I Love Lance:Survivorship

February 19, 2009

The human body, perfected—Triumphant.

This entry is an Ode to Lance Armstrong’s book It’s Not about the Bike


Here is how he opens his book: “I WANT TO DIE AT A HUNDRED YEARS OLD with an American flag on my back and the star of Texas on my helmet, after screaming down an Alpine descent on a bicycle at 75 miles per hour.   I want to cross one last finish line as my stud wife and my ten children applaud, and then I want to lie down in a field of those famous French sunflowers and gracefully expire, the perfect contradiction to my once poignant early demise.”

Most people know that Lance once had testicular cancer, but what is amazing is that he also had brain cancer and lung cancer—all three at the same time.  His story is so moving and triumphant and inspiring… but that’s not why I wanted to read it.  In fact, I felt I needed to read it.

My precious father was diagnosed with esophageal cancer in March of last year.  It was the most terrifying event our family had ever gone though.  It ripped my heart to shreds.  My sweet Daddy– man who few, if any, dudes could live up to—on the chopping block. He ended up being in a coma on life support for 5 months after the surgery.

During that time, Lance’s story sustained me. After winning the Tour de France a gajillion times (more than anyone else—ever!), and defeating his cancer(s!)—he lost his will. He spent his days just golfing, just hanging, drinking beers and scarfing down burritos (sounds like Heaven to some dudes, I know!). He was plagued by the wonder why he survived—when so many others don’t. He wrote that when he had cancer it was easier for him because he had a task at hand, a goal to meet—beat this shit. But after he had beaten it, all he had was questions. Why had he survived? What was his purpose? Was it for something greater than he had ever imagined? If so, how does one uncover what that could be—and could this champion athlete live up to it??

I went through quite the same experience, staring down at my sweet, motionless pop in his rotating bed—making bargains with gods I wasn’t sure existed—I prayed to anyone and everyone who would listen. If he makes it through this—what does it mean? Would I have to go to church since I have been praying for his survival? Which kind? I prayed to everybody! What would it mean for my life? What changes should I make to properly and fully express my gratitude?

Lance’s answer was so clear—it’s what I call a “duh moment”—a solution so plain, so simple that when you realize the extent to which you have been over-thinking you just go, “Duh.” Lance got back on the bike. He won the Tour de France AGAIN.

This to me, is such a lovely “duh” metaphor for all of us when we feel stuck. I think the common vernacular is get back on your horse—or like Lance, get back on your bike—whatever your mode of conveyance is—the point is—GET BACK ON YOUR LIFE AND RIDE.

My Daddy lived. Doctors gave him less than 5% chance of survival (yes, the fuckers told him that) and he lived. I come from lovely, sturdy stock.


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