Boston Globe Op-Ed Piece


Renewing the war on cancer
By Lance Armstrong
April 20, 2008

THE 112TH Boston Marathon is a grand tradition I am proud to take part in for the first time this year. I’m running with 50 LIVESTRONG team members to raise funds for the fight against cancer, another grand tradition that has strong roots in Boston.

While Americans have grown used to seeing the definition of progress in Iraq debated daily on a glaring national stage, few of our leaders seek to shine a spotlight on the war against the number-one killer of Americans under the age of 85. It is an old, forgotten fight and we’re rarely told about the toll it takes on our nation.

But cancer now affects the life of every single person in this country. Who among us hasn’t either personally battled this disease or supported a loved one through their fight?

Cancer will take nearly 600,000 American lives in 2008, and 1.4 million will get the dreaded diagnosis from their doctor. Deaths are shamefully high among minorities and the poor. They die because of lack of access to the most fundamental human necessity – healthcare. One of the leading cancer specialists in America, Dr. Harold Freeman, says there’s a disconnect between what we know and what we do. We know how to defeat the enemy. We just don’t do it.

So what is the situation report from the front lines? Twelve million of us – including Mayor Thomas Menino of Boston – have been touched by the enemy and bear the scars to prove it. In the early days of the current struggle in Iraq, many of us were shocked by reports that soldiers lacked the basic body armor and vehicles necessary for the theater in which they fought. Back home, we have the equipment and treatment to save lives but, outrageously, they usually don’t make it to the people who need them.

Now, what is our government’s victory plan?

After six years on the President’s Cancer Panel, I can say with reasonable certainty that there isn’t one. Few of our leaders, with the exception of Senator Edward M. Kennedy, are still devoted to this fight. And to be fair, cancer is one of many causes competing for resources and attention in Washington.

Still, you’d expect the number one killer of Americans under 85 to merit more outrage, more opposition, more resources. But funding for the National Cancer Institute and the National Institutes of Health is static or declining in recent years. There is no central command, no general who looks over the broad spectrum of this disease and is able to deploy resources where they will save lives and advance this fight. A pessimist would say that cancer is winning. Luckily, I’m not one.

The good news is, now more than ever, we have an opportunity to change things. We are about to elect a new president, and now – before the election, while the candidates are still making promises to win our vote – is the time when we can hold them accountable for the war on cancer. Senators Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and John McCain have all been affected by this disease, either personally or through the death of a loved one. Let’s ask them how they intend to defeat the enemy, what steps they’ll take against tobacco, the number-one cause of cancer, and how they’ll ensure all of us – not just star athletes and politicians – have a healthcare system that rolls out the red carpet when we need it.

While I am merely a humble guest in your city, I have seen how the fight goes here in Boston. On Friday, I was honored to be invited to the Dana Farber Cancer Institute and the Lance Armstrong Foundation Adult Survivorship Clinic there. Dana Farber has been serving this community’s cancer survivors for more than 60 years and, like the Boston Marathon, is a proud institution that helps make this city a beacon for the rest of the nation. They know what works and they do it for more than 200,000 cancer survivors every year. If Boston can do it, why not the rest of this nation?

Lance Armstrong is founder and chairman of the Lance Armstrong Foundation, a seven-time Tour de France champion, and a cancer survivor.

Boston Globe


  1. Lance

    How I do admire your ongoing fight to get cancer recognised and to fight for those who are too ill to get funding to get the health care they deserve. Each country, whether in the USA or South Africa all seem to ignore a war on their own doorstep. As an ex-soldier, I know that a war cannot be won without winning battles and so to is the fight against cancer, having lost 3 grandparents to cancer… I have seen the effect it has and just like you I wish our governments would make more money available to fight this insidous killer that does not discriminate against poor, wealthy, ethinicity or religion. Looking at the ongoing battle in politics, one can only hopoe that they will look to keeping their promises in allocating more money to fight cancer. (and that their promises are not done to gain the vote and then they forget about those who voted them in!!) Well done on your ongoing determination to get things done!!!


