By LANCE ARMSTRONG
"What a difference a day makes." It's a phrase we often hear, and like many clichés, it has some elements of truth. A single day can turn the tide and lead to victory.
And today, the fifth annual LIVESTRONG Day, the Lance Armstrong Foundation is asking every American to join our united front against cancer and help make beating this disease a national priority.
Cancer affects every person in this country. Twelve million Americans have the disease; this year alone nearly 600,000 lives will be lost to it, while 1.4 million of us will get the dreaded diagnosis from our doctors. In some communities, death rates are substantially higher than in others.
"Of all the forms of inequality," Martin Luther King Jr. once said, "injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane." Cancer deaths are shamefully high among minorities and the poor because many lack access to life-saving prevention and treatment measures.
At age 25, Lance Armstrong was one of the world's best cyclists. He proved it by winning the World Championships, the Tour Du Pont and multiple Tour de France stages. Lance Armstrong seemed invincible and his future was bright.
Then they told him he had cancer.
Next to the challenge he now faced, bike racing seemed insignificant. The diagnosis was testicular cancer, the most common cancer in men aged 15-35. If detected early, its cure rate is a promising 90 percent. Like most young, healthy men, Lance ignored the warning signs, and he never imagined the seriousness of his condition. Going untreated, the cancer had spread to Lance's abdomen, lungs and brain. His chances dimmed.
Then a combination of physical conditioning, a strong support system and competitive spirit took over. He declared himself not a cancer victim but a cancer survivor. He took an active role in educating himself about his disease and the treatment. Armed with knowledge and confidence in medicine, he underwent aggressive treatment and beat the disease.