Lance Edward Armstrong (born Lance Edward Gunderson on September 18, 1971) is an American professional road racing cyclist who was best known for winning the Tour de France a record seven consecutive times (though he was later stripped of the titles following a doping scandal), after having survived testicular cancer. He is also the founder and chairman of the Lance Armstrong Foundation for cancer research and support.
- CANCER - On October 2, 1996, at age 25, Armstrong was diagnosed with stage three testicular cancer. The cancer spread to his lungs, abdomen and brain. On that first visit to a urologist in Austin, Texas, for his cancer symptoms he was coughing up blood and had a large, painful testicular tumor. Immediate surgery and chemotherapy were required to save his life. Armstrong had an orchiectomy to remove his diseased testicle. After his surgery, his doctor stated that he had less than a 40% survival chance.
The standard chemotherapeutic regimen for the treatment of this type of cancer is a cocktail of the drugs bleomycin, etoposide, and cisplatin (or Platinol) (BEP). Armstrong, however, chose an alternative, etoposide, ifosfamide, and cisplatin (VIP), to avoid the lung toxicity associated with the drug bleomycin. This decision may have saved his cycling career. His primary treatment was received at the Indiana University (IU), Indianapolis, Medical Center, where Dr. Lawrence Einhorn had pioneered the use of cisplatinum to treat testicular cancer. His primary oncologist there was Dr. Craig Nichols. Also at IU, his brain tumors were surgically removed and found to contain extensive necrosis (dead tissue). His last chemotherapy treatment was received on December 13, 1996. source: wikipedia
The night before brain surgery, I thought about death. I searched out my larger values, and I asked myself, if I was going to die, did I want to do it fighting and clawing or in peaceful surrender? What sort of character did I hope to show? Was I content with myself and what I had done with my life so far? I decided that I was essentially a good person, although I could have been better--but at the same time I understood that the cancer didn't care.
I asked myself what I believed. I had never prayed a lot. I hoped hard, I wished hard, but I didn't pray. I had developed a certain distrust of organized religion growing up, but I felt I had the capacity to be a spiritual person, and to hold some fervent beliefs. Quite simply, I believed I had a responsiblity to be a good person, and that meant fair, honest, hardworking, and honorable. If I did that, if I was good to my family, true to my friends, if I gave back to my community or to some cause, if I wasn't a liar, a cheat, or a thief, then I believed that should be enough. At the end of the day, if there was indeed some Body or presence standing there to judge me, I hoped I would be judged on whether I had lived a true life, not on whther I believed in a certain book, or whether I'd been baptized. If there was indeed a God at the end of my days, I hoped he didn't say, "But you were never a Christian, so you're going the other way from heaven." If so, I was going to reply, "You know what? You're right. Fine."
I believed, too, in the doctors and the medicine and the surgeries--I believed in that. I believed in them. A person like Dr. Einhorn [his oncologist], that's someone to believe in, I thought, a person with the mind to develop an experimental treatment 20 years ago that now could save my life. I believed in the hard currency of his intelligence and his research.
Beyond that, I had no idea where to draw the line between spiritual belief and science. But I knew this much: I believed in belief, for its own shining sake. To believe in the face of utter hopelessness, every article of evidence to the contrary, to ignore apparent catastrophe--what other choice was there? We do it every day, I realized. We are so much stronger than we imagine, and belief is one of the most valiant and long-lived human characteristics. To believe, when all along we humans know that nothing can cure the briefness of this life, that there is no remedy for our basic mortality, that is a form of bravery.
To continue believing in yourself, believing in the doctors, believing in the treatment, believing in whatever I chose to believe in, that was the most important thing, I decided. It had to be.
Without belief, we would be left with nothing but an overwhelming doom, every single day. And it will beat you. I didn't fully see, until the cancer, how we fight every day gainst the creeping negatives of the world, how we struggle daily against the slow lapping of cynicism. Dispiritedness and disappointment, these were the real perils of life, not some sudden illness or cataclysmic millennium doomsday. I knew now why people fear cancer: because it is a slow and inevitable death, it is the very definition of cynicism and loss of spirit.
So, I believed.
TIME magazine Sept 29, 2003 pg 8, "10 Questions for Lance Armstrong,"
Interviewer: "For a miracleman, you're not very religious."
Armstrong: "I don't have anything against organized religion per se. We all need something in our lives. I personally just have not accepted that belief. But I'm one of the few."
An article in the UK Times Online by Alastair Campbell, printed Saturday Feb 28, 2004, says:
He lives, close to several of his US Postal Service team colleagues, in a first-floor, four-bedroom apartment at the heart of Girona's old town. Although a confirmed atheist, he takes me almost immediately to the tiny chapel, lovingly describes its features, and, above all, the 15th-century painting of the Crucifixion that takes pride of place.
Despite the chapel, despite the crucifix around his neck (a link with a fellow cancer patient), Armstrong is deeply suspicious of organised religion. He never knew his "so-called father", and he says that in all his 32 years, he has never asked his Mum, Linda, a single question about him. He was born with the name Gunderson, then his mother married the man who gave him his name. Terry Armstrong talked religion but used to beat Lance with a paddle and he was relieved when he walked out. "He was like me in that he got his name from someone else," Armstrong says. "His biological name was Love. But his Mom married a man named Raymond Armstrong, a preacher. It's weird, I've got his name, my kids have his name but I have never met him and I never want to meet him."
His stance on religion is in marked contrast to his wife's ever more fervent Catholicism and the difference may have been one of the factors that led to their marriage breaking up. Armstrong believes it is possible to be a good person while not believing. "I think we all have obligations to be good, honest, hard-working, caring and compassionate," he says. "You have to try and it won't always be easy but you try your best. I do not believe that because you are not prepared to submit yourself to a god or a higher being, that when you get to the end of the road, you will be sent down. I'm not prepared to believe that."
Lance Armstrong was quoted by ET Magazine as saying "If there was a god, I'd still have both nuts."
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