What I thinkJanuary 5, 2013
A lot has happened since April 28th. Teens Living With Cancer hit the six figure mark in terms of fundraising. When this whole Lance Armstrong thing happened my goal was $1,000. I have no fundraising experience, I have never done anything like this before…. but his one response to one tweet showed me one thing:
Never say never. (click here if you need to be caught up on what happened last year).
I got put into a limelight and situations that I had never been in before and I was unprepared for. I was on CNN in my bathing suit (cringe). Yet I had good people around me helping me and most importantly I was raised by an amazing father and amazing mother. If you ever wonder whether what you say to your children is ever listened to…. the answer is yes. It is. 30 years later is when it might be pulled out of the toolbox but trust me…. we listened.
While people were debating the value of social media we snuck in and did something incredibly positive with it. This December we hit that six figure mark allowing the impossible to happen. Together…. and by that I mean you and I…. raised more money than we could ever think was possible for this two person organization called Teens Living With Cancer. We are currently planning our second round of TLC Fit (a program for teens ages 13-18 who are post treatment, to help them gain their lives back).
We put Teens Living With Cancer on the map, for the past 8 months we have been Cinderella at the ball wondering when that carriage turns back into a pumpkin. Thanks to all of you…. it hasn’t turned yet.
As the life of Mr. Armstrong has twisted and turned this year people have often come to me. What do I think? How could I support him? I had been warned in the beginning that Mr. Armstrong comes good, and bad. He comes with a lot of haters, whether their reasons are founded or not…. a lot of haters.
I got a lot of hate mail. I read the first two. Then I learned that when an email or comment got negative… to delete it (I kind of feel bad, people sent me these very seemingly long emails!). Now someone screens my email and blog comments. Any kind of negativity is not published. We just don’t’ need that around here and I don’t tolerate that kind of stuff. I don’t get into discussions about Mr. Armstrong unless you and I are face to face. I just don’t have time. To be honest….. I just don’t care.
I believed in what we were doing more than anything that came with my association with Mr. Armstrong. Still do.
I think whatever Mr. Armstrong did…. is his and his alone. I don’t like the world of professional cycling because it is dirty. So I don’t care about it. I would love to care about it again. I would love to watch the Tour de France again and cheer for the yellow jersey. Too many times I have cheered, gotten involved, stayed up late….. only to have my heart-broken three weeks later when the winner I cheered for was stripped of their jersey. Years ago…. I pulled myself away from caring about the world of professional cycling.
People would blame the pressure, the money… yawn.
Come over here professional cyclists, we need to have a chat. Why don’t you work a night shift in the trauma bay and then come home to your 9 month old baby, stay up all day, get some training in and do it again and at the same time understand that MY life is a privilege. And so is yours.
Now come on over and spend three weeks being a cancer patient. Spend those three weeks being 14 with cancer. When you are done with that let’s attend the funeral of the two-year old who just died of a brain tumor. Whose entire life just consisted of chemo and radiation and surgery. All less than 1,000 days of it.
Next… come lay over here, on my couch while I sit in this chair drinking my coffee. Are you comfortable? Can I get you a snickerdoodle? Now tell me, tell therapist Mary all about it. The pressure and the sponsors and the money …… tell me how hard it was. Then you will have to forgive me as I laugh in your goddamn face.
I hope it hurts when I slap you across that windburnt face of yours, and I get up real close to you. Nose to nose. Eye to eye. What would I say?
SHAME. ON. YOU. (not that you would even care)
Shame on ALL of you. Every single one of you. No one would be excluded. I promise you this my dear professional cyclist: you give me a big name sponsorship and a fraction of the stuff YOU got…. and I would never have thrown it away like all of you did.
Who the hell do you all think you are? You want pressure? You want money issues? Come to Roswell Park Cancer Institute. I will show you pressure. I will show you the surgeon who is assuring the parents of that two year old he couldn’t save that he did everything he could. I will show you the parents who are sitting at the bedside of their dying child with a mortgage they can’t pay because they are out of PTO (that’s paid time off, you might not know that) and they are behind on their bills.
Do I sound righteous? Good. Because I am. I am not here to be your friend, I don’t care if you like me at all. I am no one. Absolutely no one. I am a middle class working mom. I am here for them.
I have seen it breathed it and lived it. I have watched the most unfair of unfair. Then I turn and I see all of you riding in the Tour in the most gorgeous places. In mountains. Near rivers. People waiting all day just to see you ride by. They scream for you, hope for you, dream with you. You stand on podiums with girls showering you with flowers and champagne. Your biggest problem is whether you dope or not? Lucky freaking you. And you still couldn’t make the right choice.
