The 32-year-old author's account of his battle against cancer is, all in all, a little man's Brian's Song: Howe may not have been a pro athlete, but he was a Harvard Ph.D. candidate who used sports relentlessly, almost blindly, in fighting both cancer and the harsh side effects of chemotherapy. When his rare form of fibrosarcoma was detected after a routine cyst removal, Howe tried hard to remain independent of fiends' proffered help; but as the chemotherapy became more intense, he had to learn to lean a little. Compensation for his injured sense of pride came in the form of challenging the odds wherever he could find them: in finishing his thesis, despite the accidental burning of 80 crucial manuscript pages; in running, swimming, or boxing at a fanatical pace of which doctors disapproved; and climactically, in completing a 72-mile canoe race, which landed him in the emergency room of a nearby hospital--but only temporarily. Howe completed his life-essential chemotherapy doses but vetoed any future treatments for extra added protection: he figured that surgery, radiation, and six months of chemicals should have done the job; otherwise, he considers himself ""incurable."" Readers will probably never know whether this gamble pays off; but there's something arresting in Howe's gut-level instinct for, and response to, the heroic, so the recounting, of the struggle may have merits beyond its outcome.