Exactly what treatments/surgeries did Lance Armstrong undergo?

A close family friend just passed away from a cancer that was initially discovered in his lungs, and eventually spread to his brain and his spinal chord. He never smoked in his life, and was a very health-minded in all of his habits and behaviors throughout his life. The fickle and seemingly arbitrary nature that cancer can have is so frustrating.

Conversely, Lance’s success at fighting his disease and its spreading through his body is so fascinating and encouraging. So what exactly were the techniques used by he and his doctors? I’ve seen soundbytes here and there, such as the use of cutting-edge drugs, but I haven’t seen much detail.

Well, for starters, he had one testicle removed, I know that.

I think a lot of Lance’s recovery can be attributed to the fact that he’s one tough S.O.B. to begin with. Anyone that can do the kind of things he’s done on a bicycle is made of harder stuff than 99% of people.

Lance Armstrong had testicular cancer which spread to his lungs and other organs I believe. While this isn’t great, a young man has a decent chance of beating this type of cancer despite its spread. It was a lot different than having cancer started in one’s lungs. But IANAD.

As far as cancers go, testicular cancer tends to be far more “cureable”, even after it has spread, than most other cancers.

Even so, others with it are not always so lucky. I have one young patient right now who looks like he’s not responding to aggressive treatment for his malignancy.

He had some surgery and some very agressive chemotherapy.

If you want the details, read It’s Not About the Bike. It’s a very good book, and a pretty short read, too. I highly recommend it. It explores the various options he had for treatment and how he worked his way through the decision of which course to pursue.

According to his book, during the worst part of his cancer, his doctor estimated his chances of survival at 4%. I’d not call that a “decent chance.”

I second John Mace’s suggestion of reading Lance’s book. It’s an easy read, and it give the details about just how sick he was. He talks about long periods of time where he’d spend the day in the fetal position, completely wonked from his chemotherapy.

It’s amazing he lived through it all, much less now wins the Tour so many times. I think he’s an alien, myself. No human could do what he’s doing.

That’s exactly why I have argued with people that he’s the greatest living athlete. The things he’s done on that bicycle would be once-in-a-lifetime if he had been perfectly healthy. To do them after being at death’s door is insane.

But he never would have done them without the cancer first, according to Armstrong himself.

He was obviously a talented young rider, but much too bulky and more of a sprinter/tough-man rider before his cancer treatment. He won the 1993 World Road Championship and had some pretty important successes in the Spring Classics, but he had trouble finishing let alone winning anything like Le Grande Boucle.

Chemotherapy thinned him down, allowed him to reform his body in the shape of a Grand Tour rider, and also changed him mentally. Before, he was seen (probably rightly so) as cocky, arrogant, and not very disciplined. Eddy Merckx has shared stories of seeing him sharing a beer with his mother the evening before a World Series race; I doubt he’s knocking back too many bottles of champaign in between Tour stages now.