Inspirational Stories VII : Lance Armstrong, A Cancer Fighter
Just when you thought life is good to you, something disastrous happened. You can choose to give up and let life’s challenges get you down. Or you can decide to fight it and savour the sweet aftertaste of victory!
Lance Armstrong choose the latter. What about you?
Lance Armstrong was at the peak of his career in early 1996. At that time, he had just won the World Cycling Championships and became the first cyclist to clock the widest winning margin in the U.S. National Road Race Championship’s history. Besides that, he had just signed a 2 year contract to ride with a famous French racing team for $2.5 million.
But his dream of riding for the French crashed on October 2, 1996 when he was diagnosed with advanced stage testicular cancer. The cancerous cells had spread to his lungs and brain and an urgent operation had to be arranged to remove his swollen testicle, which had grown to the size of an orange. Doctors told him he had a 50% chance of survival, even though they later admitted that it was inflated by almost 47%.
An Indomitable Spirit
Though doctors were not optimistic about his recovery, Lance Armstrong never gave up. After all, he was trained not to give up so easily since young. His mother, a single parent had always inculcated values of strong determination and persistence to him. There was once when he was found by his mother near the end of a triathlon about to quit. Upon her encouragement, he completed the race by walking. Although he came out last, he persisted till the end.
Using the same determination, Lance challenged his illness by going through the operation to remove the tumours and the long process of chemotherapy. He lost a lot of weight and was unable to even ride his bike around the neighbourhood. Despite that, he was spiritually revived by his illness.
After he completed his chemotherapy sessions and was declared cancer free miraculously, he gradually went back to his first love : biking. His post cancer training proved to be unexpectedly fruitful as he discovered that his 17 pounds of weight loss allowed him to scale stage races (i.e. Multi-day and week races) much more effortlessly than he used to. Previously, he had only participated in 1 other similar race (i.e. Tour de France), withdrawing subsequently due to fatigue and injury in the other years.
As he cycled through the training trails of the Blue Rider Mountains, he sensed that something was different. He was finally ready to be a world class cyclist that stood steadfast regardless of the nature of the races, terrains or weather conditions.
He proved that his feeling was right when he earned the prized maillot jaune, the yellow jersey worn by the leading cyclist in the 1999 Tour de France right from the start. Though he let other riders take the lead in the middle part of the race, he slowly caught up as they ventured into the Alps, the place where he gave up in the previous races. As he cycled uphill through the freezing rain, Lance increased his lead over his second opponent by 4 minutes odd to a full 6.03 minutes.
When he breezed across with the finishing line with a strong lead, he was welcomed by his wife, who was pregnant via vitro fertilization after Lance’s cancer caused him to be sterile.
For the next 4 consecutive years, Lance proceeded to win the Tour de France and later wrote that he would choose overcoming cancer to winning the race because it was the former that allowed him to reject doomsday predictions by his doctors over hope and strong faith in himself.
What Did I Learn From This Story?
That whether you like it or not, life’s full of challenges. If you can choose to tackle them with resolve and determination, there’s always something to gain in any challenge, even though it may not seem so evident initially.
(1) Challenges Are Life’s Vitamins
I know pessimists may slam me for being too sarcastic. But the truth is, life without challenges is a bore. Even my 2 year old niece agrees with me. Whenever I give her her favourite plush toy without any struggle, she’ll fiddle it for about 2 seconds and cast it away. However, if I make her run over a short distance or go through some maze before throwing the toy back to her, she’ll treat it like some well deserved treasure. The physical reward is the same. But if you go through great hurdles to achieve the same effect, the perceived value immediately augmented. This form of value creation, is what challenges give.
In a way, challenges are vitamins, enriching our lives with ups and downs. For Lance, taking part in the Tour de France after beating cancer helped him to manifest his latent courage and firm belief in himself, something he might not have seen himself equipped with before. And one thing for sure, no matter how much some people dislike challenges, they’ll definitely and surely be there!
So, instead of regarding challenges as pests or scum, why don’t you treat them as a chance to showcase your prowess? And I can guarantee you that after winning over them, life is no longer the same. It’ll be much more fulfilling and wonderful!
(2) Never Take What You Already Have for Granted
Lance’s illness gave me a strong signal that we should never take little things in life for granted. What seemed natural for some people like having good health mattered very much for Lance. What seemed straightforward and perhaps easy for other people like getting pregnant was tough for his wife because Lance became sterile after his ordeal. What seemed manageable for other riders such as scaling stage races was an major issue for Lance previously.
If you’re someone who’ve wished you were richer, better looking or more influential, have you ever taken some time to reevaluate what you already possessed and be grateful for it? Some of you may say it’s only human to deem what you’ve is not enough or insufficient by comparing your achievements with others, but what is considered enough?
Sadly, this insatiable desire to pursue that “what” blind our vision, often waiting for their loss before realizing the true value of what we already have.
Do you really have to wait for that day to come?