She may look like the picture of physical fitness, but Cory Huminsky has a nickname for herself:
“The healthiest sick person.”
As an owner with her parents of Anytime Fitness in Peters Township, Huminsky stays in top shape and will be testing her mettle next summer by hiking up Mt. Kilimanjaro, Africa’s tallest mountain.
The North Strabane Township resident still carries scars, though, from surgery when she was 11 to remove a cancerous tumor from her lung. And although medication has mitigated the symptoms, she suffered through major digestive issues as a teenager.
On her trip to the nation of Tanzania, she’ll join others who have faced adversity, as well. The adventure, which includes a safari, is organized through the CancerClimber Association, a Colorado-based nonprofit that provides life-affirming opportunities for survivors.
Huminsky, now 29, said she heard a gym member talk about her own Mt. Kilimanjaro expedition, and it sounded like something to pursue. She did have a concern related to what she went through as a youngster.
“My breathing is good, but I can get winded pretty quickly. So that’s always been something I’ve had to fight through a little bit or train a lot for,” she explained. “I started Googling, as any other normal American would be doing: ‘Kilimanjaro,’ ‘high altitude,’ ‘lung cancer,’ ‘training tips,’ all sorts of different things. And here pops up Sean Swarner.”
Co-founder of the CancerClimber Association, Swarner has survived Hodgkin lymphoma and Askin’s sarcoma, a rare tumor arising from the chest wall.
“He went through lung cancer when he was a kid, too. He lost an entire lung to it,” Huminsky said. “And here he’s climbing Mt. Everest.”
Swarner also has trekked to the North and South poles, and he has made Mt. Kilimanjaro an annual destination. After they made acquaintance on social media, he invited Huminsky to join the 2019 group.
That was on relatively short notice, so she has her sights on next year.
“I’m super excited about it,” she said. “I think it will be awesome to climb up that mountain with someone who is so inspiring.”
Huminsky’s story can serve as an inspiration, too, dating to when she started experiencing health issues as a preteen in Fort Collins, Colo.
“They actually thought I had asthma because I was wheezing,” she recalled, and so she was prescribed medicine to treat that condition.
When it didn’t work, her doctor was astute enough to have her tested, and a scan revealed a tumor.
“It was in my main bronchial tube,” Huminsky said. “The whistling we were hearing was the air going through the little hole in my bronchial tube that the tumor had left.”
The growth turned out to be cancerous, but fortunately, nothing had spread to other parts of her body.
Before her diagnoses, she had played softball and displayed talent as a pitcher to the degree that she hoped to earn a scholarship to college. So after her tumor was removed, she returned to the game in short order.
“I had surgery in February, and by April I was pitching in a tournament, because my dad said, ‘Come on. Let’s go,’” she said. “I went through a lot, but I had such a great support system. We didn’t dwell on it. It just kept being, you know what? Get through it, and we’ll move on to the next thing.”
For Cory and her parents, Allen and Dana Berliner, the next thing came a few years later.
“It’s not cancer, but then when I was a junior in high school, I was diagnosed with severe ulcerative colitis. I was hospitalized for that,” Huminsky recalled. “They had me on Prednisone for over a year.”
The steroid had its usual effect:
“I gained weight. My joints were swelling. I was supposed to be getting better and better, trying to earn a scholarship, and I’m spending time in the hospital while everyone else is practicing.”
Despite all that, and despite hearing comments about her “letting herself go,” she earned a full ride to the University of Pittsburgh, where she set some school pitching records that still stand.
After earning her master’s degree at Ohio State University, she returned to Pennsylvania. And today, living in the same township as her and husband Ben are Mom and Dad.
“One of the things I have always been most impressed with is her attitude,” Dana said about Cory. “She never lets anything get in her way. She doesn’t have excuses. If anything, she buckles down, and she just does it even harder.”
“One thing that has always impressed me about my daughter is that she takes the talent that she has, and she works on it. She practices. She’s very diligent, whether it be at work or on the softball field or getting ready to hike a mountain. I’m sure she will put a lot of effort into it and be ready for it, and do very well.”
As part of her preparation, Huminsky is raising money for the trip, through a Go Fund Me page and some other efforts. In the meantime, she continues to help others try to be as physically fit as she is.
“I actually do care that people meet their goals,” she said. “I’m not just trying to get all these people to be members. I want people to work out and get healthy, and that makes me really happy when I see people accomplish those goals.”