Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Book Review - It's Not About the Bike

I'll openly admit it, I am not a fan of Lance Armstrong. I respect what he's done in the sport of cycling. I respect his incredible recovery from cancer. I really respect what he's done through his foundation to advance cancer research and help cancer patients. However, if you asked me for my list of people I'd want to ride with, Lance Armstrong wouldn't be anywhere on it. Yet for some reason I felt oddly compelled to read his autobiography It's Not About the Bike: My Journey Back to Life. While my general opinion of him may not have changed, I did find a very compelling read that goes far beyond cycling.

Content wise, the book is a retelling of Armstrong's life from the day he was born through his second win at the Tour de France in 2000. He goes into great detail about his childhood and the strong bond formed between his mother and himself and recounts his ascent to prominence in the sport of cycling. All the biographical sketches are just a prelude to the heart of the book: Lance's cancer diagnosis, treatment, and recovery. These chapters are an incredibly honest and vivid description of his thoughts, feelings, and fears about the uncertainty of his life. This is the aspect of the book that makes it such as great read. In fact it's so compelling that the rest of book detailing his first two Tour de France victories ends up quite dull in comparison.

The instant Armstrong began describing the flu like fatigue and aches which were early symptoms of cancer, I found it very hard to stop turning pages. The graphic descriptions of his surgery and chemotherapy sessions made me feel as if I was in the hospital room suffering alongside him. The most impressive points of the book were his moments of self-realization. He goes to great lengths to address much more than the struggle between fighting and giving up, but also the mounting medical bills, maintaining an income, and returning to a normal life after cancer. There are far more challenges a cancer patient faces than just living or dying. Whether you are a cyclist or not, if your life has been affected by cancer or not, this book is something everyone can enjoy. Most importantly it's an incredibly thoughtful insight into one man's journey of survival.

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