Don’t Let Lance Armstrong’s Crash Dampen Your Cancer Hope

October 18, 2012
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For years cancer survivors rode along with Lance Armstrong, the phenomenal cyclist. Many of us wore the yellow bracelets of the LIVESTRONG cancer charity. I went through several until the last one broke a year or so ago. I was ready to get another one.

For years cancer survivors rode along with Lance Armstrong, the phenomenal cyclist. Many of us wore the yellow bracelets of the LIVESTRONG cancer charity. I went through several until the last one broke a year or so ago. I was ready to get another one. But now Lance, a man who overcame metastatic testicular cancer and reached the pinnacle of sports success, has disappointed us all. The world cycling organizations have concluded he cheated, that he doped his blood to enhance his performance and gain an edge over others who played by the rules. As I write this, he has resigned as chairman of LIVESTRONG. His big sponsor, Nike, has withdrawn their millions of dollars in payment to him for his endorsement, however, Nike said it will continue to support LIVESTRONG so they can continue to help those impacted by cancer.

While all this can dampen our feeling positive about overcoming cancer, should it? I say no. As a medical journalist, I get to interview many patients and medical experts. While Lance Armstrong’s star is falling because of his own dishonesty, there are many others to inspire us.

Yesterday I was watching the Powerful Patient story of Kayla Nation, a young mother with chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML). She has no intention of letting it hold her back. She may not be a celebrity like Lance, but she is a star in my book. Then there are the young men, Diego and Alfonso, I met the other day at GEPAC, the consortium of cancer patient organizations in Spain. Both men survived Hodgkin lymphoma and are now devoting their life to helping others. They sat in rapt attention as we watched Patient Power’s latest interview about the disease with Dr. Joseph Connors. His upbeat assessment of progress in the rare condition boosted the spirits of both men.

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Admittedly, there are those of us fighting cancer who do not win races and do not survive nearly long enough. Days ago we lost U.S. Senator Arlen Specter, a well-known public figure whose honesty was never questioned, to complications from non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. His words to cancer patients were always “keep fighting.”

While it is a shame Lance Armstrong will never be in the same position again to educate the world about life after cancer, we can find inspiration and hope in other places. Maybe you are inspiration for the rest of us? That’s why we all need to speak out about cancer, show how our lives go on – whether during treatment or as survivors afterwards – and how inviting contributions to research can help us all.

Lance’s “crash” of integrity is disconcerting. And he’s paying the price for being dishonest. But all of us aligned against cancer have overcome so much. We can easily deal with one prominent cancer survivor’s fall because his issue is truly beside the point.

I welcome your comments and wish you and your family the best of health!

Andrew