Tuesday, August 4, 2009

It's Not About The Bike

Re-read the first part of Lance Armstrong’s memoir last night. I had picked it up a few years back when I was racing and hoped to somehow absorb his skills (negligible results, by the way). This time I was more interested in his battle with cancer, which involved an orchiectomy (testicle removal), brain surgery, high doses of chemo and another painful surgery to remove his chemo pump. That he won multiple Tour de France titles after a 25% survival rate and all that punishment leaves even the most agnostic among us muttering the world “miracle.”

He says something very interesting about his belief in survival:

"Without belief, we would be left with nothing but an overwhelming doom, every single day . . . I knew now why people fear cancer: because it is a slow and inevitable death, it is the very definition of cynicism and loss of spirit. So I believed."

And that is a truism found in just about every cancer patient. An immediacy in everything. To believe or disbelieve. You aren't asked to choose. You are forced.

It’s interesting how that book turns out, with him walking into the sunset with his wife Kristin and new baby. As if cancer would make him live happily ever after. Well, nearly a decade on, he and Kristin are divorced. He has run through a string of high-profile relationships and is back in Europe trying to regain his former glories. Did he lose sight of cancer’s “gift”? Did he see through life’s BS and decide to just live for himself? Is life just too long to live it selflessly every single day? (And do I read the Enquirer too much?) We may never know if he took performance-enhancing drugs. He may have just been super-human. But he’s clearly still mortal like the rest of us. Phew.

Where Lance really shines, where he has managed to put his world-class ego to good works is in the Livestrong foundation. Not just raising awareness and funds for testicular cancer, but all cancers. When I am cured (see how positive I can be?), I probably owe him some percentage of my recovery.

These are our gods here on earth. Brash and flawed and always redeemable. Every time I get on my bike, I pretend that I am coming back. And I can thank Lance for that.

Well, Lance and that 70s movie Breaking Away.

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