Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Debunking the Lance Armstrong story

Every July when the Tour de France rolls around, Lance Armstrong mania rides uphill to another peak. Part of the Lance mystique is the status as a cancer survivor who beat the odds, of course, and the mythology generally credits his survival to his conviction to beat cancer. Yes, if only you have the will to survive, cancer doesn't stand a chance! Right? Wrong. What newly diagnosed person doesn't hope to beat the cancer? Propagation of the Lance Armstrong mythology spreads the idea that cancer can be cured only if the patient has enough will power—from which we can infer that those who succumb to cancer just weren't trying hard enough.

This is crap, of course. Lance achieved a cure because his cancer cells were susceptible to the treatments used. If he'd had a more virulent type of cancer, or if he'd used less effective treatments, it's possible that all the will power in the world would have been no more effective than slapping a Band-aid on his tumor site.

The eloquent writer known as Cancer, Baby gets into this issue in depth in herlatest post. For those who haven't read her blog, she's currently undergoing treatment for recurrent ovarian cancer, and she's done some reading on the whole "will to beat cancer" concept. Read it. Share the link with people you know.


Mona Buonanotte said...

One of my favorite cousins is dying of brain cancer. I don't think wearing a yellow wrist band is gonna help him right now. I appreciate that maybe, just maybe, more attention is being paid to cancer, whatever type, but y'know...sigh.... I read cancer baby, followed her story. We're all just *this close* to being there, ya know? Scary, this life.

Piece of Work said...

I agree, Orange, and I love Cancer, baby's site--which I found (I think) long ago, through you. So, thanks!

The Un-Apologetic Atheist said...

I don't really think of Lance as having "the will to beat cancer" but the will to undergo the horrifying treatments and still go on to compete at the highest level AFTER said treatments. I might be wrong on this of course, but Lance has never struck me as one to put the focus on himself in terms of the cure, he has stated on numerous occasions (in response to questions about faith/belief and perseverence in the face of adversity) that his faith was in the doctors and medical researchers who came up with his treatments. Hardly the words of a person who thinks he has the willpower to do it himself.

Anonymous said...

Actually, yes, atheist, you are right. In fact, I've heard other people say in describing him that he will never say that he credits his own will power. He credits a lot of things, will power being one of them. But he definitely doesn't parrot the cancer will power party line.

My post was really looking at Armstrong as a symbol, though, and how the cancer culture and survivor worship have turned him into a kind of "will power can beat cancer" god.

Anonymous said...

In 1981 I was diagnosed with stage 3/4 testiclar cancer. I was 23 and in the second year of law school. The cancer had spread throughout my body. I was diagnosed on the 28th of October and nobody would state that I would be around for Thanksgiving.

14 years earlier My mother had died of breast cancer when I was 9 and my father was left to raise 7 children alone, the oldest was 12. Thus my diagnosis made him comatose.

I was on my own and I was determined to find the best treatment in the world to save my life. ( no health insurance because I was 23 and with out money,not even a car. I found Indiana University and Dr. Einhorn. I signed up as a research patient and took 4 rounds of chemo and then submitted to radical surgery that removed all of the lymph system in my abdomen.( 13 hours and 3 teams of surgeons.)

What saved my life. Determination? The will to live? God?


Timing, medical research and luck in finding IU within two days of being diagnosed.

The treatment I endured is no longer used. Even Lance did not take the drugs that IU was trying out in 1981.

Cancer does not respond to faith,will, love, hate or great sex. Cancer is cells out of control that need to be stopped. If you kill the cells without killing the patient you win.

Research, trial and error and patients desperate to live taking research drugs save lives. Thank all the dead research patients for your life if you have survived cancer and thank all those driven brilliant Doc's that obsess over finding a cure. And then hope beyond hope that by the time you are diagnosed with cancer that science has advanced far enough along to have figured out how to kill the cancer cells that make up your cancer without killing you.

Anonymous said...

jealous Armstrong Haters...

Anonymous said...

So NOW Armstrong is in the spotlight and it is all going to come tumbling down.

Shame for a survivor, he should have played by the rules.