By Tom O’Hara
TO: Lance Armstrong, testicular cancer survivor
FROM: Tom O’Hara, testicular cancer survivor
RE: Your annoying behavior
Lance, please, please just take your money, go to a tropical island and stop talking. Please stop talking.
I see you appeared before the World Cancer Congress on Aug. 29 and said: “My name is Lance Armstrong. I am a cancer survivor. I’m a father of five. And, yes, I won the Tour de France seven times.”
Lance, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency stripped you of those titles when you refused to contest charges that you used banned drugs and blood transfusions while winning those races.
I don’t have any respect for Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire and Roger Clemens, but they don’t annoy me like you do.
It’s the cancer thing that’s been driving me crazy for years. It drives me nuts when people make a career out of being a “cancer survivor.”
I know your cancer had spread before you were diagnosed, but even so, the survival rates for testicular cancer are dramatic – between 80 and 99 percent. You were diagnosed in 1996; I was diagnosed in 1984.
Even back then, the doctors were matter-of-fact about my prognosis. Endure the surgeries and the chemo, they said, and you’ll be fine.
I know the treatment is nasty. My chemo cocktail was similar to yours and I wouldn’t wish those months of treatment on a suicide bomber. But as you said last week about fighting the drug allegations: “Enough is enough.”
Please apply that wisdom to the “cancer survivor” shtick.
Since the testicular cancer, I’ve had cancer of the bladder and the prostate. Throw in some skin cancer, too. It’s all been annoying and unpleasant, but most cancer is treatable these days. Surviving the disease does not make you special.
I have to give you kudos for returning to cycling after the cancer. You’re clearly a gifted and dedicated athlete and I’m sure getting back into shape was a struggle. But I’m not aware of any research that shows that a testicular cancer survivor sustains any permanent damage to his athletic ability. You have one less testicle and a few scars.
You also deserve a salute for your chutzpah and commanding personality. You were able to surround yourself for years with people who were so devoted to you that they helped you cheat.
And you have such adoring fans. It’s like a cult.
For years I’ve been mystified by the Lance Armstrong mystique. It’s been clear for a long time that you were doping, but you were the Teflon cheater.
I suspect part of it is that many cycling fans are zealots. Most of them ride themselves and they are a more intense breed than those of us who golf with a six-pack in the cart.
The whole “triumph over cancer” narrative was just too inspiring. Kudos to your PR people. They’ve done impressive work. And you play the part very well.
But the gig is up now. If you want to continue to raise money to fight cancer, I applaud you. But, please, try being a quiet and humble philanthropist from now on.
A former managing editor of The Palm Beach Post and Cleveland Plain Dealer, Tom O’Hara is a national columnist for Florida Voices.