Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Lance’s Performance Enhancement and My Privileges

Be warned, this entry will ramble more than most and that’s saying something.
Being in a Livestrong ad, having been part of a fundraising campaign for a Century, I obviously have had friends and a couple of all but strangers ask me about what I think about all this Lance Armstrong stuff. The honest truth is I don’t know that much about it and certainly have no strong feelings about the tour de France narrative since I never cared then or now about cycling. People forget a couple of things, one was that he started Livestrong long before he won the Tour de France. Those wins apparently make it a better story My races are small local ones that I’ve won which have gotten local news coverage at best if anything at all and some of that simply has been because of the cancer angle. We like a good story. I’ve learned many things from Lance Armstrong, some very positive things to do and other lessons to avoid like it’s not the sin that kills you, it’s the cover up. But as far as his apology, none of us can see the heart so I will not judge whether or not its sincere.

In this blog and in life I’ve never tried to pretend to be some great cancer crusader. I question why people are impressed with the things I do like exercise and prioritize above all things my daughter but I am reminded of Chris Rock, a black comedian has this routine about black people vs niggers. He says niggers say things like “I ain’t never been to jail, you’re not supposed to go to jail. I take care of my kids, you’re supposed to take care of your kids you low expectation mother fucker.” Some people call this paying things forward or backwards to things like Livestrong the obligation of the cured but to me, it’s the privilege of survivorship. Those low expectation mother fuckers when I walk my daughter to school are those who are yelling at their kids to rush out of their car and saying, it’s your fault you’re late. I gotta tell you, I have a strong willed 6 year old but I am never going to pass the buck on her for quite a while that her being late to school is her fault. To me taking her to school is not an obligation, it’s a privilege. To me running as hard as I know how is not an obligation, it’s a privilege.

Now guys like Lance Armstrong (and me) and all competitive people have some edge in them and some narcissism. It’s at some level an encouraged trait since society doesn’t have graduations and handing out of trophies and medals to encourage humility. I love and amused at the ad right now that state farm has with Aaron Rodgers that trophies are for people with low self esteem. What do I think about Lance Armstrong using drugs? I am not a fan of cheating. What do I think of him personally? I’ve only met him briefly and I am not going to judge someone on that little time with them. But it tells you something that I follow the news about him and have it on my calendar to watch his Oprah interview. There have been some amusing articles like that he was the dunce of the year in Texas monthly, others that incredibly hateful ones and I’ll let you google those. There is the one that made lots of vibration about why the person who co-wrote his books and obviously they made some profit together isn’t angry at him ( . USA today’s article is more my style . The difference between who we are and what we’ve done is tough to differentiate. But they do matter since no one is 100% consistent. Hell, even when I found own my own wife was having an affair with the guy whose parents had put me up at Duke, I still tried to figure out how to fix the marriage, once again turning to statistics that 95%, yep you read that right right, 95% of marriages that last 50 years have survived at least one affair. It means if you’re going to make it to the end like a marathon, unless you’re one of the gifted Olympians, there’s probably going to be some small or big hiccups. I’d had my own years ago. As this blog talked about and as my friends knew within a day of it happening, when my wife told me she was leaving the day I got back from Duke and as the fights ensued out of my own confusion and anger, I kicked her. I was on steroids and no sleep and the worst emotional state of my life, but be assured I took full responsibility and I apologize for it. This was something I let the organizations know that had used me and probably the reason why if you go to all the other ads under you’ll see the previews of everyone else’s ad show a picture of them and mine shows a generic picture. I haven’t sat in counseling and with a minister for over a year because I think I’ve got it all together.

I don’t quite understand some of the realities of cancer survivorship. Even the guy so committed to the George Clooney lifestyle has a hard time relating to why people do fertility preservation. I mean I understand it emotionally but I keep being the guy who wants to protect everyone from my disease why do people have cancer try to have kids when so many cancers are genetic and when recurrence and life expectancies are lower? Logically it seems so irresponsible but then I sit there and do my daughter’s homework with her and it makes a lot more sense that people want to stop cancer from robbing them of the meanings of life (that plural is intended).  

