His body dropped into the backseat of an open-cockpit Indy car -- the one about to be driven by racing legend Mario Andretti -- as crew members on each side of him strapped seat belts over his shoulders, toward his waist.

It hadn't been long since Indianapolis Colts coach Chuck Pagano beat cancer; not even eight months had passed since he was diagnosed with leukemia. And now here he was, about to soar at 190 mph twice around a 2.5-mile track at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

"I'm sitting here thinking, 'OK, I beat leukemia, right?' " said Pagano, letting out a belly laugh and a head shake as he relived the moment in a hallway of the Colts' facility last week. "And now I'm going to go kill myself out here on the track!"

Pagano laughed again (he laughs often these days). He laughed because, well, life can be funny like that. It can be funny, how a sudden appreciation for life's fragility, how a relentless respect for all that he has around him, would somehow make a man climb into a race car he has no business being in.

But these days, in the harsh wake of a successful battle with acute promyelocytic leukemia -- a disease that still forces him to take 10-milligram pills of an anti-cancer drug called all-trans retinoic acid (or ATRA) -- there is no ride too scary. There is no pill too tough to swallow. There is nothing, not a bad practice or a hard loss, that will make this survivor flinch.

"Every day when I was sick, you just ask, 'Please heal me,' " Pagano said. "As you're going to sleep, you say, 'Please heal me.' Wake up in the morning, 'Please heal me.' Then, when you're healed, when you're going to sleep, when you're waking up, you just thank God you got through it. You take no days for granted. You live life to the fullest. What's that song?

"You live like you were dying."