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Strong is the new healthy

In the second-floor weight room at the Anschutz Health and Wellness Center, 44-year-old Kristine Boyle is digging deep. Her face is flushed, biceps pumped, as she strains through the 10th repetition of a rowing exercise designed to strengthen her arms and back. Nearby, her classmate Kim Peters, 55, is also working up a sweat, making her way through squats, hamstring curls and explosive “sand-ball slams” aimed at strengthening her abs and legs and jump-starting her metabolism.

At first glance, the 50-minute circuit workout looks a lot like what you’d find in a health club class. But these participants are unique. Along with her Spandex, Boyle wears a blue surgi­cal mask to protect an immune system made fragile by a recent stem cell transplant for acute myeloid leukemia. Beneath Peters’ workout clothes is a chemotherapy port, in place to support the infusions she still gets every three weeks to battle ovarian cancer. For them, this is more than a workout – it’s medicine.

“I couldn’t control that I got cancer, and I haven’t been able to control a lot of the things that have happened to me since. But this I can control,” explains Peters, in between sets. “This has been a gift.”