The Story of Lance

When you tell your story, or the story of your organization, your believers see themselves as part of it. Honor that because you might just be someone’s story of hope.

Here’s what I mean.

In July 2000, my mum was bald. She had just gone through chemo for non-Hodgkin lymphoma. She now has all her hair and is happy and healthy–thank goodness!

At the time, however, we didn’t know if the chemo would be successful. I was training for a marathon with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Team-in-Training. I needed a little hope to keep me going.

And so, when we found ourselves a few kilometres away from the Tour de France that summer, we trekked to see it. I didn’t know the first thing about cycling. That didn’t matter. I wasn’t going to see the peloton. I was going to see what cancer could look like on the other side of chemo. I was going to see hope on a bike. I was going to see Lance Armstrong.

Ever since that fated day, I have been one of Lance’s biggest fans. He is wowerful to watch on a bike and he has created an awareness about cancer that is rivaled only by Komen. His name has become synonymous with cancer, hope and living strong.

Lance’s story of hope became my story of hope. It was a story about being able to not just survive cancer, but to thrive in its wake.  It was a story about coming back from cancer and conquering mountains–both literally and figuratively–on sheer will, hard work and determination.

Then came last night’s 60 Minutes with its allegations and testimonials about doping. This is not the first time Lance has been accused of doping. Not by a long shot. (Skewering Lance has practically become a national sport in France.) The allegations have always been part of the story. As a believer, however, I simply convinced myself that the allegations couldn’t possible be true. There was no room for doping in a story whose power was predicated on its epic nature.

Now it seems undeniable that the story of Lance includes doping, drugs and EPO. It may still be a story of hope, but it is no longer my story of hope.

How Lance handles these latest accusations will determine his legacy because they will be some of the most critical chapters in his story. Lance is a masterful marketer. Can he be an honest storyteller?

With the Greg Mortenson scandal in full swing, Lance would not be alone in the “fallen philanthropic hero” category. What will that do for the cancer community? If he hadn’t done the drugs, would he have won anyway? If he hadn’t won, would he have been able to raise as much awareness and money for the cause? Impossible to know.

What I know is that I probably need to start looking for another story of hope. If you have one, please let me know. You’ll make my day… and probably the day of a lot of folks whose story of hope was the story of Lance.

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Comments

  1. Kathy Manweiler says:

    Erica, I relate to your post, and when you asked for other stories of hope, this NBC Nightly News Making A Difference story about Jeff Gordon and Tatum, a young cancer survivor who’s spreading encouragement to other families facing cancer, sprang to my mind. The link is below. This story touched my heart, and I hope it will do the same for you.

    Take care, @kamkansas

    http://on.msnbc.com/islj9C

    • What a GREAT story of hope! An amazing little girl for sure. Thanks for sharing this, @kamkansas!

  2. As a former cycling turned nonprofit journalist, I offer you this: does it really matter?

    The Lance Armstrong story did you – and millions of others around the world – well when you needed it most. Anything beyond that, frankly, doesn’t matter.

    Sure, you could spend time reflecting on ‘well, was it all fake, is my hope unfounded’, but to what end? The reality is, none of this will take into account the sporting circumstances anyway. None of it will consider that Armstrong – if anything is ever proven (and it won’t be) – was still a remarkable athlete after suffering from cancer. None of it will consider who else he raced against and what products they were using. None of it will consider that EPO – while having an unmistakable advantage when it comes to recovery – doesn’t make you super human.

    I suspect that there’s probably truth to the Armstrong allegations, just as I suspect that you couldn’t hand his victories to anyone else in the top 20 for the same reasons. I also suspect that if you could have somehow assured a clean field (you can’t), that Lance Armstrong would have been a contender. I suspect (and I don’t know, because I’m not one) that had that been the case, the Lance Armstrong story would have still been remarkable and it still would have been an inspiration for anyone suffering from cancer.

    So if you’re looking at this from a cancer survior’s perspective, what does it matter?

    • Greg–I totally see your point and agree that his story would’ve still been remarkable. All of this will always have to remain a combination of 20/20 hindsight and hypothesis. Part of what makes his story remarkable is how he won them, i.e. the days when he trounced the competition in such fine form. Would that have been possible without EPO? Who knows? I really do agree that his story would’ve been amazing minus the EPO. My question is if it could’ve been remarkable on its own, why introduce an element that diminishes its impact when so many people are counting on you? It sullies the story in some intangible, hard-to-articulate way. And, as you say, perhaps all that is beside the point. I will continue to watch how it unfolds and will now watch you have to say about it for sure, given your unique vantage point!

      Thanks for taking the time to comment and challenge!

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