I am sure that many of you were paying attention to the Tour de France these past few weeks. And probably hoping (maybe expecting) that Lance would pull it off. I know I was! First off, I have a huge amount of respect for the event. Having been known to ride 112 miles in a day myself, I can't imagine doing that for almost 3 weeks, at a sprint & up mountains so steep that they can't be properly graded.
And of course, it's hard not to respect what Lance has offered to those of us dealing with cancer. Yes, it's not about the bike, it's about the yellow bracelet. The unity. The support. The belief in the word "survivorship" & in being connected to a community. You have pride in wearing yellow.
I have to admit, I wasn't sure how this year's Tour would play out, and whether I'd be disappointed if Lance didn't win. After all, we can count numerous failed comebacks. One where our heroes leave as gods at the top, only to come back as mere mortals.... Jordan, Favre... & for you ladies, Beverly Hills 90210. We almost cringe while we watch, wishing they'd left us at the height of their glory days.
Lance is different, of course, because he is no longer just an athlete with another flavor-of-the month cause. For many, he embodies what cancer survivorship is about. But for most of of the world, he is just a cycling champion, and anything but a victory would have been a failed attempt at resuscitating his career. Victory was expected for the vast majority of the non-cycling world. Then Lance fell and broke his collarbone. He was lying in a ditch somewhere in Spain in May, and probably could imagined a few other things he might want to do this summer than get a bunch of pins in his shoulder and keep training. Sprinting. Up Mountains. Against the weight of his cycling legacy.
Of course, no one person perfectly represents cancer or cancer survivors. I am sure some don't drink the Lance Kool Aid... they don't like or understand his politics, or would choose a different way to allocate the resources he has raised. He doesn't resonate with everyone. But he resonates with me. Because I can imagine what it's like to crash and be tossed in a ditch, and have your plans interrupted with something you have very little control over. And then, have to climb a mountain every day. In the past, you used to breeze up those mountains... it was your strength. You dug in and steadily made your way. Almost effortlessly. And now... you've been slowed & others are passing you by. You can see the strain on your face. You have a new role... you may not even be the best on your own team. Maybe you even have some doubts. Your weaknesses have been exposed, and you have to adapt to a new reality.
But you still have your moments. When you're as good as you once were... as good once as you've ever been (thanks Toby Keith). You sail up the mountain at blazing speed, unencumbered & fearless. The old you is back. But you also take the time to look around & interact with your fellow riders. You share the experience, and don't try to merely punish with a victory. You want the world to ride with you... to engage in the conversation. You become part of the team. You become more human... more relatable. You don't even have to be a cancer survivor (or co-pilot, like me) to understand what it's like when the game changes. You adapt or you fold.
So, yes, I wanted Lance to win. But I still get it. And I am thankful for the light he shines on cancer. I know Dan was greatly inspired by him. Through the Lance Armstrong Foundation, Dan was able to connect to others and participate in creating progress against horrid disease. LAF was such an integral part of his journey, and ultimately ours at the end of his life. From the tweets, to the video cards, to the emails... we felt very supported. If it weren't for LAF or NCCS, Dan's work, (which goes without saying)... I don't even want to know how we would've done it. We felt lucky to have them all on our team. I still do.
Maybe being human isn't so bad. After all, we all find ourselves in a ditch some days. But all that matters is that we pull ourselves out & up, and get back on the road. And wear a nice bright color to brighten our days.
PS-I have the LAF manifesto on my wall. It was sent to us, signed by the entire staff, during the last few weeks of Dan's life. For those that knew Dan & how he approached the disease, it should resonate with you as well.
May 22, 2015 — Dying and Unafraid
1 day ago