"Testicular cancer was the best thing that could have happened." -- Lance Armstrong's story

by Al Siebert, PhD

THRIVEnet Story of the Month - August 2000

When Lance Armstrong, spoke at a conference in Portland, Oregon, after he won the 1999 Tour de France bicycle race, he said to the audience: "If I had to choose between getting testicular cancer and winning the Tour de France, I would choose testicular cancer."

Born September 18, 1971, Lance was raised by his mother Linda, a single parent, in Plano, Texas. Lance won the Iron Kids Triathlon at 13 and became a triathlete when he was just 16 years old. By the time Lance was a senior in high school he had many cycling sponsors and was training with the Junior National Cycling Team. After high school he won the U.S. Amateur Championship and joined Motorola, the top U.S. cycling team.

In 1993, he led Motorola to a No. 5 world ranking, the first time any US team had ranked so high in the world. In the next three years Lance established himself as the top U.S. racer. Headlines described him as the "DuPont Dominator" and "The Golden Boy of American Cycling." When offered a very attractive contract to join the French Cofidis cycling team, one of the best in Europe, he left Motorola.

Lance started 1996 winning the Tour DuPont and the Fleche Wallonne. But in early October, he was diagnosed with an advanced form of testicular cancer. It had spread to his abdomen, lungs, and brain. Chances for his recovery were 50/50. Frightened, but determined, Lance began the most aggressive form of chemotherapy available. It weakened him and he lost over 20 pounds, but he had a deep well of reserves and the unconditional support of family and close friends. Cofides, however, following the news of his illness, terminated his contract with them.

When tests showed that the chemotherapy was working, Lance allowed his thoughts to return to racing. Lance affiliated with the United States Postal Service Pro Cycling team and began training only five months after his diagnosis. Lance was declared cancer-free in 1997.

In 1998, Lance officially returned to professional cycling, wearing a United States Postal Service jersey. After an uncertain early season, he proved he was back in form towards the end of the year, winning a stage race and placing 4th in the World Championships.

In 1999, the world witnessed the greatest comeback in sports history as Lance Armstrong won the Tour de France, the most grueling sporting event in the world, a three week bicycle race of over 2200 miles through the most rugged mountains in France, Italy, and Spain.

In July, 2000, Lance again led the United States Postal Service team to a victory in the Tour de France, making Lance one of very few cyclists to win twice in a row.

Lance says the cancer left him scarred physically and emotionally, but says it was an unexpected gift. Throughout his life-threatening ordeal, Lance knew his priorities were changing. His physical well being, something that had never been challenged, was suddenly fragile. His ordeal made him fully appreciate the blessings of good health, a loving family, and close friends. Lance described his bout with cancer as "a special wake-up call."

As the world watched him ride day after day in the 1999 and 2000 Tour de France he became a hero. Every day he gave hope and inspiration to millions of people facing their own adversity. Many people say "If Armstrong could come back from this, maybe I can too."

Lance says his illness may have been the best thing that could have happened. He gained a perspective earned only after enduring an experience like his. He is now motivated not only to win bike races, but to compete every day for the gift of life; his own life as well as the lives of others.

Lance has established The Lance Armstrong Foundation, an organization devoted to cancer research and helping people survive cancer. More information about Lance Armstrong and his Foundation can be found at: http://www.laf.org/.

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