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Summary of Book Introduction:When cancer chose Lance Armstrong, it picked a tough foe. As even most noncycling fans know by now, Armstrong is the Texan who conquered seven consecutive Tours de France after a diagnosis of cancer. The Tour is a grueling, 2,000-plus mile race that passes through the Alps and Pyrenees and is contested over the course of three weeks. Only the hardiest of cyclists make it to the finish in Paris. Armstrong not only won his first, he dominated a record seven races. As impressive an athlete as he is, even more impressive is Armstrong's welldocumented, hard-fought battle with testicular cancer. Yes, Armstrong's a superstar -- even in 1996, when the illness was first discovered, Armstrong was a well-paid athlete with plenty of friends and big-name sponsors, including Nike, which supported him along the way. But despite his fame and resources, his issues are those shared by many cancer patients, ranging from fear, to loss of relationships, to the newness of starting life over after surviving a disease that nearly killed him. In fact, Armstrong found he was uninsured at the time of his illness because his new French racing team, Cofidis, claimed the cancer was "a pre-existing condition." Another sponsor, Oakley, arranged to have him insured. Section 1:- High-tech training His autobiography, co-written with sports journalist Sally Jenkins, holds wide appeal. Cycling fans will savor details on how their hero trained to win the Tour, as well as the ins and outs of what's become a high-tech sport. Cyclists, for example, wear heartrate monitors that give readouts team directors watch closely; if a rider's heart rate is too high, he's told to slow down. And each competitor wears a tiny earpiece allowing him to communicate with teammates and coaches. Cancer patients and survivors will nod in agreement as Armstrong describes the physical and psychological ups and downs of his illness, as well as his decision to "fight like hell" rather than give up. And for those without an intimate knowledge of
this frightening disease, Armstrong and Jenkins paint a detailed picture, from diagnosis through chemotherapy to remission and beyond. But while Armstrong's courage and honesty are inspiring, he's not a particularly likable guy. In addition, some readers may find his language a bit raw. He's an elite athlete in a sport demanding toughness, not kindness. Athletes, he explains, are "too busy cultivating the aura of invincibility to admit to being fearful, weak, defenseless, vulnerable, or fallible, and for that reason neither are they especially kind, considerate, merciful, benign, lenient, or forgiving, to themselves or anyone around them." But, he admits, "As I sat in my house alone that first night [after being diagnosed], it was humbling to be so scared. More than that, it was humanizing." Simply put, Armstrong wasn't used to being afraid. The events linked to his cancer came startlingly fast, though the symptoms, as he writes in hindsight, were evident for nearly a year. In 1996, he was consistently tired. He dropped out of that year's Tour de France, placed a disappointing sixth in the Olympic road race, and came in twelfth in the time trial in Atlanta. As he rested during the off-season in October of that year, he was hit with a headache that left him lying motionless on his couch. The following morning he coughed up blood; a few days later, one testicle was so painfully swollen he couldn't sit on his bike seat. A physician friend advised him to see a doctor immediately. After a chest x-ray, Armstrong was told he had testicular cancer with large metastasis to the lungs. His testicle was removed the next morning -- and more bad news followed. The cancer had spread to his brain. Three months of chemotherapy started soon after surgery to remove brain lesions. Miraculously, Armstrong pulled through; the prediction for his survival was a slim 3 percent, a fact his doctors told him only much later. Once the chemotherapy was completed, the young cyclist poured his energy into starting the Lance Armstrong Foundation, which is devoted to cancer awareness and fundraising. But life was far, far from normal. After the foundation was established, toward the end of 1997, this gifted athlete wasn't sure what he wanted to do or be. The following spring Armstrong went to Europe to rejoin his French racing team, which had threatened to terminate his contract while he was hospitalized, and eventually did end its relationship with him. But his immune system wasn't ready for competition. And Armstrong was afraid to push himself, thinking he'd become ill again.
Section 2:- Riding for the post office Later that year, in 1998, Armstrong announced to the press and the cycling industry that he was ready to return and was looking for a team -- but few were interested. Angry and bitter, he finally got an offer from the US Postal Service team. But his first year back was a disaster. "Deep down, I wasn't ready," Armstrong writes. "Had I understood more about survivorship, I would have recognized that my comeback attempt was bound to be fraught with psychological problems. I was riding with buried doubt, and some buried resentment, too. I was making a fraction of my old salary, and I had no new endorsements. I sarcastically called it 'an 80-percent cancer tax.'" He quit early in the season, not yet mentally prepared to endure the rigors of cycling -the freezing rain, the crashes, the cold, unpleasant weather in Europe, the long miles, and hours spent doing nothing but pedaling a bike. He returned home to Austin, and after he spent several weeks in a golf-playing, overeating, non-bike-riding funk, his wife, agent, and coach all persuaded him to try again, despite his insistence that he didn't want to ride. Armstrong spent 10 days in the mountains of North Carolina with an old bike-riding buddy in a sort of training camp meant to get him in shape for some low-key farewell races. The experience brought Armstrong back to life, leaving him restored, revitalized, and once again in love with the bike. The rest, as they say, is history. The following season he focused intensely on training to win the Tour de France -- and succeeded. Though his first Tour victory is well-documented, his seventh triumph on July 24, 2005, comes five years after this book first appeared. No doubt a chapter will be added to future editions to make this autobiography of an American hero more complete. Anne E. Stein is a former fitness columnist for MSNBC and a former managing editor for Inside Triathlon magazine. A cyclist herself, she has written for Sports Illustrated for Women, Bicycling Magazine, and the Chicago Tribune.