[FOUNTAIN]‘Live strong’ is Armstrong’s messageWhat is cancer? Thirty-three-year-old cyclist Lance Armstrong made an acronym out of the name of the disease he has overcome: Courage, Attitude, Never give up, Curability, Enlightenment and Remembrance of fellow patients. Last month, the American cyclist became the first man to win six consecutive Tour de France races in its 101-year history.
The Tour de France tests not only physical strength but also mental patience. Participants have to cover a total of 3,427.5 kilometers (2,130 miles), 160 kilometers a day for 23 days. The course includes the Alps and Pyrenees mountains.
While struggling with cancer, Mr. Armstrong set a goal of winning the Tour de France. After 18 months of treatment, he first entered and won the race in 1999.
After his fifth victory, Mr. Armstrong said, “When I was sick, I didn’t want to die. When I race, I don’t want to lose. Dying and losing, it’s the same thing.” Adding that cancer was not a way of dying but a part of his life, he promised that he would return to the Tour de France for the sixth win. And he kept a promise that seemed nearly impossible.
Mr. Armstrong never knew his father. Growing up under an abusive stepfather, he became a professional cyclist at age 16 to support himself. By 22, he was already a world champion. At age 24, he was diagnosed with testicular cancer, which had already spread to his lung and brain. Doctors said he had less than a 50 percent chance of survival. After undergoing surgery and chemotherapy, the athlete became bald and skinny.
Just as he thought he had overcome the disease, the risk of a recurrence scared him. In order to convince himself, Mr. Armstrong came up with the acronym for cancer. In remembrance of fellow patients, he established the Lance Armstrong Foundation to help those struggling with cancer.
Both President George W. Bush and Democratic candidate John Kerry have been spotted wearing a yellow wristband. As a fund-raising effort, the Lance Armstrong Foundation sells the “Live Strong” rubber band for $1 each.
After Mr. Armstrong’s sixth triumph, the wristband has become a hot item. Regardless of political affiliation, those wearing the wristband are making their contribution to the effort to help cancer patients and survivors, who are as strong as Mr. Armstrong.
by Oh Byung-sang
The writer is the London correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo.