What do you think of Lance Armstrong? Are you disappointed, angry or simply indifferent about the accusations that he used performance-enhancing drugs to win seven Tour de France titles? Maybe it hasn’t really crossed your mind.
Regardless, many cancer patients, some dead and others alive, have drawn great strength from what Lance Armstrong has done off of the bicycle. Maybe it’s the bike race-cancer journey analogy, or the idea of never giving up and living purposefully. Maybe it’s the way that he turned the diagnosis of cancer on its head, turning dread into hope. Among Americans, recent polls point out that most remain sympathetic to his current plight and are still sorting things out.
I have never met Lance Armstrong and I don’t have cancer. But he has been a part of my life. In 2000, I was one of the early recipients of research grants that were offered by his foundation. He funded my vision of how cancer and stem cells may be related.
In the grant, we addressed a very basic clinical question: how does cancer develop? After studying the behavior of stem cells, we couldn’t help to think that cancers might share the same genetic program. With the idea that these two seemingly different kinds of cells share important stem cell genes, we showed that testis and breast cancers actually express the same wayward genes that are found in embryonic stem cells. This research was some of first to suggest that human cancers harbor stem cell genes gone wild. Since then, whole new treatment avenues have opened up for curing cancer, including novel drugs and gene-silencing strategies. And, I have since proudly joined the Advisory Board of one of LIVESTRONG’s agencies, Fertile Hope, to give back where I can.
Between Bicycle Rides
Clearly there is a lot of road rash in Lance’s life at the moment. But, lets take quick look at what he has done off of the bicycle.
1996 At age 25, Lance is diagnosed with advanced testicular cancer which spread to his abdomen, lungs and brain.
1997 Lance establishes the Lance Armstrong Foundation.
1998 The Foundation awards its first research grant.
1999 The Foundation shifts its focus to cancer survivorship.
2002 Lance is appointed to the President’s Cancer Panel.
2003 LIVESTRONG.org is launched as an online resource for cancer survivors.
2004 The yellow wristband and Wear Yellow Live Strong campaign begin.
2005 The Foundation sells 55 million wristbands and 7,200 grassroots fundraisers generate $7 million for the Foundation.
2009 The Lance Armstrong Foundation becomes part of LIVESTRONG.
2011 LIVESTRONG donates $29,348,000 to cancer survivorship programs. 82% of donated funds directly support programs.
These guys are the real deal. Throughout its 15-year history, LIVESTRONG has contributed in inestimable ways to curing cancer, educating survivors, providing hope and engaging the public in the fight. Who in America today doesn’t know the meaning of the yellow wristband? Consider wearing the yellow band as a thank you.