Saturday, May 17, 2008
The name Lance Armstrong always brought in my mind the image of a superhuman. I had heard about his painful meet with illness (testicular cancer) and the strength with which he came back from it. When the whole world questioned his ability to return to competitive cycling, he answered – with seven straight wins of the Tour de France, which is considered to the most grueling of all cycle races in a cycling calendar year. Such a feat surely brought him to the ranks of a superhuman, I thought.
When I picked up his book “It’s Not About the Bike – My Journey Back to Life” (read reviews at Amazon.com), I never thought I would be seeing facets of his life, which I had never seen, nor had imagined him to have. He takes us through his childhood days, from the first time he starts riding his bicycle, to the difficulties he and his single mother faced then. When I say he takes us, I literally mean it. I could feel my heart beat faster and sometimes even skip a beat, reading about his cycle races. Spending almost all the time after school, either in the pool, or on his bicycle, he was trained to be a sportsman from a very young age. He had everything what a high school kid of his age, with so much success would have – insecurity, along with the habit of seeing only in black or white – in terms of victory or defeat.
Then came the battle – the battle which he says transformed him to be a better competitor, father, son and a human being - the battle against cancer. He was 25, with money in his hand, a supportive mother, a loving fiancée and a very promising career in cycling. He was diagnosed with testicular cancer with a large metastasis to his lungs and his brain. After a brain operation to remove his lesions, removal of one of his testicles, and a cycle of extremely strong chemotherapy, with his future very hazy, he returns. He speaks at length of his fear, the medication, and its side effects – which do not make a very good reading for the faint- hearted. But he wanted to beat the disease, and he had his mother’s, fiancée’s and friends' support during that period. He met angels, in the form of doctors, nurses, family and friends who helped him get through.
Once the chemotherapy succeeded in getting his lungs cleared, he lived his next one year in fear – fear of a reoccurrence of cancer. He had lost his physical strength and never thought he would be involving himself in competitive cycling. He had some money and a good wife by then - he still is very grateful to her. This period saw his loose aim in life. Spending hours on the golf course, and not thinking of cycling anymore, he started losing interest in life. With some prodding from his wife and friend cum coach, he begins riding again. While on one of his rides, he discovers his destiny – in cycling. There has been no looking back from then. He started a cancer awareness and help organization LIVESTRONG with which he is involved in fully after his retirement from cycling in 2005.
In the book’s last chapter, he says the win over cancer stands much higher than his victories at the Tour de France. He says he stands for giving hope to others with cancer. He says that he still doesn’t know whether it were the drugs, or his family, or his doctors, or his will, that saved him from succumbing to the disease . If he knew, that would be the cure for cancer he adds.
Reading this book, I unearthed that Lance is very human. Like you, me and anyone around. He found a cause to work for, and never looked back since. Nonetheless, his story is rightfully the stuff of legends (as quoted by Independence). And we all could become legends in our own little ways.
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
I took a bicycle for the small trek to my swimming pool one evening. After my usual swim of a few laps, exhausted, I dressed and wore my running shoes. I checked my mobile phone for any calls or messages I had received during those forty minutes. Sometimes I feel the mobile is such an annoyance. It keeps you chained to your past, and to your future, when all your heart wants, is to be in the now – carefree - enjoying the surrounding - the cold touching your skin, the freshness of the air entering your lungs, the ruckus of the birds nesting for the night. There are other times I love being connected to my past and my future, along with my present, because they were created by people who made life worth living.
The short ride back to my room was down a hill. Without the least of efforts from my side I went down, full throttle. Even with my mobile phone jumping about in my pocket, I felt I was living in the truest sense. I had to slow down soon when I entered a road with some traffic on and began wondering. I thought of how much I had struggled to get on top of the hill, just an hour back, on the way to the pool. I remember, I had given up some twenty meters before I had reached the pool. My thigh muscles could not carry me any further. And since I was going for a nice workout in the pool, I had to conserve some energy.
That evening, I decided to take my bicycle to the pool more often - to remind myself of the ride downhill that follows my effort to the top.
Monday, May 12, 2008
insulated from the outside world.
Wish I were a little boy still;
crying on your lap, without attracting
stares from the others.
I would not have had to explain to the world
why I am thus;
on your lap, I feel safe being myself.