Recently I saw a link to the Livestrong Foundation website and decided to visit and see what they’re doing these days. Despite all the bad press its original spokesperson Lance Armstrong generated through his admission to lying about use of performance-enhancing drugs, the Livestrong Foundation expanded and moved on from the controversy.
I certainly don’t blame them for keeping the mission alive. That mission is simply stated as “Helping you live Stronger, Healthier and Happier.”
In other words, you don’t have to be a cancer victim in order to benefit from the information and services provided by Livestrong. But those who do go through cancer in any form deserve all the inspiration they can get. So I tried to provide some. And it was published (see link below.)
The email that arrived in my inbox from a Digital Marketing Intern said the following:
I hope this email finds you well.
Thank you so much for taking the time to share your story with us! We have just published your blog, which you can find here: https://blog.livestrong.org/because-life-does-go-on-244240ff434f
If you ever need support, please feel free to reach out to us here at LIVESTRONG. We are happy to connect you with a cancer navigator.
That last bit is an interesting evolution and potentially valuable service from Livestrong. If someone is experiencing cancer themselves or acting as caregiver to someone going through treatment, it helps to know there are people willing to help you navigate through it. Just the health insurance maze alone can make you crazy.
As for our experience, I decided to tell our story again through Livestrong not only to share the experience of cancer survivorship and caregiving, but to encourage people that there is life beyond cancer even when the outcomes are not always what we desire. And from there, life does go on.
Just this week I received news that an associate in the public relations business had passed away due to cancer. Jeff Long was a great person, family man and lover of the outdoors. He worked in PR for the Fox Valley Park District and despite occasional encounters with him through a regional PR association, I never knew he’d been through hundreds of rounds of cancer treatment over his years of survivorship.
His death made my heart sink a little. I mean that almost literally. I had this sinking feeling in my chest when I noticed people commenting about his death on Facebook. I asked someone who knew Jeff to private message me about the details as the news stories had not yet come out. Yet Jeff is featured today on the front cover of a Tribune publication, the Beacon News, and is featured as well in a story at the newspaper where I once worked, the Daily Herald.
It all feels like a very long arc or even a big loop for me to go back and think about cancer survivorship. When immersed in treatment or caregiving, the cycles of treatment feel like a Mobius strip, never-ending and often hopeless.
That is why, for several years while Lance was winning big time and wearing those yellow Livestrong bracelets was a fashion trend, I wore my bracelet with what felt like a deeper connection to the optimism it seemed to provide. I’d read the Lance biography and absorbed the Lance legend by watching all those tours he won in France. That little yellow bracelet on my arm made me want to go out and ride, work off the stress and find a way back to the character needed to be a good caregiver.
But then, as Lance’s image was at first tarnished and then stomped upon by those who consider him nothing more than a cheater, my reaction was initial surprise and then resignation. Don’t get me wrong: I dislike cheaters more than anyone. The sports and political world is full of them, and my criticisms of those tendencies are never hidden. But because of my direct connection to the world of cancer, the action Lance took in that realm of his life still had significance. His “cheating” in the world of cycling had not diminished the triumph he’d achieved in overcoming cancer and then serving as an inspiration to many millions of people.
Mostly people were confused by the seeming contradiction of taking drugs after going through so many drug treatments to cure his testicular cancer. But I say that’s exactly why it was not such a stretch. If poison drugs (and that’s what chemotherapy is) can save your life, does it seem like such a sin to use them to celebrate life?
When Lance was being treated for cancer, he challenged the doctors by saying, “Give me all you got. You can’t kill me.”
But the doctor replied. “Oh yes we can.”
Maybe that changes a person in ways that some of us don’t understand.
Lance was a jerk to some people in ways that deserve punishment. But my Christian upbringing and personal belief system encouraged me to look behind the Lance Armstrong persona well before he came out with his actual confession.
Here’s an excerpt: “Admirable in its forceful defense of his victories, Armstrong’s statement still stops short of saying he was truly innocent of doping. And that, in the context of all the evidence now emerging in full context of teammates confessing and accepting bans and possible other punishments for their sins, amounts to a confession by Armstrong as well.”
That is what I wrote then, and it still holds true. And I went on to say:
“He has done even more for the challenging plight of cancer patients worldwide through the Lance Armstrong Foundation and Livestrong, the highly active and effective education and assistance organization that delivers key resources and advice to cancer patients and their caregivers. So that is the balance in judgment many are being called to weigh. Which of his achievements is most important?”
I come down firmly on the side of that value. My contribution this week to Livestrong Voices piece is a tiny, tiny fragment of the overall purchase of that cause.
But it still matters. Every little bit matters. Because you never know who you might touch with your words or actions. And what it means to them is far more meaningful that most of us can understand.