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Ali Sorour playing pickleball

Turning Loss into Strength

Life Time Plymouth (Minnesota)

Ali Sorour holds on to his memories, but he lives his life looking forward.

Ali first came to the United States from Iran in the early 1970s to study engineering. He met his wife, Minoo, playing volleyball, and for more than 40 years they enjoyed an active life together. In 2016, Minoo was diagnosed with leukemia, and their world changed.

Ali cared for Minoo ­until she passed away in late 2017, and it was her doctor who suggested Ali seek professional support for his grief. Through counseling, he learned to retain his cherished memories without becoming overwhelmed by the accompany­ing ­emotions.

“I cannot detach memories from my life,” he says. “But I can remove the intense emotion from my memories. Now I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.”

While undergoing grief counseling, Ali began volunteering at the cancer clinic where Minoo had received care. And he returned to Life Time, where he and Minoo had been members for many years.

His approach to fitness has changed. From ages 8 to 72, Ali played soccer. But the COVID-19 pandemic and knee problems sidelined him, and in 2021 he underwent two knee-replacement surgeries. A friend recommended pickleball as a game he could play as he recovered.

Ali now plays pickleball at Life Time three or four times a week and hopes to test his new knees on the tennis courts this summer. “But pickleball is going to be my main sport,” he says. “When you get older, your body talks to you. My body is telling me, ‘Hey, pickleball is the game for you!’”

Staying active has helped Ali cope with his loss. And though he once had a competitive side, he hung up that mentality with his soccer cleats. “I don’t want to be competitive anymore. I just want to be involved,” he explains. “I have met a lot of good friends since I started playing pickleball.”

In fact, the person who introduced him to pickleball has become his new companion.

“I go to the cemetery every Friday,” Ali says. “She comes with me. She lost a love, too, to Guillain-Barré Syndrome. We are sharing the same pain. We are helping each other. My memory is there, but she is a part of my life now and I’m happy.”

This was excerpted from “Changing Lives” which was published in the July/August 2022 issue of Experience Life.

Jill Patton, FMCHC

Jill Patton, FMCHC, is a Minneapolis-based health writer and functional-medicine certified health coach.

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