Thursday, January 17, 2013

Lance Armstrong - My Take

Six years ago I read Lance Armstrong’s book, “It’s Not About The Bike”. As a father of four very athletic boys, we were always impressed with Armstrong’s accomplishments.  And the story of his fight with cancer was very inspirational.  He wrote of meeting kids with cancer, and being inspired by their determination.  He said, “If children have the ability to ignore all odds and percentages, then maybe we can all learn from them. We have two options, medically and emotionally: give up, or Fight Like Hell.”

A couple of things have changed since reading that book six years ago.  The most recent change is Armstrong’s fall from grace. He’s guilty of doping to win his races, and admits it.

Another thing changed since I read his book, one much more personal.  My son Tyler, 15 years old, was diagnosed with advanced stage IV Lymphoma and Leukemia.  In an instant my son was thrown into the horrors of chemotherapy, surgeries, spinal taps, and bone marrow treatments.  I confess that, prior to that, I never understood the meaning of the phrase “Fight Like Hell”.  But on that day, November 14th, I became introduced to the ugly world of children fighting against cancer…innocence verses evil.

My son’s slogan became “Fight To Win”.  Through a year of victories and setbacks, we often repeated our version of Armstrong’s quote, “We will never give up.  We will Fight Like Hell.  We will Fight to Win!”

Now Lance Armstrong is confessing to Oprah.  He lied, cheated, and intimidated to win races,.  And he also raised over $500 million for cancer research. So does the money he raised for cancer research offset the doping and lying?
Armstrong committed the sin of winning at all costs, and was rightly stripped of those wins.  So here is my question:  Was his sin any worse than the sin of doing nothing? Is cheating worse than never fighting?  I’m not defending his cheating.  I'm saying that if Lance can raise millions for LiveStrong, than I can do the same for childhood cancer. I don't care about his motivations. The only person I control is me.  And my choice is to either sit on a sofa, or get off my butt and impact the world.  Give up, or fight like Hell.
A friend reminded me that I am not a celebrity, that there are limits to what an average person can do.  But is that true?  Consider these ‘non-celebrities”.
  •       Alexandra “Alex” Scott was a 4 years old and fighting cancer. She decided to sell lemonade to raise money to cure cancer. Word spread, and she quickly collected $2,000. At age eight Alex relapsed and passed away.  In those four years she had raised over $1 million. Today her family continues her legacy with Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation.  They have raised over $60 million for childhood cancer research.

  • ·         Georgia Cleland was diagnosed with leukemia at six years old. Her father decided to run the New York marathon to raise money. He trained a team of 38 runners, who collectively raised $322,000. They became Team in Training, and have now trained over 400,000 runners.  Last year they passed the $1 billion mark in funds raised for cancer research.

  • ·         Laura Graves was a teenager with leukemia, and could not find a matching bone marrow donor within her family. So they did what had never been done before... took the search to the general public for a match.  After Laura's successful transplant, her family began creating a nationwide network to register bone marrow donors. They continued building their network, even after Laura passed away two years later from a relapse. Today, The National Bone Marrow Donor Registry houses a database of more than 11 million donors and facilitates in 200 life-saving transplants a month.

  • ·         The day after my son was diagnosed with cancer, a large gift box arrived.  The word “Victorious!" was written in bold letters on top.  Alicia Rose, another teenager fighting cancer, had experienced the loneliness and unique struggles of teens on a children’s cancer floor.  She decided to create gift packages, designed exclusively for teens fighting cancer. Today the Alicia Rose Victorious Foundation delivers gifts to teens with cancer throughout the U.S.  They have also built Teen Centers in over 40 hospitals, with large, DVD players, movies, computers, video games, pool tables, air hockey tables, foosball tables, and more.

  • ·         At age 14, A.J. Piniewski lost his battle with cancer. Only a few months later his father, Bob Piniewski, flew to MD Anderson in Texas to meet my son undergoing the same treatment. He came to comfort us, as well discuss his idea for a foundation to unify the voices of all the families fighting for a cure to childhood cancer. Today PAC-2 (People Against Childhood Cancer) promotes awareness, shares information, provides resources, and is now the largest data base of foundations, causes, and policy updates in the world of pediatric cancer.

None of these people are millionaires, actors, or sports heroes. They are just like you and me. And they all had a vision and a dedication to see it through. So can an average person with a passion really change things? It has been suggested that it might be the only way things ever really change.

So here is my response to what Lance Armstrong has done: It is to ask what have I done.  What impact have I made?  Right now, today.  I have seen firsthand the horrors of childhood cancer.  It is the #1 disease killer of U.S. children, 46 newly diagnosed a day. I know the lack of funding, lack of research.  And I know that the only thing that matters is my response to these realities.  That is the only thing I control.

Was Lance Armstrong apology sincere?  I don't know and don't care.  This is what I know. If Lance Armstrong can raise $500 million, than so can I.  I will not lie down and accept random outcomes.  I will not wait for "somebody" to do "something" about childhood cancer.  I will call congress and I will sign petitions.  I will run, bike, and shave my head for fund raisers.  And when I think I’ve done enough, I will go back to the cancer floor at Children's and learn again the meaning of “Fight Like Hell, Fight To Win.”

These are the things I control, and the only things that matters.   And now I need to go. Words without action are meaningless, and I’ve been on this computer too long.  


Anonymous said...

Hi - stumbled on this post while adding to my art blog - and well, this was such a passionate post - really enjoyed it and I truly am sorry that your family has had to battle cancer - man! I also wish you the best as you raise as you raise funds and keep on fighting - but had to reply to this part:
"Is cheating worse than never fighting?"

well, I think lack of integrity and the dishonesty in this case is not excusable if if Lance justifies it in his head - and he calls it a flaw, but it is just wrong and cannot be watered down with the back drop of his well meaning outreaches and fundraisers. IMHO that is. anyhow, best of wishes to your healing family....

Crystal Dong said...

Your strength and determination continues to touch me. Let me know what I can do to help.

Crystal Dong said...

Your strength and determination continues to touch and inspire me. Please let me know what I can do to help.

Connie said...

"A friend reminded me that I am not a celebrity, that there are limits to what an average person can do."


I guess my first reaction to that was ..... wow!! Anybody that considers you "average" can't possibly know you and certainly is no "friend" of yours!!!

Let's face it most of the people you mentioned have unfortunately had children that died as the result of their illness. You have a child that survived despite his illness. So many people in your situation would moved forward and merely tried to forget that terrible time in their lives. And who could blame them right?

But you my friend are spending your efforts trying to pay it forward. With your marathons and raising awareness for those that didn't escape this beast. And perhaps for those precious grandchildren you will have someday.

Thanks Kyle for staying in a fight that you and your family have already won.


Lucy Wong said...

My dear.. am touched by what I read.. You are the winner..just keep going..