    Kim in Cape Town

  2. Scott Joy says:

    Today’s Boston Globe also carried an article titled, “Tiny weapons, huge hopes in the fight against cancer; Nanoparticles may detect, treat disease.” Check it out.

  3. Annemieke says:

    I just want to wish you a good run tomorrow. You are an exemple to many and by doing this marathon you’re putting cancer once again in the spotlight, but I hope you will have a good time running as well (as far as that is possible running a marathon). Enjoy the day.

  4. For those that would like to follow Lance’s pace in the Boston Marathon, please go to the following link:

  5. Eric Klingensmith says:

    Last Thursday I became one of the statistics you mentioned in this article being diagnosed with testicular cancer. On Friday afternoon they operated and removed my tumor. While reading your article and much of the other research on this issue, I have become outraged at the seeming lack of support to battle this disease. Also, I commend your metaphorical approach to discussing this issue. Being a survivor of the Iraq conflict (2003-2004) as a US Marine, I am now beginning a new fight. This new battle is one which I am confident I will win. With your encouraging actions and words I am filled with the will to defeat this new enemy and to help in any way possible. I am also a high school English teacher and Cross Country coach who will spread the word among our youths so that they, too, will aid us in this fight. Thank you for all that you have done and continue to do.

  6. Brian Dowd says:

    Lance what an amazing job today! I read you really did not train for this, but your time (2:50:58) shows your talents. Great job, not only in the Boston Marathon, but also in raising awarenesss ever day of the week.


  7. Scott Joy says:

    Another thank you! Inspiring as always — both the achievement of an impressive marathon finish and the laser focus on drawing people’s interest toward solving cancer.

  8. Ava says:

    My husband and I saw you at Dana Farber on Friday getting on the elevator on Dana 10. My husband has been a DFCI patient for 5 years battling colon cancer. It surprises me how little doctors really know about treating cancer. They are always talking in statistics or relying on studies. It’s never a concrete answer – wait and see is the usual answer. This is a horrible illness. I hope your organization has enough pull to get the money cancer research needs to end everyone’s suffering.

  9. John Gilpin says:

    “Deaths are shamefully high among minorities and the poor. They die because of lack of access to the most fundamental human necessity – healthcare. One of the leading cancer specialists in America, Dr. Harold Freeman, says there?¢?Ǩ?Ñ¢s a disconnect between what we know and what we do. We know how to defeat the enemy. We just don?¢?Ǩ?Ñ¢t do it.”

    Research in the past 10 years or so has shown that something as simple as vitamin D adequacy can reduce incidence of many kinds of cancer by 40% or more. A large fraction of the population at the latitude of Boston are vitamin D deficient, and dark-skinned people especially so. This is something that would be simple and cheap to fix, but the conventional medical community largely ignores it. Even the official standards for vitamin D intake are known to be too low by a factor somewhere between 4 and 10.

    This is something where Livestrong could make a BIG difference.

    A sampling of references:

  10. Thomas says:

    I became part of the statistic in 2001, when i was diagnosed with testicular cancer in the military.
    I was diagnosed after i got out of the brig, they treated me, and then they discharged me with no help what so ever.
    The reason i am writing this, is because i think it is great what you are doing.

  11. Judy says:

    My husband has been battling testicular cancer for a year and is losing his battle. My observations are the care is just wonderful, BUT this is definitely big business. Think about it, who would employ everyone at these cancer centers. Charging $1000 dollars for one pill is outrageous! I find it hard to believe that no one has found a cure for this cancer or other cancers. I have a nephew who has had a bone marrow transplant and there hasn’t been a new drug for childhood leukemia for 25 years. I think we really need to look at where all this money is going. How much is really going to research and how much is paying for administrative salaries. I believe if we looked at these drug companies and the govenment we would really find out where all our donations are going.

  12. Andrew says:

    Lance, i just want to wish you the best of luck with your return to professional cycling. I am part of a 70 member strong cycling club. All we have spoken about for the past 3 weeks is your return. We all believe you can win an 8th tour. Good luck and train really hard as i can’t wait to see you stand on the podium again.

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