Lance and cancer from a survivor


It really isn't about the bike. I thought long and hard about adding my voice to the crowd around this issue. What decided it was the article in Outside magazine where the writer attacked the Lance Armstrong Foundation for funding "a curiously fuzzy mix of cancer-war goals like 'survivorship.'" That made me realize that lots of people don't know what the Lance Armstrong Foundation (LAF) has done for cancer survivorship in this country. First let me say that Lance has not been the easiest guy for me to love. He stood me up for two interviews for a story I did on him in CURE, and, when I finally got him on the phone, he told me I had 15 minutes. OK, he is notorious about the press, but, come on; I was doing a story about him for the people who love him. This is a cancer magazine. We had his audience, but he could barely make time. So get it out of your head that I am some star struck kid when it comes to Lance. I see his warts, which is why I don't even want to go into the doping scandal. I don't care. What Lance Armstrong did for cancer, no one else has ever done. He took a body that was ravaged by metastatic testicular cancer and fought back. And he had it bad. He had mets in his brain. He was dying, but he and his mother, Linda, the kind of mom every cancer patient needs, found Larry Einhorn, MD, the kind of oncologist we all need, in Indiana. They went there and Lance had chemotherapy that had initially been thought to be too hard on the human body to be used.And then he stood up and said he had had testicular cancer to a country of men and boys who would never have thought to do anything about that "lump" down there had he not gone first. And every time he won another race, his story said it again and again and again. Seven times. Read some of the letters to Lance that we published in 2006.When he founded the Lance Armstrong Foundation, he gave cancer survivors someone to follow, a visible symbol of life and hope, and a way to get organized. He gave them the bike, and before any of the studies were in on how valuable exercise was, he got them exercising. He listened, or he told someone in his organization to listen to find out what they needed. And then he provided what they wanted.He took survivors to Capitol Hill and taught them to talk to legislators. I attended one of those meetings, and I can tell you that I watched people find their voice and learn to use it because of the Lance Armstrong Foundation. And once someone finds his or her voice, it's hard to shut them up.One of those was Suzanne Lindley. You have seen her blogs here often. Suzanne began YES, an organization that has become a lifesaver for hundreds with liver tumors. One of the first times Suzanne ever flew was to go to Capitol Hill with the Lance Armstrong Foundation. When it came her time to talk in the training session, she hid in the bathroom. Today, she speaks before hundreds all over the world. The Lance Armstrong Foundation began funding survivorship centers to give us many of the studies we have now on what we need to know to move on after cancer. It's called quality of life and the magazine writers sneer at it as money not well spent because it wasn't for research to cure cancer.Well research to cure cancer won't do survivors much good now that we have had it. But we do need to know what the long-term and late effects will be of the drugs we have had and what to do about those. That's what they find out at the survivorship centers LAF funds.They are called Survivorship Centers of Excellence because the standards set by LAF are that they partner with a local hospital to provide survivorship programs for the community in addition to research. Yes, Lance is paid to speak and is making lots of money off endorsements, as he would be without a foundation. And he has an ego, as do most sports figures. But I know that when Lance speaks there are those who don't see the ego, or the bike or the medals, they see the man who had metastatic testicular cancer and is now cured. They see a cancer survivor.

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