Lance Armstrong revelations leave cyclist's widow wondering
As more news has come out about Lance Armstrong, I haven’t wanted to make a choice about him. Several months ago, when Lance said he was done talking about doping, I actually posted on Facebook: “Wearing yellow today. LIVESTRONG.”
My late husband Marty was a talented architect and an enthusiastic family man with two fervent passions in his life - a devotion to skiing and cycling. Marty was an elegant skier who danced through the trees where the snow and the light were always better. But he also lived for the Tour de France each year. We’d put our lives on hold for 23 days while we recorded, analyzed and studied every mile and elevation gain Lance and his U.S. Postal cycling team endured to secure victory. Marty was a Lance fan before it was even popular.
During Marty’s race with a devastating diagnosis of brain cancer, Lance and the Livestrong foundation gave us inspiration and hope. They seemed to be a caring, compassionate organization, filled with people who had information to share - even making sure Marty’s birthday was recognized with a big Livetrong birthday card signed with notes of encourgement by dozens of people we had never met.
But as the cracks in the Lance saga grew too wide to ignore, I have struggled, straddling both sides of the issue in my heart. I recently had dinner with the wife of Marty’s former business partner. She and her husband always wore their yellow bands, but that night I noticed that she had taken hers off. She didn't say why, but volunteered that her husband would continue to wear his “for Marty.”
Later that night, I found myself awake and wrestling with my point of view about Lance and all his good work with cancer patients. This is a painful choice that I and many others are making in light of current accusations, and sadly, facts.
One of Marty’s last bucket-list wishes was to be at the Tour in 2005 to catch as many stages with his hero as possible. I remember the electricity in our house during previous Julys, especially watching the mountain stages with L’Alpe d’Huez a family favorite. Marty would scream at the TV - "C’mon Lance!" - then arms were fisted in victory at the finish line - both Marty’s and Lance’s.
It was easy to reference biking analogies to our journey with cancer - the climbs, riding the flats, pile-ups, rest days and pedaling just one more mile - to help our children understand the importance of never, never giving up! As my husband’s cancer advanced, driving was out of the question, but Marty continued to bike, allowing him that last bit of independence before cancer robbed him of everything else.
Marty insisted he was lucky to have cancer and wanted this passage from Lance’s book included in his memorial service:
“Without cancer, I never would have won a single Tour de France," Armstrong wrote. "Cancer taught me a plan for more purposeful living, and that in turn taught me how to train and to win more purposefully. It taught me that pain has a reason and that sometimes the experience of losing things – whether health or a car or an old sense of self – has its own value in the scheme of life. Pain and loss are great enhancers. We have unrealized capacities that only emerge in crisis ... capacities for enduring, for living, for hoping, for caring, for enjoying. Each time we overcome pain, I believe we grow. Cancer was the making of me: through it, I became a more compassionate, complete and intelligent man and therefore a more alive one. So that’s why I ride and why I ride hard. Because it makes me hurt, and so it makes me happy.”
Marty taught us how to LIVE with cancer, not die from it.
We gave out hundreds of yellow bands and many still wear them, almost seven years later, in honor of Marty and his fight.
I have had a really tough time believing Lance is guilty. It rips at my heart to know one of my family's idols could fall so far and taint so many positive, happy memories of precious time with a regular guy who thought the world of Lance Armstrong.
Lance sent us a framed, autographed photo that arrived at the house 72 hours before Marty passed in April 2005. It was a Sports Illustrated cover that said "BRING IT ON." It had hung in a place of honor in our dining room ever since.
I’ve replaced the picture with a photo of Marty gliding through tree-lined powder in the Rockies.
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