Where Do We Look When Our Heroes Fall?

I was going to tell you about my new antibiotic that should help my stomach pain. But then Lance. LANCE. My hero. “It’s not about the bike….” because it’s all about the competition. The competitive nature that led him to, allegedly, take performance enhancing drugs. The drugs that, some insist, enabled him to grace our public stage as a champion. Because, some speculate without those drugs, EPO and the like, there is no way that Lance would have won seven Tour de France titles.

No matter which side you fall on in this argument (and I confess, I fall, with much despair, on the side of guilt), you no doubt have to embrace some discussion or contemplation about our heroes. We build them up, to tear them down, right? It’s part of our culture. No matter how much we want to believe in our big sports heroes, our super-athletes, there is always a part of us that cannot believe. The very qualities that make them amazing, also make them unbelievable. And so, we lie in wait, especially these days, wondering if our heroes will fall.

When asked by others struggling with chronic illness or cancer for support and encouragement, I have always mentioned “It’s Not About the Bike,” Lance Armstrong’s 2001 book about his fight against testicular cancer. The book was recommended to me by a doctor, who was also an avid cycling fan, after I had been diagnosed with narcolepsy (a sleeping disorder, thought to be auto-immune). My doctor knew that I was also battling scleroderma, migraines, and chronic pain at that time, and convinced me that a book about cycling might change my life.

He was right. (It also made me a huge Tour de France, Tour de California and general cycling fan. This has worked out well since I now live with a triathlete.)

Upon finishing his book, Lance immediately became one of my heroes. But not just because of his triumph in arguably the toughest sporting event known to man. To me, his heroics were in the hospital room, sick in his bed, and getting back on the bike when he had no muscle mass. Those are daily battles I could relate to and his tenacity, his belief in his ability to overcome the insurmountable was inspiring.

USADA can take away Lance’s Tour de France titles. Lance can even give up this fight.

But no one can take away his triumph over terminal illness. No one can take away the gifts your hero gives you, when you need it most.

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