Review: Everyday I Fight

51zYCKX2OoL._SX332_BO1,204,203,200_I’ve been hoarding this book from my public library for months and received word they want it back, so I’ve spent the last few days immersed. Disclaimer: I love Stuart Scott and first remember him, not from ESPN, but the VH1 documentary series, “I Love the 70s/80s/90s”. He was hilarious and those are totally worth watching on YouTube. They are hysterical and will remind you of all the forgotten pop culture trends of your youth.

I digress.

I fell even more in awe of Scott when his 2014 ESPY Award speech went viral around the time when I was diagnosed with a Pancreatic Neuroendocrine Tumor.  In his inspiring speech he encouraged those “in the fight” to cry, “Live. Fight like hell. And when you get to tired to fight, then lay down and let somebody else fight for you.” I still can’t watch it without sobbing. And when he died in January 2015, I took it personal. So, I should’ve known that reading his words would hit me right in the feels and leave a puddle of tears and tissues on the floor next to the couch.

‘Everyday I Fight’ expressed many of the thoughts that pass through my brain regularly. Let me share a few passages and sentiments I found powerful:

“Once you’re told you have it, cancer is never not with you. My life was now forever divided between the before and the after of my diagnosis. I’d look at people walking by and I’d think: ‘You don’t have cancer.’” Then, “I came to realize what I was really doing making these observations: I was noting the innocence of others. And on some level, I was mourning my loss of the same. I would never have that again. That carefree, total immersion in simple moments. From now on, whenever I laughed, it would no longer be an innocent laugh;” Wow.

“There’s not any time of any day that you forget you have cancer. You never have a moment when you say to yourself, ‘Hey, wow, I forgot I have cancer.’” I feel like this could be applied to situations where family or friends don’t mention the word in my presence. Perhaps they are thinking it will only remind me. And I’m here to echo Scott – I am NEVER unaware that cancer is a part of my life. It’s better to acknowledge it and move on than to be silent.

Later he describes his surprising indifference when his doctor told him his body showed no signs of disease. His response to the “good news”: “that anxiety never leaves you. In fact, it only gets worse – because you’re no longer taking proactive steps to combat the disease.” Man, I have been there. In fact, I’ve notice my anxiety is heightened when I am classified as “No Evidence of Disease”.

Scott reached out to Lance Armstrong for advice who told Stuart it took 12 years of clear scans for that anxiety to fade. 12 years where he didn’t have cancer on his mind every second of everyday. 12 years! That’s over a decade where Armstrong was killing it on the bike – okay, say what you will, but the man is an endurance athlete through and through.

After the inspiring ESPY moment, Stuart wrote of the most impactful review of his performance written by then Slate intern, Eliza Berman, “The Most Moving Thing About Stuart Scott’s Speech at the ESPYs,” where she writes, “Cancer is a ‘battle’ People with cancer are ‘fighters’ and if they don’t die from the disease, they are ‘survivors’…The problem is one of language. We have a tendency to foist heroism upon people with cancer in a way that might, at first glance, seem generous and celebratory. But it can also be damaging…Saddling people with cancer with Herculean expectations fails to acknowledge that it is absolutely normal to feel afraid, to feel like you can’t go on, to actually want to give up…This guy (Stuart Scott) who the video showed in the (literal) boxing ring, and on the sidelines of his daughter’s soccer game – even this guy sometimes can’t fight…The world needed to hear that. Scott’s public ambivalence about the superhero cape he’s been given was a gift to all those who don’t always feel like superheros.”

Truer words have never been spoken on the subject of cancer. To read the whole article, click here and if you need a little inspiration or perspective today, (re)watch Stuart Scott.

May he be upstairs screaming “BOOYAH” and jamming to “Rappers Delight”.

 

Review: The Forward Podcast

the forward podcast lance ArmstrongChances are, you already have an opinion of Lance Armstrong.

I was familiar with him when I pick up his book, “It’s Not About the Bike” in a Singapore hostel library in 2010.  It was a hot, rainy day, so I spent the afternoon devouring the book and found his story incredible and inspiring.

The subject of Lance Armstrong created a household divided. My husband, a french national, grew up watching and spectating Le Tour de France and concluded he was doping, because no one could achieve what he did without performance enhancing drugs. I, a proud American, and lover of an inspirational comeback story, defended Armstrong and concluded my husband was just jealous, that an American was superior. So, when the scandal broke in 2012, I had to eat some of my words. I wanted to believe this incredible athlete clawed and scraped his way from rock bottom (a serious cancer diagnosis) to sky high (winning Le Tour de France multiple times). After much thought, I decided was still a fan, he’s still inspiring and his comeback is still incredible. Sure, he lied, but raise your right hand if you’ve ever lied. Next, raise your left hand if you’ve ever made a mistake. Yup, everyone in the room just raised both their hands. As Bill Burr says, “Lance Armstrong raised $500 million dollars for cancer research. That’s what that lie did.”

However, in 2014, I was diagnosed with cancer. I would occasionally think about Lance Armstrong and was baffled that someone with metastatic cancer would take such a risk by taking performance enhancing drugs that could potentially fuel cancer cells in his body. It all seemed irrational to me. Even so, as a (former) endurance athelete and cancer surivivor, I can’t help but look at Armstrong as a role model. While he’s no longer associated with Livestrong, he is the embodiment and icon for what it means to continue to persevere through tremendous adversity.

Recently, I have become reacquainted with Lance through his podcast, The Forward. I was surprised to find him a great interviewer.  I look “forward” to his podcast every week. The name, The Forward, came from his cycling buddy. When he and his friend were out on a ride and would come to an intersection, instead of saying, “Lance, go straight.”, his friend would say, “Lance, go forward,” And this has stuck with him because that’s the way he wants his life to go. Isn’t that what we all want – to keep moving forward?

On his podcast, he has also talks about the word, suffering and how he believes it is the most interesting, definitive word in the English language. I think I agree. Suffering is a word that scares me, but has also taught me more than I can begin to describe.

Now, if you’re a cancer survivor, athlete and/or a lover of podcasts, you should check out The Forward. Here are a few good interviews to start with: Simon Illa, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Rahm Emanuel, Bo Jackson, Michael FrantiEduardo Garcia (shout out to First Descents) and Dave McGillivray.