Friday, May 23, 2008

It's Not About The Bike

I thought I knew what fear was, until I heard the words You have cancer. Real fear came with an unmistakable sensation: it was as though all my blood started flowing in the wrong direction. My previous fears, fear of not being liked, fear of being laughed at, fear of losing my money, suddenly seemed like small cowardices. Everything now stacked up differently: the anxieties of life --- a flat tire, losing my career, a traffic jam --- were reprioritized into need versus want, real problem as opposed to minor scare. A bumpy plane ride was just a bumpy plane ride, it wasn't cancer.

One definition of "human" is as follows: characteristic of people as opposed to God or animal or machines, especially susceptible to weakness, and therefore showing the qualities of man. Athletes don't tend to think of themselves in these terms; they're too busy cultivating the aura of invincibility to admit to being fearful, weak, defenseless, vulnerable, or fallible, and for that reason neither are they especially kind, considerate, merciful, benign, lenient, or forgiving, to themselves or anyone around them. But as I sat in my house alone that first night, it was humbling to be so scared. More than that, it was humanizing. (pp. 73-74)

It's Not About the Bike: My Journey Back to Life by Lance Armstrong with Sally Jenkins is a book not about bike racing but rather about "survivorship". Lance Armstrong begins with his younger days when he first discovered cycling. He was cocky and headstrong about what he wanted to accomplish. He was an up and coming athlete in the world of cycling and he had his sights on winning the Tour. But suddenly his life came to a complete halt when he was diagnosed with testicular cancer. After facing the facts about his prognosis, he fought to beat the disease and in the process re-evaluated what he wanted out of life. Armstrong then tells of his recovery physically, mentally, and emotionally as he struggled to once again rejoin the sport of cycling. As the cover states: Winner of the Tour de France, Cancer Survivor, Husband, Father, Son, Human Being. Very well put.

The book covers Lance Armstrong's life as a young boy through his first win at the Tour de France. It also details his marriage to Kristin (Kik) and the conception and birth of his son Luke. He introduces many people who influenced his life in cycling. And, of course, Armstrong speaks highly of the love and support that his mother Linda has given him throughout his entire life. He starts with a very egotistical air about himself and ends in a very humbling tone. He describes many of the details about fighting his cancer and about the survivorship afterwards that most people are not aware of. And he gives hope to others through his accomplishment in returning to cycling and winning the Tour de France as well as establishing the Lance Armstrong Foundation, a charity to help the fight against cancer.

I very much enjoyed this biography and found it very reader friendly in its style and story. I learned a lot about Lance Armstrong that I did not already know. He was never a winner of the Tour de France prior to his cancer; rather, he was just beginning his world career at the time of his diagnosis. His cancer was much more advanced than I was aware, for it had spread to his lungs and brain. Also, his struggles back into cycling, and into life in general, gave me a new perspective on cancer survivors and what they endure after they conquer their disease.

It's Not About the Bike is not only for cycling fans but also for those who have been touched by cancer in some way. It is an easy reading biography that I highly recommend.


N.Vasillis said...

Thanks for such a great review. I'm putting this book on my TBR list.

The Protagonist said...

Me too. I've never been a particular fan, but this sounds like an awesome read.