Cancer survivor Sangalang set to conquer North Pole run

MANILA — The story of Louie Sangalang is an inspiring one for athletes who think their careers are already done following a career-threatening or even a life-threatening injury or sickness.

Actually, his illness led him into sports.

“I was diagnosed with cancer when I was 21,” said the 40-year-old Sangalang.

He first thought that it was just a simple case of appendicitis, but after further tests, he found out the worse.

“It was by surprise. After the biopsy and noong inoperahan ako, the doctor said, ‘OK. This is what happened to your appendix: yung lining niya, kinakain ng cancer cells, so naging infected and inflamed yung appendix ko,” Sangalang bared his reaction about his cancer case.

The La Salle alumnus also said that it came at a wrong time as he was set to finish his AB Humanities studies and that he just became a father.

Sangalang eventually survived cancer, and he is now making an advocacy for a healthier lifestyle through sports.

“I decided, ‘There’s gotta be a sport that I have to be into,’ so I got into mixed martial arts. After a year, I joined an event, and I became a mixed martial arts champion for my weight division,” Sangalang, a former URCC featherweight champion with a 3-0 win-loss record, relayed his first foray into sports.

After a three-year MMA career, Sangalang decided to enter the corporate world, but due to his love for sports, he quit his job after 10 years and put up a business with his spare time devoted for triathlon and marathon training.

“Out of my experience, when you’re inside [the] corporate [world], there’s always an itch that needs to be scratched, and I think that itch was [that] I wanted to be more physically active. It’s not good to sit in the office for eight hours a day or even more, and my work requires me to do that. So when I left the company and joined the business, I decided to go back to sports,” he explained his decision of leaving the corporate world.

And through sports, he wants to disprove the myth that an illness as tough as cancer can stop one from playing.

“I wanted to not [just] prove to other people that I can do better but also to myself,” Sangalang said.

Next month, he is set to make history as he becomes the first Filipino to run a full 42.195-kilometer marathon upon the icy terrains of the North Pole in the North Pole Marathon on April 9.

Sangalang and his team will leave for Tromso, Norway on Good Friday for the final preparations of his stint in the said race, a circuit run with participants doing 10 laps of 4.2195 kilometers each.