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Learning from Lance Armstrong’s failure

FILE - This is July 24 2005 file phoshowing overall leader Lance Armstrong AustTexas surrounded by press photographers signaling seven

FILE - This is a July 24, 2005, file photo showing overall leader Lance Armstrong, of Austin, Texas, surrounded by press photographers, signaling seven, for his seventh straight win in the Tour de France cycling race, prior to the start of the 21st and final stage of the race, between Corbeil-Essonnes, south of Paris, and the French capital. UCI, the cycling governing body, agreed Monday, Oct. 22, 2012 to strip Lance Armstrong of his seven Tour de France titles. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong, File)

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Updated: February 19, 2013 3:06PM

Learning from Lance Armstrong’s failure

The story of Lance Armstrong affected me, very personally, because Lance and I shared the same cancer diagnosis. In fact, I “adopted” him as my “carcinomic godson” because I saw my own victory over metastatic teratoma in the 1980s as the proving ground for treatment protocols resulting in Lance’s cure from the disease. I felt pride in each of Lance’s Tour de France victories and gratitude for his creation of the “Live Strong Foundation,” which reflected my own desire to “give back” following my cancer experience. When he broke up with the beautiful popular songstress Sheryl Crow, I found myself asking, “What were you thinking, she’s Sheryl Crow?!” The revelations concerning his systematic doping prior to competitions had me asking, again, “What were you thinking, Lance?”

We have long been exposed to the made-for-TV view of cancer where the patient either struggles valiantly against the disease, only to die, surrounded by loving family and friends, a la “Brian’s Song,” or, goes on to win a medal in some athletic competition, a la “Champions.” It’s almost as if mere survival from cancer is not enough, as if we must prove something to the world to be considered whole again. Yet, just getting to the five-year-clear post-treatment milestone, the average patient often has had to endure surgical mutilation, diminished organ function and unimaginably toxic radiation or chemotherapy. And the bills don’t stop because someone has cancer; somehow, they have to get paid, and I’m not referring just to medical bills. There is, in addition, the psycho-social dimension of cancer, the anxiety with each annual tumor screening that “it” might be back, the uncertainty about what to share with family, friends and colleagues.

Thanks to significant advances in diagnostic and treatment protocols, the majority of those diagnosed with cancer today can look forward to much longer lives; whether they will be happy or productive is the real challenge. Perhaps cancer survivors can learn a lesson from Lance Armstrong’s example, that it is not necessary to win a gold medal, climb Mt. Everest or earn a doctorate for self-validation, that surviving — and possibly thriving — is enough, that, unlike Armstrong, we don’t have to “fake it” to make it, just make it!

Richard A. Kosinski, Edison Park

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