Cancer Lancer

Last weekend I finally got around to reading Lance Armstrong’s inspiring It’s Not About the Bike.  The book chronicles his struggle with late stage testicular cancer and the amazing tale of recovery and cure, winding through his nascent biking career and triumphing (post-cancer) with his lengthy Tour de France domination, doping notwithstanding.  While absorbed by the details about his diagnosis and treatment, I was also amused by a few coincidences in the book.

I had already heard that he spent his teen years in Plano, TX, but read that he actually studied at the same high school, albeit 5 years later:  “Plano East [Senior] High School, one of the largest and most football-crazed high schools in the state, a modern structure that looks more like a government agency, with a set of doors the size of loading docks.”  Yup, that sounds like my alma mater.  Lance Armstrong, however, is not a Plano East graduate.  A 6-week trip to Colorado Springs and Moscow for training and the Junior Worlds during the spring semester of his senior year apparently didn’t pass muster as an excused absence with the Plano ISD.  Faced with the arduous prospect of making up 1.5 months worth of school work in short order, he instead transferred to a private school and graduated on time.

Before he moved to Plano, he lived with his mother in an apartment building just south of Plano, in Richardson.  His mother purchased the young Lance his first “serious” bike, a Schwinn Mag Scrambler, across the street at Richardson Bike Mart.  Later, after his move to Plano, he continued his affiliation with the store, competing on its club team and supported by its owner.  Where’s the coincidence?  Earl grew up just down the street from the Bike Mart.

After high school, Mr. Armstrong cycled through Europe and Japan and set down roots in Austin, TX, in a small house near UT Austin, where Earl and I had just finished college.  Call me paranoid, but does this all not verge on stalking?  Next thing you know, he’ll be purchasing a house in our neighborhood, right next to Mark Zuckerberg’s current digs!

Reading about how he forced himself to continue biking throughout grueling, poisonous chemo sessions, I was inspired to test whether I could manage a ride 3 weeks after my own surgery … yes!  I began by tracing the same route Anna and I took the day before surgery, from Stanford through Menlo Park, Woodside, Portola Valley and Palo Alto.  Still energized close to the end of that first stage, I peddled on through Los Altos and Mountain View, until my rumbling stomach guided me back home.  At 25 miles, this petite Tour de France was just 1% of the real deal but no less significant.  Cycling back along my own Champs-Élysées, I grinned with the realization of yet one more common link between Lance Armstrong and me now far more rewarding than any yellow jersey:   cancer survivorship.

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