Have you ever watched the Stanley Cup? You are out of your seats when the shot is taken. Your heart leaps into your throat. did we win? did we score? Have you ever watched your favorite player get carried off the ice? You feel it. You feel your sport.
So did we. We gave our hearts to you.
As I watch all of you live the live of privilege, and then throw it away… I don’t get angry. I just don’t care. Go on 60 minutes and speak about how hard your life is….. and I don’t even watch. I won’t read your books. Instead excuse me while I head down to the Teens Living With cancer office, because we have a session. You go ahead….. sit there and cry and whine to Barbra Walters and I will watch these kids walk through the door grateful for each other and grateful for life…. and they don’t have a fraction of what all of you have.
And by all of you I mean all of you. I got so angry with all of you that I stopped caring about you long ago. Shame on all of you. That’s as far as I will ever care. I stopped caring about professional cycling in the hopes that someone will one day send me an invitation: professional cycling is clean again… come back! I would come back in a heartbeat.
I never dealt with Mr. Armstrong the cyclist. I dealt with Mr. Amstrong the cancer fighter.
THAT… is what I am grateful for. Don’t mistake my gratitude for something it is not. But no one knows what it’s like to spend two years enduring chemo and radiation better than he. Did I just say that excuses his sins? If you think I did read again. I don’t care about professional cycling. If you missed that part…. please go back a few paragraphs.
Mr. Armstrong the cancer survivor and fighter is the one I am interested in. The one who came forward at a moment’s notice and brought us into a place we have never been before. You saw their faces. You saw the light in their eyes and the hope in their hearts. That is what this is about for me. I have gratitude for that. Gratitude. Because of what you and I were able to do together we are now opening a second chapter of Teens Living With Cancer in another city.
I would feel the same way had it been Hincapie or Hamilton who came for us.
So what do I think of Lance Armstrong now? If he came to my door I would let him in. If he laid on my couch and told me how difficult professional cycling was … I would slap him across the face too. If he wanted to talk to me about Cancer and how we could continue to fund raise and help those who need help….. I would be all ears. I’d say let’s talk. Let’s brainstorm. How can we make sure that these parents don’t lose their homes and the treatments that these kids are getting aren’t determined by who is the richest?
You want to have a conversation about real life? I am all in.
So what do I think? Why does it matter what I think? I am no one who matters. I am just a working mom with a dream. Why have an argument with me about it? I am just some girl in upstate new york.
What do I think he should do? I don’t know. I would tell him to look in the mirror. Look hard. Look himself in the eye. I would encourage him to do what he felt was right. And I would end it there. It’s not my decision. It wasn’t my life. It’s not my conscience. The only person that conversation needs to be with is the person in his mirror. I have enough to do and think about. I don’t need to get caught up in someone else’s dilemas.
I don’t care about his money or who he owes what. He profited off people who profited off him. They are all part of the same circle. Millionaires are a breed I don’t quite identify with so I don’t try to. I don’t judge them…. I just let them exist over there while I continue to pay my own way through life. Have your little money quarrels over there. Good luck with that.
So what do I think? I think I am pretty damn excited that Teens Living With Cancer’s fitness program is again a University of Rochester Research Study in both Rochester and Buffalo. We are planning the programming for it now. Because of the money you helped raise we won’t have to use milk jugs for weights. We have yoga mats. We have a new group of teens who are going to learn how to reclaim their lives and their health after enduring the ravage war of chemo.
What do I think? I think I am going to continue to dream big and in that dream it means I play powerball every single week. I have a plan for that jackpot. I have a dollar and a dream you see.
I would build a free standing Teens Living With Cancer Center. Right here in Rochester. There would be an entire special gym and pool and yoga studio. It’d have a teaching kitchen, a place for these teens to hang out and be teens. I would hire the best doctors, nurses, technicians, physical therapists, personal trainers, yoga teachers, medical administrative personnel…. that existed. I would build Lauren a great big corner office (even though she would say that was not necessary) and we’d make Melissa’s picture the first thing you saw when you came in.
We’d make Melissa’s Living Legacy / Teens Living With Cancer THE place to go if you are a teen with cancer. For help. Treatment. To learn how to live again with your new normal. To be surrounded with people who care about you and love you.
The UCI (sorry ICU… forgive me I am dyslexic) and the USADA can have their million dollar fights over a sport that I don’t care about. They can exist in their dirty little doping world all day long for all I care. They are nothing to me.
But if Tygart, Hamilton, Landis, Hincapie and Armstrong showed up at my door on Monday morning and said…. we want to help, I would invite them in. I would make all of them coffee, sit them around my kitchen table and tell them this: this endeavor is not about any of you. It’s about Teens Living With Cancer. It’s time for all of you to buck up and learn what is important in life.
And it has nothing to do with the bike.