Lance Armstrong is one of the most celebrated athletes of USA, more for his exploits in recovering from cancer than sporting excellence. When Lance was suffering from testicular cancer, even his recovery seemed difficult let alone expectations of getting back to professional cycling. If he had only recovered from his cancer and been able to turn a paddle, his story would still be an inspirational one.
Armstrong had begun his sporting career at the age of 12, and had notched up many cycling achievements by the time he was diagnosed with testicular cancer in the year 1996. He was diagnosed with stage 3 testicular cancer and he was coughing up blood and had a sizeable tumour. Moreover, the cancer had already spread to his abdomen, brain and lungs. If not for immediate surgery with chemotherapy, he would have been dead.
His testicle was surgically removed after which the doctor said that his chances of survival are less than 40 per cent. It took him a year before he could resume cycling.
Lance made some modifications to the standard cancer treatments which include the use of drugs such as bleomycin, cisplatin (or Platinol) and etoposide. He chose to undergo treatment with etoposide, cisplatin (VIP), and ifosfamide. This was decided to avoid the lung toxicity caused by the drug bleomycin.
This resourceful and courageous decision may have been responsible for saving his professional career. It was made possible by the pioneering use of cisplatinum for treating testicular cancer at Indiana University Medical Center in Indianapolis. His primary oncologist at this facility was Craig Nichols.
Lance also had brain tumours which needed to be surgically removed. This was achieved by Scott A. Shapiro, MD, Professor of Neurosurgery at Indiana University.
Recovering from his illness wasn’t enough for Lance. He wanted to prove himself as a professional athlete. His start was not an encouraging one. In the early season of racing in 1998, he quit mid way in the Paris-Nice race. It looked as though it would be the end of his sporting career.
He would go on to admit that he had made the mistake of being too restless to begin racing. He said that by that time he had only learned to live, not race with a bicycle. It was the stress free biking that he enjoyed with his friend and coach Chris Carmichael for a week that his fondness for cycling was back. That also motivated him to try again. He then went on to finish in the top five in the Tour of Spain and World of Championships. The icing on the cake was yet to come. Lance went on to win the Tour de France for seven consecutive years, from 1999 to 2005.
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