You’re Not Alone: A Conversation With Bodybuilder L.A. Aguayo
I recently had the honor of interviewing bodybuilder L.A. Aguayo over Zoom. He is 34 years old, has severe hemophilia B, and recently took second place in an international bodybuilding competition, the Arnold Amateur.
I highly recommend his inspirational autobiography, “Finding Purpose in the Pain.” In his book, L.A. takes you on his journey of battling hemophilia and hepatitis C while chasing his dream of becoming an elite athlete. Having left home at a young age and with little support, he often felt alone and depressed.
Excerpts of our conversation follow.
JL: Are there others with hemophilia in your family?
LAA: No. It was a spontaneous mutation. We don’t know of anyone else who had it. Growing up I didn’t understand hemophilia at all. I was so confused about the emotions and battles I was fighting. My life felt extremely lonely and confusing. Nothing really made sense. Looking back, I see a kid who needed a lot of guidance and direction. I see so many ways I could have avoided pain, mental health damage, and in my case, permanent joint damage.
I hid having hemophilia for a long, long time. As a kid, that was the last thing I wanted to talk about, and I lived my life as if I didn’t have it. I was just this kid who was always hurt and always swelled up, and I didn’t understand why. I decided to pretend like it wasn’t even there. I didn’t have to address it until I got to the point where I couldn’t even walk. I couldn’t go to the baseball game with my friends.
I realized my life is really different, and it kind of sucks. It was embarrassing during that time frame. You didn’t talk about it. You just shut up, and you didn’t tell a soul. I feel like that was common for all of us living during that time.
When I was I kid, I skipped infusions. Now I infuse twice weekly to treat my hemophilia.
When was your low point?
I was 245 pounds and very sick. I was in the hospital every week or so to figure out why I was always throwing up, feeling weak, and depressed. Turns out I was sick with hepatitis C from contaminated blood products. The treatment was brutal. That’s when I hit my all-time low. I remember being in a parking lot calling my mom crying because I couldn’t go shopping for groceries.
When you are a grown man, you get scared when you can’t do the smallest task. It gets so draining when you get up, but you’re not able to walk. After treatment, I decided now I’m going to do it my way. I could be the author of my own book and my life story.
How did you change?
The biggest change was overcoming my limited belief system. I was telling myself every day that I was handicapped. I was scared to succeed. I had to change my entire mindset. You have to start telling yourself a different narrative in your head. Think, what would it look like if you do succeed? I worked on my self-talk.
What inspires you?
I’ve built many relationships on social media with guys all over the world. I see them suffering like I was. They don’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. They don’t see hope. They don’t have a family support system. They are in the world suffering because they don’t have the education or training. They feel stuck.
Having a severe disorder is not fair. They have the cards stacked against them. I wish there was more to give them a second opportunity to rebuild mentally and physically. It’s not like a hemophiliac would call some random 800 number and talk about their mental health. People need to get the adequate care that they truly need. I want to do more.
What does the future hold for you?
I’ve made it my purpose and mission to be the role model and leader I wish I had when I was a kid. I think it’s incredibly important we all advocate for ourselves and share our stories with the world. Bodybuilding will be a major part of my life, but maybe not competing. I wake up every day now, and I am walking just fine. When I feel no pain, I am so grateful. Gratitude is my superpower.
I am the strongest I have ever been. Fitness and nutrition have changed my life. I am coaching and helping others make those changes.
Thank you, L.A.! Follow and message L.A. Aguayo on Instagram: @chronic_physique.
Note: Hemophilia News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Hemophilia News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to hemophilia.