Understanding Cancer and The Competitive Athlete
November 26, 2005
If you have not already read Lance Armstrong’s, It’s Not About the Bike get you’re hands on it. Every young and aspiring athlete can take a page out of Lance’s book to understand that through sheer determination an athlete can become more than just what his/her sport entails them to be. Lance’s fight against cancer has given hope to millions and has inspired many who not only suffer cancer, but family members who have lived through the effects of cancer with their loved ones. Lance’s story really touches a very deep chord with me also. Cancer has been a very real part of my life.
My father passed away from cancer in 2002, and my mum suffered from breast cancer and survived many years ago. Their is a very real and profound learning curve a young person can experience that can truly make or break you when you encounter cancer. I remember that I was training at the time my father passed away, and also completing my final year of university. I remember my father being wilted away from the cancer and the chemo. Lance Armstrong also suffered the powerful and debilitating affects of chemo. Lance’s autobiography really shows that true sportsmanship does not reside in the competitive act, but in the transcendence of the soul within the sport being played. True passion for your sport should not be material, it should be spiritual.
The autobiography also outlines some instances where lance had to fight the media during his Tour De France comeback because of his supposed use of the banned substance EPO. Erythroporetin (EPO) is a blood booster and a natural hormone that has helped people fight the effects of anemia in chronic kidney failure patients on dialysis, and severe anemia in HIV patients (Source: Embleton P. Anabolic Primer, 1998). It is a very difficult substance to detect, as it’s effects are not long lasting and can sometimes disappear within 12 hours of competition. Lance fought the accusations like he fought the cancer, head on and no holds barred. He won so many times on the bike, but the bike was one small component of his overall fight, the fight of life over death, pain or giving into the effects of pain.
What really resonates with me is Armstrong’s resilience, his fight over pain and never giving up. He states “Pain is temporary. It may last a minute, or an hour, or a day, or a year, but eventually it will subside and something else will take its place. If I quit, however, it lasts forever. That surrender, even the smallest act of giving up, stays with me. So when I feel like quitting, I ask myself, which would I rather live with? Facing up to that question, and finding a way to go on, is the real reward, better than any trophy…”, this is the mark of a true champion. Like I said before, all athletes (even us competitive goalkeepers) should take a leaf out of Lance’s book “It’s Not About The Bike”, for a better understanding of what it takes to get to the top of your sport and to transcend it. Truly riveting read.