Soon after being diagnosed with lung cancer, I picked up a copy of Lance Armstrong’s book, It’s Not About The Bike. Reading it cover to cover, I found myself both inspired by and able to relate to Lance’s journey. As I worked to recover my strength after surgery, I’d drag myself over to the exercise bike and repeat these words: “I am Lance Armstrong”. When chemo kicked my butt, I took solace in the fact that it had kicked Lance Armstrong’s butt too.
Like so many others who have been touched by cancer, I began wearing the yellow silicone LIVESTRONG band. Or I did, until the day five years ago when I received a package from my sister Laura. Inside was a very special gift. Crafted of white gold with a yellow diamond set in the “O”, it was one of Austin jeweler Kendra Scott’s limited edition bracelets, created to commemorate the ten years that had passed since Lance’s diagnosis with testicular cancer and benefitting the LIVESTRONG foundation. I felt invincible the moment I placed it on my wrist.
Worn daily, my bracelet has taken on the quality of a personal talisman. Accustomed to its reassuring weight, I awakened one morning to find my wrist bare. Panicked, I tore the house apart and combed the yard, but my search was fruitless. Sick at heart, I placed calls to the only other places I had been in the past 24 hours. One was a cinema. And yes, someone had turned in a bracelet matching my description and they were holding it at the ticket office.
I couldn’t believe my good fortune but wanted to make certain that I never lost my precious bracelet again. Back to Kendra Scott it went, and a custom locking mechanism was fitted over the latch.
This morning, I read the news that Lance Armstrong would be stepping down from his role as chairman of the LIVESTRONG foundation. Despite his repeated and adamant denials, the evidence that he engaged in illegal blood doping would seem incontrovertible. I can’t deny that I am disappointed. I don’t like cheaters and I deplore dishonesty. It is always hard to see our heroes fall, and yes, Lance was my hero.
However, like so many others who have stood on a pedestal only to be knocked off by their own missteps, Lance deserves to be judged for more than a doping scandal. He didn’t just create a well regarded and highly profitable charitable foundation, he started a movement. The LIVESTRONG bracelet has become a signifier the world over that the wearer has a personal connection to a devastating disease, a bright yellow take that, cancer! In unity there is strength.
I will be among those who continue to wear the LIVESTRONG bracelet with pride. Disgraced as an athlete, Lance Armstrong will yet be celebrated as both a champion and a survivor. Because, to those of us with cancer, he is both.