Editorial by Lance Armstrong: Cancer Cannot Wait


From CNN.com Editorials

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.


  1. Paul SoRelle says:

    Thanks Lance for keeping up the fight for health insurance reform.

    Also, thanks to Oakley for making sure the insurance was there for you in your fight. This makes our recent purchase of bright pink Oakley bike glasses for my wife even sweeter.

  2. Casey Reed says:

    Thank you Lance for doing all that you do… I am a stage 3 testicular cancer survivor… I was diagnosed in April and cleared in August for being cancerfree for now… The chemo that gave me (estoposide and cisplatin) was staged in 4 cycles for 12 weeks. The cisplatin saved me but had severely damaged my nerve-endings (my hands and feet are completely numb) I get frustrated because my condition impedes me from doing my job which puts my family and I in a huge financial crunch. We are trying to take care of 3 kids (7, 4 and 3), provide for them and make sure they have what they need. The state of Nevada doesnt offer disability pay which has placed me in a frustrating, stressful situation. Hospital and medical bills coming in almost everyday, piling up.. harassing calls asking for money I dont have. Sometimes I feel helpless , disappointed and depressed but I am going to keep fighting… you are my inspiration .. I will never give up.

  3. Casey- Call us. We offer info and support that may be able to help you with the numbness and the disability issue. Call 1-866-673-7205. We’ll be open at 9am tomorrow morning.

  4. Vern Farnum says:

    Great editorial. Thank you. I am a 53 year survivor of retnoblastoma, and have been an athlete for 50 years (football, wrestling, rugby and running). However, the past few years have been a huge challenge. I had to transition from running to biking at age 52. Learning to cycle with one eye is a bit un-nerving, especially in a paceline. I just hope people can realize that cancer does not mean instant death, and there is life with and after cancer. Thanks again for your work and the editorial.

  5. Chris N says:

    Great editorial and perspective. I was fortunate enough to take a job with a great employer just 8 working days before being diagnosed with late relapse testicular cancer (seminoma). Since then, I have undergone the standard chemo regiment which did not work, and then an autologous stem cell transplant at Indiana under the care of the Worlds best-Lawrence Einhorn. That place should be the first stop for healthcare reform and putting the patient first. Everyone should be lucky enough to have an employer as great as mine has been and a doctor and nurse as great as Einhorn and Jackie. Those of you that know them will know exactly what I am talking about.

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