At just 27, Adam Ferreri, a fitness fiend and former high-school football player from North Babylon, N.Y., suddenly found himself facing a deadly opponent. He'd not only been diagnosed with a life-threatening cancer — non-Hodgkin's lymphoma — but the disease was also in stage four, its most severe stage, when it was first detected.
It didn't make sense for the clean-living Ferreri. He didn't drink or smoke, was very fit, and had played running back at Fairfield University. Ferreri was actually working out when he first began to feel something in his shoulder. A certified ocean lifeguard, he was familiar with soreness in the area. But this was pain — and it didn't go away. He lived with the nagging discomfort for a few months before his family finally convinced him to see a doctor. That initial visit spiraled into an overwhelming number of tests, scans, and MRIs until finally Ferreri was handed the diagnosis: The cancer had spread from his back and shoulder to other parts of his body. He was given a 50/50 chance of survival.
Unfazed by such a prognosis, Ferreri channeled his training from the field to his fight against the disease. "I was completely focused and ready for battle at any cost," he says. First, Ferreri assembled a close network of family and friends to help him in his fight. "We were in the beginning stages of war."
Next, Ferreri decided to continue training through his four months of chemo. He'd lift weights, run, and swim in between the treatment sessions, which he received every three weeks. "I would spend a few days recovering and then start working out again," he says. "My goal was to recover from the treatment as fast as possible and to get as strong as I could before the next one."
Ferreri did what he could with about half the poundage he was used to lifting. Amazingly, he didn't lose any weight during his four-month treatment. He actually gained 10 pounds.
After treatment ended, Ferreri focused on building his body to be even better than it was before the diagnosis. This meant regular trips to Sports University in Faifield, N.J., to work on speed and agility training, as well as regular weight lifting. He flipped tires, carried sandbags, and sprinted against rubber-band resistance for what he calls "total athletic development," instead of body-part specific movements. "Working out, regardless of my energy levels, made me feel like I had an edge on the disease," he says. "I just listened to my body day to day."
Two years later, Ferreri is now cancer free. "I am in complete remission and testing shows no indication the disease ever existed," he says. He has the lessons he learned as an athlete, the support of his family, and his grueling workout schedule to thank for that.