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Saturday, October 31, 2009

Lance Armstrong on Healthcare and Cancer

Cancer won't wait By Lance Armstrong, Special to CNN

October 26, 2009 10:37 a.m. EDT

Editor's note: Lance Armstrong, seven-time winner of the Tour de France, is a cancer survivor and founder of the LIVESTRONG movement, whose goal is to support survivors throughout the world and make cancer a global priority.

(CNN) -- On October 2, 1996, I was diagnosed with advanced testicular cancer. Like many 25-year-olds, I was fearless, ready to conquer the world and without health insurance.

I was lucky. One of my sponsors, Oakley, stood up for me and threatened to take all their business elsewhere if their insurance carrier refused to cover me. Without their help, I might not be alive today. Or I might be completely broke, still trying to dig my way out of a massive pile of medical bills.

That kind of luck shouldn't have anything to do with whether the 1.5 million people in the United States who will be diagnosed with cancer this year go broke trying to get the treatment they need to survive.

Cancer is projected to become the world's leading cause of death next year. More than 12 million Americans alone are living with cancer today and, without greater progress in detection, prevention and treatment, that number could triple by 2030.

If the cancer epidemic continues to grow as predicted, it will have a devastating effect on our economy. A new Economist Intelligence Unit study commissioned by the Lance Armstrong Foundation pegs the global economic impact of the disease at more than $300 billion in 2009 alone.

In coming years, our nation will be forced to spend ever-increasing amounts of money on treatment and on public assistance to patients. Aging populations are already straining public health costs in the United States, so the rise in cancer means an increasing percentage of our national budget will be devoted to health care.

That's the big picture. The disease also has a devastating personal economic impact. According to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, cancer survivors in the United States were 37 percent more likely to be unemployed than those who have not been afflicted by the disease. This is a health and economic crisis on par with the worldwide recession.

The economic downturn that began in 2007 is only now showing signs of easing. Our government has made history-setting stimulus efforts to stabilize our financial systems. It would be easy to simply say, "Sorry ... we have to wait to fight cancer."

The problem is cancer won't wait.

Put plainly, the impact of diseases like cancer won't subside with the recovery of economic markets. The threat they bring grows, minute by minute. Increasing investment now to combat that threat, even in the midst of a recession, will pay substantial dividends in the decades to come by driving down the costs of treatment and public assistance.

We must advocate for effective, high-quality and comprehensive health services. The issues are complex and deserve the most constructive debate leading to progress; not piecemeal changes, but thoroughly comprehensive reform.

To this day, my family and I remain on Oakley's insurance plan. We are the lucky ones. We can't allow luck to determine the fate of Americans' health.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Lance Armstrong.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Boise Young Professional

I am a member of a local networking group called Boise Young Professionals.  Recently I was nominated for Boise Young Professional of the Year and the dinner was two nights ago.  I was very surprised to be nominated for the award as I don't see the things I do as having a big impact on our community but the person who submitted my name saw it quite differently.

I didn't win the award but I got so much more out of the evening.  First, we sat next to a wonderful couple and in talking with them I discovered that the wife has been trying to get her 42 year old friend to go get a mammogram with her.  We talked about my story and I gave her ideas on how to encourage her friend to make this a priority.  She looked at me and said "There is a reason we were to sit next to each other tonight." (Award #1)

Second, after the award was handed out to a wonderful woman named Michelle Ross, a woman came over to my table asking for me.  She said her husband was the chair of the committee that reviewed the nominations.  She went on to say she wasn't supposed to read the essays that were submitted but he had left mine up on his computer and she read it.  She said she was in awe of all I have been through and all I do.  She said she had to come over and tell me just how amazing she thought I was. (Award #2)

I had an idea of who nominated me for the award but I wasn't sure.  After the ceremony I ran into the program secretary and asked her to confirm it for me.  I then went over to Ben to thank him.  Ben is the Chamber's director for BYP.  While they were announcing the nominees he noted during mine that he was wearing his pink tie for Breast Cancer Awareness month, in rememberance of his mother in law and for me.  What a great guy!  When I thanked him for submitting my name for the award he told me I was exactly what the award represented.  WOW!  To have the director of the group nominate me and tell me that was a huge reward for me.  But as I told him - I do what I do with the YMCA, speaking etc for others not for the money or the recognition.  (Award #3)

So although it is always nice to receive a "trophy" for what we do, Friday night I was rewarded so much more than that.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Biopsy results

I ended up having to have the "cysts" on the left side of my chest biopsied.  Since Felice works at the St. Al's breast care center I asked her to be in the room with me.  That helped so much because she kept me laughing etc.  I had gone in expecting to drain the cysts so I was a bit taken a back when the doc said she just wanted to go ahead and biopsy them.  They told me to expect the results around 3:00 the next day.

At 9:30 the next morning Felice called me saying I needed to call the doc because she has my results already.  This sent fear through me.  Felice said the doc couldn't tell her the results but did smile at Felice basically letting her know it was okay.  I called Dr. Koffman right away.  She said it was just fatty nercosis - basically dead cells that have hardened up since they have lost their blood supply.  Apparenlty they appear very similar to tumors on ultrasounds so you can never be too careful.  WHEW!!!

The next day I left for Arizona with my mom to visit my sister and we celebrated my clean results.  More on that trip on another post.  I didn't realize the stress these tests have put on me.  I seemed to be dealing with them okay but afterward I realized I was eating more than normal and not healthy stuff and I had not been working out much.  I can't allow these tests to throw me off track because I know they are going to keep coming up throughout the rest of my life.  As long as they stay clean I know I can handle it!