We need heroes. Heroes show us light in the darkness, the way to the miraculous and ignite a fire in our soul to survive. They prove what is truly possible, through the fog of the impossible. We mourn the disgrace of Lance Armstrong because he seems to have achieved Pyrrhic victory. Let us not doubt; whatever his frailty as a man, Armstrong vanquished a terrible foe; moreover the path blazed is not bare, for everywhere are cancer heroes.
– The 45 year old RN raising her children while she works full time in a pediatric intensive care unit, celebrates her eighth year in remission from pancreatic cancer, treated with surgery, chemotherapy and radiation.
– The grandmother who ignored a breast mass for two years so she could care for four disabled grandchildren, and when the tumor grew to be massive, continues to take care of the children while receiving chemotherapy.
– The hospital chaplain who has suffered from cancer, sits at the bedside holding a hand, sharing a smile, saying a prayer that is heard deep in the heart and to the heavens above.
– The 71 year old with four different cancers, treated with a bewildering mix of surgery, radiation and chemotherapy, whose primary worry is the cardiac care of her husband.
– The 64 year old rescue squad volunteer while receiving chemotherapy and radiation for extensive lung cancer, assists 150 people to flee from their homes and escape the wrath of Sandy.
– The national lymphoma expert, who could be wealthy in his own clinic, instead devotes his life to teaching and research, believing he can save more lives by consulting and advising oncologists in communities around the country.
“Lance Armstrong is a bad guy who has done some very good things.”
These are the words of a sports radio personality I listened to yesterday. He was obviously commenting on the confession (to my pal Oprah) by Armstrong about his use of performance enhancing drugs. The sportscaster, along with many I heard talk on the subject, were not as upset by the fact that Armstrong used the banned substances, or his lies on the subject, but the way he went after anyone who accused him of what turned out to be the truth. Armstrong used his position of fame and power, along with his significant wealth, to attack the credibility of people in both the media and in the courtroom. The phrase, “he destroyed people’s lives” has been used frequently when describing his reaction to accusations.
It’s a horrible thing he did, and shows an incredibly self-centered man who thought the world should bend to his whim. It’s more proof to the adage: absolute power corrupts absolutely.
But simply dismissing Lance as a cad or a horrible person would be far easier if not for the other side of his life. In his public battle against cancer, he inspired many facing that disease to not give up their battle. Even for those who eventually lost, the encouragement many got from Armstrong’s story was significant. On top of that, the Livestrong foundation did much to raise money and awareness for cancer and for other significant health issues. This foundation exists because of the heroic story of Lance’s successful battle to beat cancer, as well as his subsequent cycling victories. Whatever the lies he told in the process, he did beat cancer and he did win the Tour de France multiple times.
Like many of you, I have been reading the various news stories about Lance Armstrong, especially one this past weekend in a major newspaper, which went into great detail about the allegations surrounding Lance Armstrong’s cycling career.
But what I didn’t see in all of that coverage was much mention of the other side of the man, the side that I witnessed up close and personal one Friday in Texas a couple of years ago, the side that has led me to share my thoughts with you today.
I saw something that day that I had never-let me repeat, never-seen before. It was a moment that has forever influenced my opinion of Mr. Armstrong, even as these various charges have swirled about him these past couple of years. And the impression it created was indelible.
I am not here to hash/rehash the incriminations. I am here to stand up and say that no matter what the truth is regarding the allegations, this is a man who has forever changed the cancer landscape for millions of people in this country and around the world.