Lance Armstrong isn’t riding in the Tour de France this year, but to a bicycling fanatic like me his carbon fiber footprints are all over the race.
He isn’t tearing up the time trials or climbing the Col de Tourmelet, but Lance is still out there wearing bright yellow.
After seven years of dominating cycling’s biggest, most grueling race, everything is measured against his performance. As the Americans struggle, the commentators keep coming back to the same question: What would Lance do?
I know, because I’ve watched nearly all this year’s tour, partly because chemotherapy has glued me to the LazyBoy for more days than I care to count.
But another reason is because this year, I’m tuned into Lance’s story in a whole new way.
Cancer does that to you, gives you a different perspective.
Here’s a guy who had just about the worst cancer prognosis imaginable — at age 25. He didn’t just have one small tumor like I did. He had metastasized cancer that had spread from his testicle through his lungs and into his brain. His doctors told him later they thought he had at best a 1-in-5 chance of surviving.
But he did much more than survive. He won seven consecutive Tours de France and, perhaps more importantly, founded the Lance Armstrong Foundation to help fight cancer.
Last week, I finally read his book It’s Not About the Bike, which tells the story of his struggle with and victory over cancer.
That’s what you want to surround yourself with when you’re in the cancer fight: success stories. And they don’t get much better than Lance’s.
Like many other cancer fighters, Lance had to go through hell to get better. Then, when the cancer was gone, he had to struggle with something called survivorship.
The National Cancer Institute says survivorship “covers the physical, psychosocial, and economic issues of cancer, from diagnosis until the end of life.”
Once you get cancer, in other words, you start a new life as a survivor. It’s something that I’m just beginning to understand.
But I’ve found — and this is another reason why Lance is looming so large for me right now — a good place to find support: the Lance Armstrong Foundation.
Last week I logged onto www.livestrong.org and started reading. I highly recommend it. The site is built around helping patients fight the disease and helping survivors get on with their lives. It offers, among other things, a SurvivorCare program complete with a toll-free number and an e-mail link.
So I e-mailed in a question thinking I’d get some sort of boilerplate response. Instead, what I got a day later was a phone call from Lester Gallo, a very nice licensed clinical social worker.
Lester patiently answered my questions for close to a half-hour. Then he gave me his number and invited me to call back.
I have to say I felt not only reassured and better informed, but also grateful to Lance and his foundation for the support.
I don’t know if an American cyclist can win this year’s Tour, but a retired one and his foundation have won my gratitude and support.
From now on, I’m wearing yellow, too.
Contact this reporter at (937) 225-2393 or kmccall@DaytonDailyNews.com.
Reprinted with permission of the Dayton Daily News.