Greetings to all-
Please allow me to send a different type of blog today. This is not your normal update. No no, this is far more personal.
Back when we started the LAF it was basically just College and me as well as a few committed volunteers, one of which ended up being employee #2 of the LAF. That person was Elizabeth Kreutz. Elizabeth is someone I met when I first came to Austin and has always been a dear friend. Little did we know at the time that she was an amazing photographer. She never told us that! She now takes all of our pics for us at the LAF and shoots various sporting events all over the world. She has gone on to win numerous awards and, oh yeah, takes the Xmas card picture of me and the kids. For those of you who follow LAF closely you will know Elizabeth well.
I’m including an email exchange between Elizabeth and me that occurred a few days ago. In Eliz’s original email she included some pictures of her beloved Aunt Phoebe as she battled late stage lung cancer. The pictures hit me like a ton of bricks. How in the hell can something so fierce come along and steal a life like this?? The pictures made it all so vivid and real to me, as you too will see.
I have encouraged Elizabeth to pursue her dream of capturing these images (w/ willing survivors of course) in order to do two things: first, remind us all that we are still dealing with the biggest killer in this country. And second, if the bastard gets us, we can and do pass with dignity, strength, and beauty. Like all coaches say, they never lose a game, time just runs out.
It’s our job as a society to make sure that time doesn’t run out on a human life.
Message From: Lance Armstrong
Date: Sat, 19 Jan 2008 12:42:53 -0600
To: Elizabeth Kreutz
Subject: Re: Photos of Phoebe
Wow, to say that I am speechless would be a gross understatement. I am literally in tears. These images are incredibly moving especially when coupled with your beautiful words. Bless you and bless her.
Yes, there are many evils here…. from the malignant cell to big tobacco to a healthcare system that many say is jacked up. This is what we must fix and what I have committed myself to do or try to do.
But even I have days when I say, damn, what am I doing? The weather sure is nice in Mexico right now, why aren’t I there? I have these moments often. The trick is that “often” is not a measure of time. “Often” is a number and not time so while they may be often they only last a few seconds then I’m back to, alright, screw this. I’m not losing this war.
Those moments last minutes, hours, days, months. That’s what keeps me going. Seeing your aunt really stirs many emotions in me. Like you, I get mad, sad, inspired, and most importantly, competitive. I’m in this for the long haul. Trust me.
Thanks for all of your help and friendship. And btw, I do think a series of photos (with willing survivors) as they face their final days would be awfully powerful. We should do that. Think about it, you see it every day on the cover of the NYT yet it’s Iraq, Darfur, Afghanistan, Pakistan, etc. Why not show the true devastation of THIS was?? You can be the woman that does that. You go girl.
All my love forever.
Message From: Elizabeth Kreutz
Date: Sat, 19 Jan 2008 12:12 PM
To: Lance Armstrong
Subject: Photos of Phoebe
Yesterday was exciting and I feel very fortunate to have been a part of it.
As you know I lost my Aunt Phoebe to lung cancer in April of 2006. The cancer spread fast and she died at the age of 53. She was beautiful, smart, and successful and was a huge inspiration to me. Cancer didn’t care. She had been a longtime smoker and smoked cigarettes until the end. I have mixed emotions about her cancer, brought on by this lifelong habit. It seems like such a waste. She was a concert pianist at Juilliard and then worked her way up to be the first woman partner at Morgan Stanley. She was amazing.
It is so important to fight this disease but to also fight the tobacco industry as well. I was particularly moved to hear that Mayor Bloomberg and Dr. Carmona are joining you to make this fight a priority.
I think the best way I can help join the fight is through my photography and documenting people’s journey with cancer. Photos of cancer survivors who have triumphed over cancer are very important, but I believe the photos of the cancer patients who are in the process of fighting cancer and what they have to go through are equally important. The fact is cancer is killing millions of people and that is why we are here today. I am brainstorming with Jen Long on a possible photo documentary on lung cancer patients and their fight with cancer and the involvement with the LAF. You don’t see those photos very often and I think that even though they are sometimes hard to look at, they are so important.
When I visited Phoebe in the month before she died, I was initially taken aback by the physical transformation. I wasn’t sure how she would feel about having her picture taken but one night when we were massaging her feet and painting her toes, I told her this was a Kodak moment and she smiled and was happy to have me photograph her – exposed, sick and hurting. She knew she was dying and knew that I loved her and wanted to capture her one last time. Looking back I wish I had spent more time with her, documenting her journey with cancer.
When I look at these photos, they stir up many emotions – happiness, love, thankfulness, sadness, regret, anger, confusion. But most of all they inspire me. They inspire me to act, to fight, to do my part to help end the suffering.
I want to share a few photos of my aunt Phoebe with you when she was in hospice care at her home.
Thank you for all you do and will do.