If your life hasn’t been touched by cancer in some way, you’re in a very small, and very fortunate, minority.  Most of us have a family member, friend, or co-worker who has been afflicted by some form of the disease.  And of course, our pets aren’t immune to cancer, either.  Cancer is the leading cause of death in cats and dogs over ten years old.  

There are probably hundreds of worthwhile organizations that provide support for cancer patients, but for me, Lance Armstrong’s LIVESTRONG© Foundation has always had a special significance.  

In 2001, at age 78, my father was diagnosed with prostate cancer.  Lance Armstrong, and his battle with testicular cancer, provided the inspiration that helped my dad conquer the disease.  A lifelong fan of cycling, and of the Tour de France in particular, my dad was fascinated with Lance Armstrong. When my dad told me about his diagnosis and that he had to undergo six weeks of radiation treatments, one of the first things he said was “I’m going to beat this.  If Lance Armstrong can beat cancer and win the Tour de France, I can go through this and get better, too!”  And he did, and enjoyed three more happy and relatively healthy years until he died in 2004. 

While my dad was going through his treatments, I wrote to Lance’s Foundation.  I thought they’d enjoy hearing the story of an old man in Germany being inspired by Lance Armstrong.  They responded by sending a lovely, personalized package to my dad – a photo autographed by Lance, a LIVESTRONG© t-shirt, and several informational pamphlets.  My dad was touched and thrilled, as was I.  

The foundation designated October 2, the anniversary of Lance’s cancer diagnosis, as LIVESTRONG© Day 2010.  It is meant to be a day of global action, a day to celebrate survivorship and to commit to working toward a world without cancer.  It is meant to raise awareness of the millions of people around the world who live with cancer. 

And because cancer affects cats, too, Milo and Alfie, two mellow, yellow cats from England, are spreading the word about LIVESTRONG Day 2010 on their blog, The Cat’s Meow

I’m not much for wearing colored bracelets to show my support for one cause or another, and yellow is not my color, so I won’t be wearing yellow on October 2 to support this event.  But I will spend some time remembering, and celebrating, all the friends and family members, both human and furry, who have been affected by cancer.  I will be remembering my dad.  And I will say a prayer of gratitude for Lance Armstrong, for inspiring an old man halfway around the world to live a few more years.  

Graphic created by Milo and Alfie.

You may also enjoy reading Lance Armstrong and the Power of Belief.

9 Comments on LIVESTRONG Day

  1. Ingrid, I was very moved by your story. I admire your father’s fighting spirit. He too is an inspiration.

    It is just a devastating disease. It took my mother at age 47, a grandmother, aunt, my sister-in-law and friends. As you said, there are few people who can say their lives have not been touched by cancer in some way.

    Thank you for sharing your story and for promoting awareness of a commitment to a world without cancer. As well as a day to stop and remember the millions of those who live with cancer. It gives me hope.

  2. Marisa, I’m sorry for all your losses.

    There are probably as many theories as there are causes for what causes the increase in cancer we’ve seen in the last few decades in both pets and humans. I have to believe that environmental factors and diet play a significant role. However, sometimes, even people or pets who follow the healthiest lifestyle possible get cancer, so genetics probably have a part in it, too. But even though we can’t control genetics, we can control what we feed our cats, and to some extent, we can control their environment. It is all about making conscious choices.

  3. True. Most people’s lives have been touched by cancer in one way or another. Once you lose loved ones to cancer,

    I lost my mother and a sister to cancer; my mother to kidney cancer and my sister to melanoma which metastasized to brain aneurisms. I also lost my precious Muffy, my tabby cat, to squamous skin carcinoma.

    Companion animals are far more susceptible to getting cancer than humans and the symptoms show much earlier, as well. Their smaller sizes, shorter lifespans and faster metabolisms make them very vulnerable particularly if they are exposed to a toxic home environment (most households are loaded with chemicals), a deficient diet as is the case with most commercial pet foods and the vaccination regime along with the flea and tick traditional treatments.

    Awareness presents options, which, in turn, provides solutions.

    Thanks for sharing this story, Ingrid. May our consciousness be higher.

  4. Debbie, thanks for sharing your stories – it’s such a devastating disease.

    Marg, I still have the photo and t-shirt the foundation sent to my dad. I think reaching out is very important, for both cancer survivors and their families.

  5. That was a lovely post about your father. It is so great how people reach out to others. That was wonderful of Lance Armstrong to reach out to your father. Cancer is a very scary disease. Great post

  6. I’ve lost both of my parents to cancer, my dad to prostate cancer which metastasized to lung and bone, and then my mother to brain cancer. My husband and I had our first run in with cancer in cats when our big tabby, Lan, had it. Hubby was making over her and noticed a lump around one of her teats and we took her in to discover that cats could get breast cancer just like humans. She had surgery but the prognosis wasn’t good as it was a very aggressive cancer. We debated on her receiving chemo but we just couldn’t see putting her through the misery of the chemo coupled with the fright of travel and vet visits. Instead, we opted to just make her remaining days peaceful and without stress. She was only 7 years old.

    We learned with Lan that checking a cat’s breast and belly for lumps on a regular basis is just as important as it is for a woman. Hugs to the others out there who have lost loved ones, human and pet, to this awful disease.

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