In 1996, Lance Armstrong was diagnosed with Stage III testicular cancer, a cancer that typically targets young adult men between the ages of 18 and 25. It’s Not About the Bike: My Journey Back to Life is an account of his battle with cancer, his struggles in learning to be a cancer survivor, and the subsequent (yes, subsequent) quest to become a first time and eventually seven-time champion of the Tour de France, the most grueling multi-day bike race in the world. (For those not familiar with the Tour de France, it is a bicycle race held in France and a few surrounding countries that covers 2200 miles over mountains, rolling hills and plains over a span three weeks.)
- Before and After
- The Start Line
- I Don’t Check My Mother at the Door
- Bad to Worse
- Conversations with Cancer
- The Tour
- The Cereal Box
Probably inserting this a bit early in the post, but I highly recommend this powerful and inspiring book about Lance Armstrong’s battle with cancer and his ascension to the top as Tour de France champion with three caveats …
- If you typically avoid books with coarse language, then you probably want to avoid this book. It only occurs a limited number of times and it seems to accurately capture the powerful emotions of the moment … but I do respect the fact that some diligently avoid coarse language in their reading.
- If you are undergoing chemotherapy, do not read chapter 6 just prior to or during a chemotherapy treatment. I made that mistake and that chemo was one of my most difficult mentally. You’ll be thankful for the improvements that have been made over the last 15 years in administering chemo … but it is indeed a tough chapter.
- If you are looking for a book by a cancer survivor following hard after Jesus, this will not be a book for you either. In the book published over 10 years ago, Lance confesses to being an agnostic … a person who claims that they cannot have true knowledge about the existence of God but do not deny that God might exist. More on that a bit later … see the EPILOGUE
Long before becoming a Tour champion, Lance Armstrong was an accomplished athlete and professional triathlete. For the most part, Lance was raised and nurtured by his single mom Linda and there is little doubt in the book that she had a powerful influence in shaping his life and building his tenacious attitude. Some of the sayings she used to challenge him included …
- Make every obstacle an opportunity
- Make every negative a positive
- You never quit
And she was always there for him … be it in the midst of his greatest challenges, trials and tribulations … or in his moments of greatest victory. From this book, the love and respect he has for his mother is very obvious.
Also if you would like to understand what goes into making a Tour de France champion there are plenty of chapters outlining that as well … while typically I have simply been a couch potato spectator of this race in the past, this book provides so many insights into the training and competition that only an insider and champion could provide that I now feel somewhat of a couch potato expert.
Near the end of the book Lance wrestles with the question, “What is the purpose in the suffering that is cancer?” His answer …
“So if there is a purpose to the suffering that is cancer, I think it must be this: It’s meant to improve us.”
This book is a testimony to that conclusion … a conclusion I am very much coming to embrace.
If you’d read the book, are there are comments you would like to add?
Thanks for sharing the story of your journey Lance!
EPILOGUE: I mentioned earlier in the post that Lance Armstrong confesses to being an agnostic … something I am called to neither criticize nor condemn. My hope and prayer is that one day the Lord will reveal Himself in all His love and glory and Lance will be reconciled and transformed. While he never attempted to explain why he is an agnostic, I think the book gives a glimpse into why people do indeed choose to become agnostic.
Now this is simply a theory … so please treat it as such. Many people truly want to believe in and know God but the religious (aka legalistic) people proclaiming to be Christians they frequently encounter who are overflowing in judgment, lacking in compassion and frequently no different than the world around them seem to testify to the fact that even the Christian truly does not know God and is not changed … therefore ‘How can I?’