Just this past weekend Lance Armstrong, seven-time Tour de France winner, celebrated his 39th birthday. In his 39 years of life, this man has beaten some absolutely amazing obstacles. Not only has he broken numerous records and earned many pro-cycling titles and awards, but he overcame advanced testicular cancer and went on to make a complete comeback in his cycling career. Armstrong is a hero in every sense of the word.
His athleticism began to stand out at the young age of 13 when he won the Iron Kids Triathlon. By the time he was 16 years of age, Lance Armstrong was well on his way to being a professional athlete, training with the U.S. Olympic developmental cycling team in Colorado Springs, Colorado. In 1991, he won the title of the U.S. National Amateur Champion in cycling, which officially opened the door to his professional career in cycling. From there he earned multiple victories on stages throughout the world, including the Tour de France and Tour DuPont, as well as a World Championship title, a spot on the U.S. Olympic Team, and a #1 world ranking in cycling.
In the summer of 1996, Armstrong began to experience unusual pain and wasn’t excelling as usual in his races. Little did he know, he was about to receive some news from his doctor that would bring his thriving cycling career to a devastating halt: he had stage three testicular cancer, and it had spread to his lungs, abdomen, and brain.
Armstrong never imagined this would happen to him, although testicular cancer is the most common form of cancer for men ages 15-35. When detected early, it has a 90% cure rate. Which is great, except for the fact that his was already stage three and had mestastasized. However, instead of letting the disease overcome him, he decided to take an active role in his treatment and learning the specifics of his disease. His competitive spirit lead him to decide early that he was not going to be a cancer victim, but a cancer survivor.
Lance Armstrong took his optimistic outlook, what he had learned from his research, and the advice from cancer specialists and began a treatment that gave him a better chance of recovery and less of a chance of losing lung capacity. Amazingly enough, his body accepted the chemotherapy well and his cancer was losing the battle.
It is a miracle in itself that this man overcame an often fatal disease like cancer. However, the story does not end there; Lance Armstrong had a passion for cycling that he was not willing to let go. Even as he was weak, teamless, and still recovering, he got back on the bike. In 1998, Armstrong was signed by the U.S. Postal Service and gave the Paris-Nice race his best shot. He now admits it was too much, too soon; he was not able to finish the race. From here, he took another year to learn to live again without cancer and regain his strength and love for biking.
What happened next was unfathomable at the time. In 1999, Lance Armstrong entered the Tour de France and not only gave it his best shot, but won the prologue stage and in the end- his first Tour title. For the next six years he continued to prevail, winning seven consecutive Tour de France titles. Armstrong has also received a vast amount of honors and awards including Male Althete of the Year 2002-2005, Sportsman of the Year 2002, ESPY Best Male Athlete 2003-2006, and best of all he was included in Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People. His strength, courage, agressiveness, and strategical team-leadership made it possible as he became a hero for cycling and cancer.
Not only did he portray a great example of overcoming obstacles, but he has become actively involved in cancer research. In fact, Armstrong has founded one of the most influential cancer organizations- The Lance Armstrong Foundation. This foundation provides research grants, public health programs, and the education and tools people need to fight cancer. Through partnership with Nike the LIVESTRONG yellow wristbands were introduced, sending a message of hope and taking charge of one’s life and health. Over 60 million of these bands have been sold in honor of living strong and 2008 brought the launch of the new health, fitness, and lifestyle website, www.livestrong.com. Its definitely worth checking out, as is www.livestrong.org for more information on the LIVESTRONG organization.
Its amazing and encouraging to see a person conquer a life-threatening, devastating disease, especially when that person goes on to continue the fight with others. Lance Armstrong could have decided never to race again, letting the cancer he had rule his life. He could have hidden away, and let the fear of cancer returning consume him. Instead, he took a stand. He decided to be a cancer survivor before he even knew he could beat it. Then, when he did beat it, he chose to LIVESTRONG, live life through his passions, and help others – with cancer and without – do the same.
How Can You Get Involved?
- Celebrate LIVESTRONG Day on October 2, 2010! Visit www.livestrong.org for more information.
- Bike for Fitness:
- Check out the Columbia Bicycle Club for events and riding. They have something for everyone.
- The 6th Annual BikeMO 2010 Fall Foliage Extravaganza is scheduled for October 16 in Holts Summit, MO at 9 a.m.
- Just LIVESTRONG!
“Pain is temporary. Quitting lasts forever.” -Lance Armstrong