May the circle be unbroken

LIVESTRONG bracelet by Kendra Scott

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.

19 responses to “May the circle be unbroken

  1. Thank you for putting into words what many of us are trying to say.

    Frank

  2. I wholeheartedly agree with you, I wish I could have written the sentiments as well as you! I continue to wear my bracelet daily. We all have done things we shouldn’t have, we are all human. Starting Livestrong should be something Lance is proud of until the day he dies, regardless of mistakes he made in other parts of his life. He has brought hope to probably millions of people connected one way or another to cancer.

    • DK37, unfortunately, the higher you go, the farther you can fall. Hopefully, Lance’s good works (and there are many) will catch him on the way down.

      Linnea

  3. Very well said, Linnea! I feel very strongly attached to my bracelet as a public statement of solidarity with all those fighting back.

    • Jamie, solidarity is an excellent description for the emotion I feel when I see that flash of yellow on someone’s wrist. And, because I know how hard this fight is, sympathy too.

      Linnea

  4. I agree. He was an inspiration. “don’t throw out the baby with the bath water.”

  5. Another beautiful post, symbolizing the strength of goodness, despite errors or mistakes made. What is also difficult for me is that we (the public) will never know the real truth of what happened.

  6. We sem to have so much difficulty letting good and bad reside in the same place. It is like cancer. A very bad thing and yet good comes from it. Linnea – you are the good.

    • Martha, (hi!) it is so true. My yoga teacher addressed this issue in class tonight–the ups, the downs, the good, the bad, life and death. You can’t have one without the other, and sometimes they are side by side. And it’s all okay.

      Linnea

  7. Great post. My husband sent this link to a few of his co-workers- SW works for Nike in the building formerly known as The Lance Armstrong Sports Center.

  8. I applaud all your courage and hope. I am truly glad that Livestrong has helped in your fight and recovery. That said, the mind is a very powerful tool and I know that each of you had the hope and drive in yourself. You did not need a sports drug abuser as a hero. You are the heros. As a cyclist throughout the ’90’s, I am not surprised by this, and unfortunately expected it. The ends don’t justify the means, so I hope for everyone’s sake, including his, that he admits his errors and helps the sport that he mocked for a decade. BTW, my dad died of cancer when I was 12 and have been a big advocate for cancer research and development. Lance isn’t the way to do it unless he comes clean.

    • William, I am sorry that you lost your father to cancer. That you have responded to your own personal loss by becoming an advocate for research is admirable.

      I also don’t believe the end justifies the means and I will never condone cheating (or lying). Yes, it would be lovely if Lance would come clean–which is an odd way of putting it under the circumstances but also rather apt.

      However, one of the qualities that has enabled me to survive in difficult circumstances is my ability to see the good along with bad. And to understand that although one doesn’t cancel out the other, nor does it make it less real. It would appear that Lance screwed up; big time. I am sure to those in the cycling community it all feels more personal. However, for me, the fact that he was a world class athlete was secondary to his personal commitment to cancer. He could have just put cancer behind him, but instead, he used his own success as a platform to do something really good. And that too was, and is, big time. Bigger than the man himself, and I don’t think the current scandal in any way diminishes that accomplishment.

      I no longer say I’m Lance Armstrong, but that’s only because I have found my own footing and these days it is good enough to be me. But I’m glad he was there as an inspiration when I needed it–for that and LIVESTRONG, I will always be grateful.

      Linnea

  9. Finding inspiration and motivation is important and it has helped you and so many others to deal with their cancer. Everyone’s diagnosis and disease outcome is different. I am happy that you found your way and can be an inspiration to others. Lance had a broader message – he gave universal hope, seemingly through rigorous exercise and determination. His personal story made everything more believable. Now it is clear that he is a cheater and his personal message is not hope but dishonesty. You don’t need to cheat to have hope and be successful. Disappointment doesn’t even describe my feelings. This is very sad, in particular since Livestrong is such a great organization and I hope it will be for a long time. His true nature will show in the near future and we will have to see if he is still an advocate for cancer patients. He lost his very generous sponsors and my fear is that he was motivated by greed rather than compassion. I don’t want to know the answer to this and a lot of good has come out of his work. However, Lance is never the way to do it, even if he comes clean.

  10. m, it is true that LIVESTRONG is not just for cancer patients, (as is clear when you go to their website). However, for obvious reasons, we have embraced the motto and bracelet as our own.

    As I said above, I too hate lying and cheating, but I also feel that the greatest punishment for those who engage in dishonesty (and take advantage of other’s trust) is that they have to then live with themselves. I will never again revere Lance Armstrong. However, I also would not shun or exclude him–if that makes sense. He earned, honestly, the title of cancer survivor. And he did so with the help of some hard drugs–I’m talking chemotherapy and yes, probably ‘blood boosters’ such as procrit, not uncommon while in treatment. Oh, the irony (and one has to wonder if the seed of the idea took root then).

    When I refer to him as a champion, I mean the champion of a cause. I find it hard to believe that he embraced cancer out of greed. Frankly, a history of having cancer hardly has cachet and historically hadn’t boosted many careers. But, perhaps I am just naive.

    I hope not. I am saddened and a little bit sickened by it all, but true to a survivor’s frame of mind feel that it is best to focus on healing. An admission would help, but if that is not forthcoming, I believe the LIVESTRONG foundation will simply try to separate themselves from this scandal. To paraphrase something I saw on an ireport on CNN, It’s not about the bike will become it’s not about the man.

    Linnea

  11. Nicely said Linnea.

    I not only believe in the LIVESTRONG foundation, but Lance himself.
    As a survivor of multiple brain tumors, surgeries and months of radiation therapy, and this being my 20 year anniversary with this, I’m alive today and I owe it to Lance Armstrong for giving me hope, will and determination when I was ready to give up and die. If I had to choose, I’d take the lie and the millions helped vs not lying and millions suffering.

    As for my take on the Tour De France officials not 100% sure of his performance enhancements…. that is not questionable, they knew 100%, but they determined that it was in their best interest to let it drag on and let Lance compete. After all, Lance brought new spectators to a sport that a very small, select few knew about. As a former cyclist, I admired Greg LeMond in the 80’s, and then Lance Armstrong, before he was diagnosed.

    Quite amazing how the media is so one sided when it comes to Armstrong lying, but when the president lied about so much including our health care, we hear “He didn’t know”, “Forgive him”, “It wasn’t on purpose” (Yes it was, he wanted to WIN!!!! a second election). My favorite…. Oprah’s remark after Armstrong interview: “I don’t forgive him”, but for Obama, “It’s disrespectful how people are treating the house”.

    Finally this goes out to Lance, should this somehow reach you, you gave me the will to always fight and survive. I respect you then, know, and always. Thank you, Ronnie

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