kindness you shared. Peace and Sunshine
You’re welcome Lauren looking forward to all the future stories :)
Thank you Tony. I appreciate all your support.
Thank you Tony. I appreciate all your support.
I’m sorry to hear about Brian but he was right you are too beautiful to not receive roses Lauren:)
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Thanks for this! So what movie set did you get on?
So nice Roger <3
Pat, Your letter touched me in a very profound way. It left me in tears in the middle of my work day. It made me want to share something with you. On a July morning in 2007 a police officer answered a 911 call I had made when my Mother went into cardiac arrest. Between that officer, my best friend and the fire fighters who showed up minutes later they were able to restart her heart, however at the hospital she passed away an hour later. At the end of his shift that officer stopped by my home to check on the situation and cried when I told him the unfortunate news I received only 4 hours prior. He tried to apologize to me. I looked at the anguish in his eyes and asked him directly what for? He described the ways he felt sorry. What I want to leave you with was my reply to him. I told him he had nothing to be sorry for because he answered the call in what was the darkest moment in my life. I told him that he was a hero regardless because it takes a special person to answer calls like that. You are a hero to people Pat. No one can ever take that away from you. I understand the process you're going through as I've been there myself and like you I still struggle with it when no one is looking. You aren't alone in this. I hope your healing process continues on and you can regain the happiness in this beautiful life. You'll always be a hero to those people, because you were there when the call came Best wishes Roger Chamberlain
Ruth, your letter moved me to tears. Once upon a time I was very closed off about the LGBT community but over a course of several years, I turned my fear into understanding and I actively stand with the community for their equal rights because it is the right thing to do.