"I took a photo smiling in front of the radiation machine every day," says Pete Czerwinski. "Positivity got me through"
Peter Czerwinski was a shy high school senior in Toronto when his life was turned upside down.
“Both my parents got sick and I was told I might have cancer,” the YouTube star known as Furious Pete says in the current issue of PEOPLE.
Czerwinski’s cancer scare was a false alarm, but it prompted such anxiety that he became health-obsessed – and anorexic.
By late 2002 the 6’2″-tall teen weighed just 120 lbs. and was hospitalized.
“I’d spun out of control,” he says of running 10 miles a day on 200 calories. “It took me three years before I was living life the way I wanted to live it again.”
Czerwinski, now 30, shared his story on body-building blogs and created a YouTube channel that eventually focused a new calling: competitive eating, a path he took after taking a bet from a friend.
For more on Czerwinski – including how he proposed to his fiancée – pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday
After a successful competitive eating career, Czerwinski transitioned to mainly fitness-focused videos and amassed millions of subscribers.
But in 2014, doctors diagnosed him with testicular cancer.
“I was in shock,” he says. “But I posted a video the next day because I wanted to raise awareness.”
Surgery halted the disease, but it returned in mid-2015.
“No one was documenting radiation treatment on YouTube, so I wanted to show what it was really like,” he says. “I took a photo smiling in front of the radiation machine every day. Positivity got me through.”
On Nov. 25, Czerwinski announced he was once again cancer-free. Now, he’s planning a future with fiancée Melissa Cvjeticanin, whom he proposed to last summer.
“After everything I’ve been through, I love life more than ever,” he says. “I want to live it to the fullest.”