Young and fit, Ben Calwell’s world was turned upside down when he was diagnosed with nasopharyngeal cancer. He reclaimed his fitness after tearing down his obstacles.
Cancer stats – 120lb, 5ft 10in, very low fat and muscle
Current: 169lb, 5ft 10in, 7% body fat
Q. When did you first notice something was wrong?
A. I first noticed a lump on my neck but I just put it down to training as I had been lifting heavy and pushing myself hard. My tonsils swelled and I was eventually diagnosed with Nasopharyngeal cancer. I’d always been sporty and active since a young age so this was a massive shock. I started treatment on my 19th Birthday.
Q. How did cancer affect your everyday and gym life?
A. After my diagnosis, I stopped training as I began treatment, which left me ill. For roughly 6 months after I had no energy to train, mainly because I was on so much medication I could barely get out of bed.
Q. What were your biggest obstacles after being diagnosed?
A. I was hospitalised for many weeks at the end of my treatment as I couldn’t eat and was extremely dehydrated. They had me on a drip. Luckily, I’d been bulking up for about a year prior to my diagnosis which meant I had that little bit of extra weight to support me during this extreme calorie deficit.
Q. How tough was it to get back to the gym after your treatment? What had changed?
A. A major struggle straight after treatment was eating solid food again as my body had gone so long without it. It took me months to manage a full meal. The radiotherapy destroyed my thyroid meaning I need medication to replace the hormones it once produced.
Anyone into fitness knows how essential the thyroid is for normal metabolism. Staying lean is a struggle and means I have to be extra strict if I want abs. Dry mouth was also an issue due to radiotherapy shutting down saliva glands – I’d need to take a sip of water after every bite of food. Some of these side effects gradually improved but some, like the Hypothyroid, will be lifelong.
Q. What kept you motivated during this time?
A. Motivation came from family and friends. My faith also helped me through. Another motivator was that I’m a personal trainer and wanted to leave hospital to build a business – I wanted to prove that getting in shape is possible, even with major hurdles in life, inspiring others to become the best version of themselves.
Q. What does your training and nutrition look like now?
A. My current training consists of a 4-day split. A push day, a pull day, a leg day and a conditioning day followed by a rest day then repeat. I also include lots of cardio.
My diet is made up of mostly nutritious whole foods to promote a healthy mind and body but I also enjoy some pizza, ice cream and donuts from time to time. I eat a lot of muscle building protein and my essential daily supplement list consists of good quality fish oils, ZMA, a Multi Vitamin, creatine, whey and casein.
Q. What are your current and future goals?
A. My current goals are to stay lean year-round and maintain a healthy lifestyle. I’ve always thought about competing as well so that’s something that could definitely be on the cards soon. I also want to continue to help all my clients reach their own personal goals and achieve their dream physiques
The reduced chance of colon cancer recurrence in people who ate 2oz of nuts per week
Source: American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO)
Percentage of cancer survivors who found relief from insomnia via regular Tai Chi classes
Source: University of California
More cases of cancer per 100, 000 people who live in polluted environments.
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