Lance Armstrong Speaks: How He Turned Illness into a Cause
Industry Perspective After his own battle with cancer, the professional cyclist drew from his own experience and founded the Lance Armstrong Foundation in order to educate and support others.
MP: Tell us about the Lance Armstrong foundation. Why did you start the foundation and what is its mission?
Lance Armstrong: Before knowing my own fate, I declared myself not a cancer victim but a cancer survivor. I wanted a way to advocate for people living with cancer and decided to create the Foundation. Our mission is to inspire and empower people affected by cancer.We have created an incredible social movement by uniting people in the fight against cancer. Through advocacy and awareness campaigns, fundraising events and volunteer opportunities, we have engaged thousands to join the fight and help make cancer a global priority.
MP: The yellow Livestrong bands have become a fashion staple. Did you have any idea they would be such a success? Why yellow?
"A cancer diagnosis changes a person forever. Cancer put suffering and pain and fear—which are all part of any Tour de France—in perspective. No mountain stage in the Tour can compare to it."
LA: We were all shocked by the impact of the wristband. LIVESTRONG as a concept really resonated with people and we realized we were on to something. It wasn’t just about cancer,but about living life to its fullest, attacking each minute,yet being focused enough to take it all in. The brand took off and in turn brought more attention to the disease and the foundation. To think we have raised $80 million to date by selling wristbands for $1 each is truly amazing.Yellow is the color of the maillot jaune, the leader’s jersey in the Tour de France,and the inspiration for the color of the wristband.
MP: When were you first diagnosed with cancer? Tell us about that experience. How did you remain hopeful?
LA: I was diagnosed with advanced testicular cancer on October 2, 1996. I had ignored the symptoms for months—pain comes with professional cycling so it was easy to dismiss the sore- ness in my groin, headaches and difficulty breathing. I reluctantly went to the doctor after my testicle had swollen to three times its normal size. I owe a lot to my neighbor—a friend and doctor who insisted I get it checked. By the time I was diagnosed, the cancer had already spread to my lungs and brain, so it is fair to say I was in bad shape. There were days that chemo left me feeling like I could not get out of bed, but I knew that every day that I did not get up was a day I was losing. I am a competitive person by nature,so I learned that I had to bring that same spirit into my fight against cancer. I could not let cancer win. My will to live was bigger than the disease itself.
MP: Has the illness affected your performance and/or training?
LA: A cancer diagnosis changes a person forever. I’ve been a competitive athlete for most of my life and I’m sure I would have pursued a long career in professional cycling either way and with success. But cancer put suffering and pain and fear—which are all part of any Tour de France—in perspective. No mountain stage in the Tour can compare to it. Cancer gave me focus, a purpose and a lot to live for. This is a life I owe to cancer. I appreciate my life in a completely new and better way because I faced cancer and was lucky enough to survive. Cancer has also allowed me to give back to my community and now the world in a way that I would never have imagined.