“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.”
– Lance Armstrong
When I decided to write about Lance Armstrong, many of my friends questioned “Who’s he?” Though they sport a yellow ‘Livestrong’ band on their wrists but they are not aware of the man who initiated these bands and the cause behind it. The champion cyclist Armstrong has inspired me to follow him and to marvel at cycling with his resilience and determination. He dogged against his illness and broke world records!
Lance Armstrong was born on September 18, 1971. Athletic since the beginning he won a numerous triathlons and established himself as a professional athlete by the age of sixteen. Eventually his love for cycling became his prime focus and a phenomenon was born. After a chronicles of victories in various esteemed races, he competed in Olympics of 1992 and ranked 14th. Soon he entered the professional world of cycling, with his first Tour de France, the sport’s toughest and most prestigious ace in 1995.
In October 1996, at the age of 25 when he was at the peak of his career, he suffered chronic pain and was later diagnosed with testicular cancer that had eventually spread to his lungs and brain. He had less than 50 per cent chance of survival but he began his course of treatment which included two surgeries and chemotherapies.
He believed “Anything is possible. You can be told that you have a 90-percent chance or a 50-percent chance or a 1-percent chance, but you have to believe, and you have to fight.” And indeed he fought. It didn’t happen overnight. With time, the treatment began to work and he was on his way to recovery but the therapy had taken a toll on his body and he was left weak and fragile. To counter this, within five months of his initial diagnose, he took up biking to rebuild his lost strength. The cancer had not only had a physical impact but had also left a traumatic emotional bearing on him however he did not quit. Nothing makes you stand and take the stock of your life as cancer diagnosis.
With his experience, he decided to do something positive and founded The Lance Armstrong Foundation for cancer research and inspired thousands of cancer patients just like him to fight for their lives with all the power and strength that exists. As a part of fund-raising activity in collaboration with Nike his organization launched yellow silicone wristbands in 2004 which came to be known as Livestrong wristband. The foundation has raised 13 million dollars for cancer research.
Lance went on to recover and pedaled his way to victory in Tour de France-the world’s premier road cycling event unprecedented seven consecutive times from 1999 to 2005 and broke the previous Tour de France records of five victories, held by Miguel Indurain and three others.
At ‘Celebration of Life’ Reception, he said “Without cancer, I never would have won a single Tour de France. Cancer taught me a plan for more purposeful living, and that in turn taught me how to train and to win more purposefully. It taught me that pain has a reason and that sometimes the experience of losing things–whether health or a car or an old sense of self–has its own value in the scheme of life. Pain and loss are great enhancers.” From the edge between life and death, where he was earlier, he came back and changed his life entirely and achieved his dreams. Those words instill a feeling within me, never to give up in life no matter whatever challenge comes my way and chase my dreams until I achieve them.
Although most athletes would be happy to perpetuate the myth of superman, Lance Armstrong is no superman. His genetic make-up supports his athletic career and his hard and dedicated training after he recovered from cancer has increased his muscle efficiency. His physical traits make him excel in an endurance sport such as long-distance cycling.
He is the most tested athlete in the world as he has allegedly been accused for using performance-enhancing drugs numerous times but all the tests turned out to be negative.
Though he retired from racing in 2005 after winning the seventh Tour de France but he returned to the competitive cycling in January 2009 in order to raise awareness of global Cancer Burden. It was reported that he would race for no salary or bonuses.
Such is a life of a being; who has lived for a purpose throughout continues to do so. His life experiences are enough to motivate not only those who are diseased but also some of the lucky ones with a sound health to have a purpose in life and to achieve it. He would always be a beacon of hope and a source of inspiration when people need it the most.