Armstrong's brave battle an inspiration

PUBLISHED : Monday, 01 September, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 01 September, 2008, 12:00am

It is at that moment in time when patients hear from the doctor that they are suffering from cancer that they need to draw on the help and support of family and friends, and take inspiration from previous victims of the disease who have managed to overcome it.

And, recently, many sufferers have taken their inspiration from one of the world's greatest athletes, Lance Armstrong, whose book, It's Not About the Bike, details his personal journey of despair, longing and eventual triumph over testicular cancer.

Armstrong has won cycling's most prestigious event, the Tour de France, a record-breaking seven times, but right at the dawn of his brilliant career, at the age of 25, he was struck down with a severe form of testicular cancer and the prognosis was not good. The cancer had already spread throughout his lungs and into certain parts of his brain.

He took the news as would be expected: 'I'm sick. I'm never going to race again. I'm going to lose everything,' were the first words he said to one of his best friends after hearing his diagnosis.

But, being used to living life in the fast lane and definitely not being used to losing, Armstrong dug in and prepared himself for what was to be months of not only chemotherapy, but hours of brain surgery needed to remove tumours.

Despite his attitude towards beating the disease, Armstrong details moments of despair that can make for gruesome reading. His descriptions of his once athletic body slowly shrivelling and wasting away due to the effects of chemotherapy are painful to read, as is his description of the treatment: 'My life became one long IV drip, a sickening routine: if I wasn't in pain I was vomiting and if I wasn't vomiting I was thinking about what I had ... and I was wondering when it would all be over.'

Armstrong does not shy away from revealing all aspects of how awful treatments for cancer are and what their side affects can be - but throughout the book the reader is left with the impression that whatever the hardships involved, it is important to keep a positive mental attitude. He went on to win his seven Tour de France titles after surviving cancer, a feat that not only he, but almost all those around him, said would be impossible.