The Tour de France dominates my July! I started watching The Tour in 2003 as I was recovering from my amputation. To be honest, I wasn't thrilled when the television was turned from Little House on the Prairie to a bunch of thin men in tights pedaling around France. I assumed that the television remote had been commandeered. I was in a lot of pain, and I was inmobile. I was a "captive audience."
I knew of Lance Armstrong. Being a cancer survivor, I was well aware of his struggle against the disease. I knew little of his cycling career other than he had one and was apparently pretty good.
That summer, as I was lying on the pull-out sofa recovering, I became transfixed. I quickly learned the intricacies of the sport. Team work, self-sacrifice, weather, endurance and machine all mingled to create a three-week race unlike any other in the world.
As I learned more about cycling, I became more informed about Lance Armstrong's story. He has accomplished more than merely survive a disease. By most accounts he should not be alive. The fact that he was pedaling over 100 miles a day, in heat and rain, and up some of the world's tallest mountains truly defied the confines of human nature.
He emerged from his disease stronger and more determined. The cancer angered him, and he fought not only to regain his life, but to surpass his own ambitions prior to the diagnosis. I felt a kinship. Lance overcame his cancer and thrived. I knew that I needed to overcome my amputation. Eventually, I would figure out a way to thrive.
When things became difficult during my recovery, I thought of Lance. I envisioned him on a stationary bike, weakened from chemotherapy but strengthened through his resolve to regain his career. On some level, I knew that if he could succeed, I could as well. I pushed through the pain and through the clouds of depression. "Bring it on" and "Livestrong" became my mantras.
Lance not only won that Tour, but also won a record seven. Many people do not realize the monumental feat he has achieved. Even sportscasters tend to minimize his accomplishment and joke about the sport of cycling.
I am riding the Tour this year with Lance. Every morning, I put on my cycling shorts and Livestrong shirt. I fill up my backpack with water, and I climb onto my bike. I set my trainer to approximate the terrain of the Tour for that day, and I ride.
Today cyclists in the peloton rode over 121 miles. I rode over 40. Robby loves to cheer me on, and his chants of "go Momma go" keep me motivated. When I first started watching the Tour, I was beaten down and I couldn't walk. Now I am running after a toddler and riding my own bike. I look back and I realize that I have exceeded my expectations for a happy life after an amputation. I may never wear the coveted yellow jersey, but I feel like a winner.