Recently, when me and the popular blogger Kanagu went to Trivandrum, we had a lot of time in the train. So, I requested him to bring a non-fiction book and he brought this one – “Its not about the bike : My journey back to life” by Lance Armstrong.
Initially I thought it was about cycle racing. No. Its about something else that is far more important – Reclaiming your life from Cancer! And more importantly living through it all!
Initially, the author gives us a glimpse of his childhood, how his mother brought him up as a single parent, how he was introduced to racing cycles and encouraged by the corner bike-store guy, how he found his mentors, how Europe had a culture of producing some of the greatest cycling personalities, and his brush with the Mecca of all cycle races – Tour De France.
One thing that strikes you as a reader is how frankly the author is able to judge himself and his performances. And his relative ease of accepting the initial faults he made in his career like ignoring coaches advice on slowing down during the initial period of a long race, etc.
He also says in clear terms that cycling uphill in extreme conditions of cold, rains and snow is not exactly anyones idea of fun! So, it may not be important to enjoy what one is doing, but its very important to be the best at it.
At a point of time when you are approaching the peak of your career, what would you feel if a Doctor suddenly says that your chances of survival are less than 30%? That was exactly his situation when he is diagnosed with cancer.
It takes a lot of courage to fight. But fighting cancer is a different game altogether! He says that the Tour De France (which is considered to be one of the most difficult circuits for cycle racing) is nothing when compared to the pain involved in the daily treatment he had to undergo!
He says that he approached cancer with the same attitude that he approached a tough cycle race – ‘How does one win’? The amount of details he managed to collect on cancer medications and the medical jargons he throws across the book is highly impressive, to say the least. Thoroughness, seems to be his way of life!
What is even more moving is the difficulties he encounters in moving back to a normal life, even after successfully completing the cancer treatment. First, if the cancer re-occurs for a period of one year, chances of survival are non-existent. Second, none of the old partners/ contractors / sponsors were ready to trust in his abilities of coming back to the circuit.
He says that if not for the ardent determination of a few friends and his wife, perhaps he might not have come back at all! It takes extreme faith in oneself to even attempt a comeback. He explains about the changed circumstances / people in no sugar-coated words.
What is perhaps surprising for the reader is how he is able to take the whole experience positively. He says that he was now much more mature and much more in control of his life. He was able to clearly look back at his earlier faults and make the required amends to come back and win the Tour De France – Not once, but twice. In short, cancer had groomed him into a better person. At least, that’s what he says!
Normal people like us who crib about the smallest inconveniences in life should definitely read this book – It shook me for sure!