Book Review: “It’s Not About the Bike: My Journey Back to Life” by Lance Armstrong

This is a memoir of Lance Armstrong, the seven-consecutive-time champion of Tour De France. Before reading this book, I had this impression he must be really talented and victories must have come easy to him – winning the superbowl of the bicycling sport for seven times in a row. This book earned me new found respect for him. This is another success story of a person who had been all but written off and proceeded to make a comeback in a big way.

1. How it all began.Lance Armstrong was born in 1971 into a poor family. His father practically abandoned him and divorced his mother at his age of 2. Upon his mother’s re-marriage, he was adopted by by step father and took the surname of “Armstrong.” He wasn’t very impressed with his step father. Throughout his young life, he participated in swimming, biking, and triathlons, where he found himself talented in endurance sports – probably due to his high VO2 max and his ability to block out pain. However, this may have caused him to seek out diagnostic of his testicular cancer so late. But his ability to tough it out may have helped him tremendously during the chemotherapy and the come-back of his biking career.

2. Relationship with his mother. His relationship with him mother was amazingly close because she was always there for him especially during his fight with cancer. Though he sounded resentful of his mother’s failed marriages, he remained close to his mother and his mother to him. He was very proud of his mother’s rise from a KFC clerk to a program manager, while lacking college education. His mother reminds me of Forest Gump’s mother, always faithful, caring and loving.

3. Fighting cancer and winning over cancer as Tour De France. His description of the struggle with the testicular surgery, brain surgery and chemotherapy was rather vivid and personal. The doctor later gave him an odd of survival at 5% or less. Killing cancer is like poisoning your own body and hope that your body can survive longer than the cancer cells. I now have great sympathy for people who go through this kind of treatments.

4. Cancer survivorship. Lance went through a spout of the cancer survivorship, which is similar to people who lived through great tragedy and found themselves not able to go back to their normal life due to the confusion with the purpose of life and self awareness of one’s own limitation. I would probably feel the same way if I had survived a stage 3 cancer. It would be very confusing to me.

5. Against all odds:Lance Armstrong’s story can easily be titled “Against All Odds.” What’s the odd of a US sport jockey turned into a 7-time champions of the Tour De France, a coveted trophy of a sport dominated by Europeans. And stacked against these odds are the fact that he came back from a stage-3 testicular cancer. Quite an amazing story. Like my dentist friend, Dr. Wu, said, “the toughest are the guys most victimized.” How true!

6. Biking as a sport.A lot of my friends are into biking. It never quite appealed to me due to its long, boring, enduring nature. This book really changed some of the negative aspects of biking – it’s no different from living a life. Sometimes, it’s long and boring and sometimes it’s an uphill battle that you’d need to peddle really arduously just to make some small advance. And sometimes, it’s all downhill and you must focus on the road and the turns so you won’t “crash.”

7. Fame and money corrupt. Lance’s love story with his wife, Kik (Kristin Richard) was really touching and the classical. But based on Wikipedia, he divorced her in 2003, a few years after publishing this book. I don’t mean to be judgmental, but I think having the fame and wealth does corrupt a person. Prior to the discovery of his cancer, he was very cocky and was on top of the world. Honestly, he wasn’t a very likable person. The cancer brought him down to earth, mortality and maturity.

This is truly an inspiration book, a most read for someone fighting the terminal disease and a must read for someone who thinks he/she had it all. And for the regular guy like me, this book serve as a warning that I had it good. Don’t complain and keep my eyes on the road. You never know when the road may turn up or down.