Campus & Community

Lance Armstrong shares story of survival with DU audience

Hundreds crammed into DU’s Driscoll Ballroom May 13 to join retired cycling sensation Lance Armstrong as part of a national celebration of life and call to action through Armstrong’s cancer-fightingfoundation.

Armstrong, a 36-year-old seven-time Tour de France cycling champion and a cancer survivor, chose the University of Denver as one of four locations to make a personal appearance on LiveStrong Day.

Watch the video.

Nationwide, LiveStrong Day was celebrated in more than 600 locations and in all 50 states as cancer survivors, friends and family united to raise awareness in the fight against cancer.

“When I left the hospital in 1996, my doctor pulled me aside and he said, ‘I’d like to talk to you about something … I would like to talk to you about the obligation of the cured,’” Armstrong said.

Armstrong said the doctor told him he could either keep his story of survival private, or he could share it with the world as an inspiration and a call to action.

“I said, ‘I don’t know if anyone will listen,’” Armstrong said.

People have listened.

His book It’s Not About the Bike was a best-seller, his foundation has distributed more than 60 million trademark yellow wristbands and raised more than $250 million to fight cancer, and Armstrong has been appointed by President Bush to serve on the President’s Cancer Panel.

Armstrong started the day in New York City, followed by a stop in Columbus, Ohio, before arriving at DU. After the Denver stop, he was off to Las Vegas.

At DU, Armstrong’s survival story wasn’t the only one. Before he took the stage, supporters cheered as survivors with DU connections told their tales.

“Despite cancer touching so many friends, my relatives and even my own father, I don’t think it really hit home until I heard those three words, ‘You have cancer,’” said Frank Coyne, associate director at DU’s Center for Community Engagement and Service Learning.

That was five years ago, when Coyne discovered a discoloration on his back and learned he had melanoma. Now cancer free, Coyne urged everyone in the crowd to wear sunscreen and help their doctor catch any cancer in its early stage.

Others told of losing loved ones to cancer or surviving brutal, repeated battles with the disease.

DU academic adviser Kerry McCaig battled cancer four times, pushing her body in between bouts as she climbed mountains around the globe. She urged the crowd to live life with vigor and press on through adversity.

“Whatever your gifts are, none of us can predict what or when or how our last minutes will be,” she said. “You’ve got things to do: Live strong.”

Afterward, Armstrong talked privately with reporters, calling on people to vote and demand equity in health care for all Americans. While steering clear of endorsing any candidate or political party, he urged everyone to get involved and vote in the presidential election.

And he acknowledged some ties to Colorado.

As he talked to the crowd, Armstrong waved to cycling legend and Coloradan Davis Phinney in the audience. Phinney, who has retired from cycling and is battling Parkinson’s disease with his own foundation, has a son, Taylor, rising through the ranks of cycling. Armstrong said he’s been watching his progress.

And as for future plans, Armstrong acknowledged he is thinking “seriously” about tackling the grueling Leadville 100-mile mountain bike race in Colorado’s high mountains this summer.

“If I do it, it would be only as a recreational ride,” Armstrong said, noting he couldn’t commit to the hours of training needed to compete for the win. “I’m thinking about it —seriously thinking about it.”

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