Goodbye Livestrong

by brendan on 01/19/2013


I bought my Livestrong bracelet in the Summer of 2004, right when they came out. I was caught up in the Lance Armstrong hype with him beating cancer and then triumphantly returning to win cycling’s toughest event. It was an impressive story, and you weren’t cool if you didn’t have one of the yellow bands on your wrist. So I bought one. The smallest one I could find, on account of my child-sized wrists.

Fast forward one year and like many people, I still had the bracelet on. Then something changed in my life. I had been feeling off for a few months, leading up to an episode where I temporarily lost vision in one eye and talked my way into an unscheduled visit with my primary care physician. Based off my pale skin and symptoms of sluggishness, he opted to check me for testicular cancer – pointing to my bracelet and saying “I’m sure you’ve heard of this disease”. That scared me a little bit. I couldn’t have cancer, could I? Later that night he called me with blood work results to insist that I check into a hospital immediately, as my blood counts were universally low. I did that, and woke up the next morning to a new doctor telling me to prepare for a fight with leukemia. That scared me more than anything has ever scared me.

It turns out that I didn’t have leukemia. Further testing revealed that I had (and still have) aplastic anemia. It’s pretty rare, so there aren’t a whole lot of inspirational books written by survivors. Instead, I was given a copy of Lance Armstrong’s book It’s not about the bike: My journey back to life. That book made a real difference for me. It’s right up there behind the care of my doctors and the support from my loved ones, for what I credit with how I was able to deal with the illness.

Almost overnight my bracelet changed from something trendy to something very different. It no longer had anything to do with cycling, or Nike, and had everything to do with me beating my own illness.

Now it’s 2013, and I’ve had the Livestrong bracelet on day and night for eight and a half years. I took it off once just to prove that I could, but other than that it’s been on my wrist every single day. Lance Armstrong is also now a confessed cheater. And his Livestrong foundation has been under attack over the last couple years for what it’s really brought to the fight against cancer.

I don’t care that Lance cheated. And I never really identified with Livestrong as an organization that supported me, since I didn’t have cancer. I don’t doubt that they helped many, many people. But it’s time for me to move on. My illness has been in remission for several years now, and the bracelet is just something that I’ve kept wearing out of habit.

So I’m taking it off. This doesn’t diminish what the bracelet meant to me at one time, nor what Lance Armstrong did for me. I just don’t need to wear it anymore. And if anybody asks, I’m still going to recommend that book.

There are 2 comments in this article:

  1. 03/1/2013Sandy Perry says:

    So glad to find this page. I have been reading about your aplastic anemia since my husband was diagnosed almost two years ago. I am so glad to hear that you are in remission!!! We took my husband to Cleveland Clinic and they recommended a bone marrow transplant. He had had ATG treatments as well as other treatments to try to get his counts up but they didn’t work. Fortunately his sister was a perfect match and one year ago March 6th Roland had his transplant. In less than two weeks they discharged him from the hospital. He is doing very well now…back to normal activities! He is 64 years old and retired just before his transplant. I wanted to let you know how much help your blog was to us….very informative and it helped me understand what was going on with my husband. We didn’t feel quite so alone in our fight. I will keep you in my prayers!

  2. 03/3/2013brendan says:

    Hi Sandy, thank you for your kind words about me and my AA blog (which is a little overdue for an update). I’m very happy to hear that your husband is doing well; that is the most important thing. Please tell him that another AA survivor says hello.

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