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Thursday, March 27, 2008

No better way to pay back the universe: A cancer survivor's story

During Thanksgiving weekend in 2005, Henri Engle's throat swelled up. Two weeks later, while watching a movie, he began coughing up blood. He finished the movie before going to the Emergency Room at Massachusetts General Hospital. They took him into surgery immediately, and he awoke in the Oncology unit, diagnosed with a very rare cancer – synovial sarcoma of the throat.

The tall 24-year-old went through four doses of chemotherapy over five months, and six weeks of radiation treatment, twice a day for five days a week. He had to be fed through a gastric feeding tube, and he lost 85 pounds.

Now, he's cancer-free, and at 175 pounds he's in the best shape of his life. How? He attributes his strength to workouts with cast-iron kettlebells – which look like cannonballs, each with a handle, and weigh from 10 to 88 pounds.

Henri encountered personal trainer Anthony DiIuglio, the owner of the first American kettlebell gym, in East Providence, Rhode Island, and began working out. He progressed rapidly under Anthony's guidance. Anthony is himself a cancer survivor. He works with patients while they are undergoing radiation, to offset the scarring and stiffening ("fibrosis") of muscle tissue that radiation can cause.

Henri’s progress prompted him to ask Anthony for a license to open his own Punch Kettlebell Gym. Henri opened the gym this week in Newton Centre, Massachusetts. With the gym, he says, "I get to help people doing something I enjoy – there's no better way to pay back the universe than that. Not everyone gets that kind of direction in life."

Advice: Take heart; people are amazingly resilient. Some find that cancer has led them to find their calling.

Read another inspirational cancer survivor story.

Thanks to Rachana Rathi for the source article in today's Boston Globe.

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