There are two things that Lance Armstrong said that I do love: “You don’t beat it,” he said. “You get very lucky and survive it. I don’t want anyone to think I beat cancer because I’m special.” And the guy who has accepted living off his long term insurance because I honestly don’t believe I’m going to make 40 and if the choice is between swallowing my pride and taking my long term insurance and getting more time with my daughter or going back to the rat race, well I’ll swallow my pride because even if you win the rat race you’re still a rat. There are people both survivors and lack thereof who have tried to tell me you’re going to be part of the minority, they wonder why don’t I believe this. Well, if you’ve read this back long enough, you know that when the doctors couldn’t decide whether or not surgery was too high risk, I had a poker game to decide. I’m a poker player and other than pocket 8’s, I bet the odds. But when Kiana went to my latest neurosurgeon with me a few months back, she was only there for the beginning and afterwards she asked what the doctor said after she left. They had resent the biopsy to John Hopkins and confirmed that indeed it was cancer and Dr. Friedman had once again said, yeah I still don’t think you’re going to make 40 (something other survivors have tried to get me to ignore that surgeons also just think in black and white) but Kiana would say, “No matter what the doctor said, you’re going to be okay.” And it reminded me of another great Lance Armstrong quote: “If children have the ability to ignore all odds and percentages, then maybe we can all learn from them. When you think about it, what other choice is there but to hope? We have two options, medically and emotionally: give up, or Fight Like Hell.” And medically, financially, legally, I’ll fight but fight to get back to work or fight to spend time with my kid, hey if you think like Kiana’s mother who had the audacity to email, well you let me know when you’re “able” again, I couldn’t possibly care less about people’s opinions that I am using a private insurance I paid for and qualify for and have less financial resources because of medical issues to spend time with my daughter. Judge me away. 

Back to Lance, people have been clever and cut up their Livestrong band, I still have my original one on. They have made it say Liestrong or Lies on shirts and event paraphenelia. They try to seem to think a man and an institution are singular. But to quote that USA today article How does one get duped into using the foundation's website to get educated about treatment options? How can one get tricked into calling the foundation's hotline for advice when the daily challenges feel too big and bewildering?
How do young adults like me get scammed into finding an outlet to discuss difficulties, such as physical impairment, infertility, job or insurance discrimination and fears of recurrence? Where's the deception in encouraging people in low-income and minority communities to visit a YMCA for foundation-supported workshops on healthy living? Finally, how is it possible to get duped into believing that you can live with all your might even when staring down cancer?

I and others have struggled with fundraising for the Livestrong marathon this year. It may be a reflection of the old refrain from Thomas Paine that common sense is not so common. I am still proud that I am on team Livestrong for the marathon and on one of their ads at as a thank you for all they did.. People have struggled to fund raise because of all this and there was an article yesterday in the New York Times that Livestrong had to respond to. It's a tricky situation and people would like black and white worlds where things are just pure and simple but I am not sure that's realistic. This cancer thing for me has been a lonely journey despite me being about as public as people get, a rare diagnosis to where to this day I've met no one else who had the same diagnosis it in the same place despite my activity within these communities. But despite some of those lonely moments, Livestrong pointed me to medical resources, perhaps ones I would have arrived at but more importantly they connected me to human ones that helped with some of the ways I've screwed up emotionally, trying to protect the people I have from something I can't control that has no known connection. And for that I will always be grateful.

Anyway, we all have different perspectives and room for them. The legal issues regarding custody and my cancer are still outstanding. I’ve offered my medical records and they aren’t taking them because we are stating this can only be used for this case and without even looking at them, they want me to give them blanket permission for all legal cases. I may have brain damage but I’m not going to be dumb enough to say here have this and use it to sue me or try to take my child at any time.

Last night I went to Livestrong young adult cancer survivors committee. It’s being organized by Livestrong and various hospitals. I learned a few things I didn’t know. Young adult cancer is on the rise  (that I knew) and it’s the only age group where survivor ship rates haven’t improved since the 70’s! Young kids cancers (as they should) have gotten attention and improve. Older cancers (more common and let’s be frank they’ve got  more money from a lifetime of work) have improved but young ones haven’t. Tonight I am going to Luke’s locker for the event where the picture here is attached, combining Hawktober, Luke’s Locker and Livestrong all places that I’m a big fan of and that combined to make that poster of me.

Livestrong is struggling right now at some level because of this and if you’ve gotten this far in this blog entry, I am impressed. And I ask for one thing and one thing only. You guys who read this regularly see that I reflect on music all the time and there is a biker who will donate $10 towards my Livestrong fundraising if you dedicate a song to me. Dedicate one that you would serenade with me or that you’d see me singing to that girl who makes me hesitate on my George Clooney lifestyle or that you’d love to do Kareoke with me. I once took a shot of cortisone because of an injury but the only steroid I’ve taken reduces brain swelling but damages athletic performance as do the anti seizure pills. But my performance enhancers are my songs and it would be my privilege to know that you dedicated one to me on this website. Details below.  

How it works:
· Jeff likes to ride his bike. Jeff is inspired by people’s stories. Jeff likes listening to music. Jeff makes a $10.00 donation to your fundraising account when you submit a story and song about someone past or present with cancer. 

Getting Started:
· Visit and submit your information and song via the “Dedicate a Song” button

· Once Jeff receives your song and story he will make a $10.00 donation to you, and he will also make a donation to his efforts! It’s like a two for one deal!

· There is no limit to the number of songs and stories you can send!

· Include the link to your personal fundraising page so Jeff can make the donation

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