Once in a while I encounter a story that is so encouraging and motivating I want to share it with everybody.
This summer holiday I read 2001’s ‘It’s not about the bike’ by Lance Armstrong, 7-time Tour de France-winner and fulltime cancer fighter.
It’s a real pageturner and it made me re-evaluate the topics of hope, endurance and courage in my own life.
Most of the quotes below are from his book.
Don’t ever quit
Lance’s mother, a single mom, raising her only child Lance, was working as a secretary. Lance sensed that she was underestimated by her boss and asked her one day: ‘Why don’t you quit?‘. Her simple but powerful answer was
‘Son, you never quit.’
So ‘Never Quit’ became Lance’s life adage.
When he was 25, the doctors discovered an agressive testicular cancer that had already spread to his lungs and his brain. He had 12 tumors in total and was given little hope to survive.
‘When you think about it, what other choice is there but to hope? We have two options, medically and emotionally: give up, or fight like hell.’
He chose the latter. Lance went through a stunning 4 cycles of chemotherapy and brainsurgery, fighting like hell to LIVE.
‘Don’t let go, don’t give up hope
All is forgiven
You’re breathing in, you’re breathing in
We call it living’
(Switchfoot- Needle and Haystack life)
‘Anything is possible. You can be told you have a 90-percent or a 50-percent chance or a 1-percent chance, but you have to believe, and you have to fight’
His strength to survive was so great and he believed that he could beat cancer, and so he did.
Although surviving cancer depends on many things, like sheer luck, moment of diagnosis, and a lot of things we don’t yet understand, to believe that it is possible is crucial.
Jesus said in Matthew 19:26: “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Lance’s wife at the time: Kristin (Kik) Richard was a christian and prayed.
‘ I think we are supposed to try to face it straightforwardly, armed with nothing but courage. The definition of courage is: the quality of spirit that enables one to encounter danger with firmness and without fear.’
In his book Lance says he even needed more courage to conquer the Tour de France title than to go through his cycles of chemo.
Joshua says to his mates in Joshua 10:25 “Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Be strong and courageous. This is what the LORD will do to all the enemies you are going to fight.”
What are your enemies right now?
‘Pain is temporary. It may last a minute, or an hour, or a day, or a year, but eventually it will subside and something else will take its place. If I quit, however, it lasts forever. That surrender, even the smallest act of giving up, stays with me’
‘So when I feel like quitting, I ask myself, which would I rather live with? Facing up to that question, and finding a way to go on, is the real reward, better than any trophy.’
This is so profound and true, I hope, believe and pray that I will start living more like that, from this moment on.
With his enormous drive and endurance, Lance also won the Tour de France 7 times in a row in his newly gained life and started the Lance Armstrong Foundation, a foundation to help cancer patients and survivors of the disease with information, encouragement and raising money for research.
‘The one thing the illness has convinced me of beyond all doubt- more than any experience I’ve had as an athlete- is that we are much better than we know. We have unrealized capacities that sometimes only emerge in crisis.’
In 1998, I was going through my studies to become a speech-language therapist. We had a professor: Wouter, who was always fiercely debating with one of his students: Kym, in order to stimulate her to further realize her capacities as a student. He would always provoke her to stretch her limits.
A few months later, he died of bowelcancer, being under the wrong impression for too long he had picked up some parasite in Tanzania, where he worked voluntarily with deaf children.
A few months later still, it was October by then, Kym too was diagnosed with metastasized ovary cancer. I saw her for the last time in January of 1999. She came to school, with a peaceful smile on her lips, a translucent complexion and a wig.
When she told us she was going to die, she had to comfort us. She was strong and we were shattered. Later, we all got the chance to say goodbye to her.
I was going through a depression at the time and asked her for advice. She said the same as Lance: ‘ If it is one thing that I have learned, it is that we are far more capable than we know, to cope with bad things that happen. Just remember you are way more powerful than you think you are’. A month later she died. I’ll never forget her wisdom and her grace.
When our class graduated the next year, we tied her diploma to a white helium balloon and send it to heaven.
‘We believe in life.
We believe in living every minute of it with every ounce of your being.
And that you must not let cancer* take control of it.
We believe in energy: channeled and fierce.
We believe in focus: getting smart and living strong.
Unity is strength. Knowledge is power. Attitude is everything.
This is LIVESTRONG.’
– the LIVESTRONG manifesto
* or anything else negative: addictions, the past, self-pity, procrastination, negative self-image etc
We have only one chance to live our lives in this life on earth, I encourage you as well as myself to wake up everyday thankful and eager to make the most out of every minute, don’t quit, live strong.
For me living strong is:
Be full of life
If you want to know more about the Lance Armstrong foundation you can visit: http://www.livestrong.org or follow Lance on Twitter.
I also highly recommend:
‘It’s not about the bike‘ his story of surviving cancer and winning his first Tour
and its sequel: ‘Every second counts‘.
Both available at Amazon.com
If you want to leave a comment to me or tell me your story please do so in the comments section below or on Twitter.
Thanks a lot!