By Dan Rubin
My life has been pockmarked by cancer. It’s a disease that made its way into my family’s life when I was barely even 10-years old. Since then, I’ve learned medical terms and treatments, as well as been exposed to the side of life that nobody should have to go through.
While I’ve never personally have experienced cancer in my own body, my friends and family have battled several different types of the disease, and I’ve lost people I’ve grown up with as a result.
As the son of a multi-time cancer survivor, I live with two constant heroes – Mark Herzlich and Lance Armstrong. Herzlich returned to Boston College last season after fighting Ewing’s sarcoma, a form of bone cancer that’s claimed the lives of two people I knew growing up. When he ran out on the field against Weber State on September 4, 2010, I felt connected. In fact, I couldn’t imagine what was going through the mind of his family on this particular joyous day, but again, to see a loved one return from this disease was an incredible moment, especially for the college and athletic department.
Yet, as much as I associate with Herzlich’s story, Lance Armstrong stands in a class unto himself. The story itself is something out of a movie. Given less than a 25% chance of survival, he not only beat cancer, but also, returned to his sport. He dominated his sport for almost a decade, as well as brought the awareness and importance to his unknown degrees. I don’t even need to give the details about Armstrong because everyone already knows them.
Six years after Armstrong’s final Tour de France victory, federal investigators began looking into whether he lied about taking performance-enhancing drugs. Former teammates are claiming Armstrong took these PEDs, and the French press is all over the story.
Again, for those of us who followed his career, it’s a dark day. For those of us who feel connected to his story, which are benefiting and fighting for his cause, it’s a day in which we might never forget.
Maybe it’s just me; I don’t get why everyone is so hell bent on taking Armstrong down. I get that his personality comes off as abrasive. That’s kind of a hallmark of being from Texas. I’ve never met a Texan that didn’t have a brash attitude, a subtle type of arrogance that made you feel like they thought they were better than you, heck, It’s part of Texas culture, right?
The saying goes: “Everything’s bigger in Texas,” but Texans force us to listen to what they’re saying.
And what exactly is Armstrong saying? Fight cancer, donate money, donate energy, raise awareness and early detection, as well as join the Lance Armstrong Foundation.
What’s so bad about this? Why are people so quick to tear this down? Isn’t that what we should be fighting for? Isn’t that what we should want?
From the Lance Armstrong name and brand, this is a semi-listing of all that the LAF does for people with cancer – the Livestrong Guidebook that teaches people about living with cancer; the Survivor Care book; an Anti-Stigma Campaign; Planet Cancer (a community for young adults living with the disease); a full line of clothing; the Livestrong bracelets everybody wore and still wear; a 24-ride of Livestrong that has raised over $4 million since 2002, as well as a Livestrong Challenge Series that has raised over $60 million exclusively for the fight against cancer.
I’ll be honest; as I type all of that, tears are welling in my eyes and threatening to roll down my cheeks. Call it jingoism, call it melodramatic, call it whatever you want. It’s real. Cancer is real. And this man has done more for cancer research in the last 10-12 years than any one person has ever done on their own. He’s done it through his story of success and his message of hope.
And now that’s all threatened to be destroyed. If Armstrong’s convicted, it reverses all of the work he does through his foundation. Cancer gets put back where people apparently want it – off the front page. If it’s about turning a blind eye, then I’m prepared to do it, because nobody should ever go through cancer. And if I have to sell my soul on this one cause so maybe 50 people are cured, then it’s worth it. He made people care about cancer, and he makes people talk about cancer. We are making strides in the fight against cancer thanks to him. That progress can never truly be measured. Why on God’s earth do we want to take away from that?
In an era where everything’s about the money and teams sell their souls to the highest bidder, Livestrong and Sporting Kansas City in Major League Soccer have a unique relationship. SKC actually paid Livestrong $7.5 million in order to put Livestrong’s name on the new soccer-specific stadium in Missouri.
Read that again.
A professional team actually paid an organization to put that organization’s name on its stadium in hopes of raising more money for that organization. That runs contra to everything in sports these days. And instead, we want to tear that down, destroy that message, and take away from all that works to accomplish.
One thing I’ll never forget is the day my mother was diagnosed with cancer for the third time. After conquering breast cancer twice, she was diagnosed with melanoma, and the fears of the unknown came back to me as her son. I didn’t know what would happen to my mother, given that it was so different and plus, I had no idea if she could defeat the disease another time. But, a family friend who also survived cancer gave her the Livestrong Guidebook and the Survivor Care book. Along with it came several Livestrong bracelets. As part of the packet, a section talked about family emotions regarding a person’s cancer diagnosis. That booklet (combined with a lot of prayer) helped me through some dark days as my mother fought a conquered cancer for a third time.
Now, instead, people are actively trying to tear down that message and the man that stands behind it. These are truly the days that test our souls as cancer advocates, and, unfortunately, makes the hope for finding a cure slightly darker than it was yesterday.