Sports Business

NOTIONS: Dear Lance: How 'bout beyond-the-bike immortality?

July 11, 2005

Dear Lance:

I've got an idea. I thought you might noodle it during that 239-kilometer, Stage 17 ride from Pau to Revel. It might keep your mind off those flags people wave in your face.

By way of background, you and I have much in common. Like you, I'm a cancer survivor. As in your case, a physician from the Indiana University School of Medicine figured out how to treat mine after others had botched it. Like you, I ride a Trek. I just do it slower than you.

There are some differences, too. Unlike you (I hope), I genetically passed my cancer on to one of my twin sons. His name's Austin. He lost his left eye to this disease, as did I. Austin's 17 now. He'll be a junior in high school this year, and he's doing great.

Each July, Austin, his brother, Zach, and I have all watched you and your teammates on TV. We used to watch with my wife, Pam. She was your biggest fan-in our family, at least.

You and Pam had much in common, too. Her best friend, Bonnie DeSimone, is a sports journalist. She's covered all your tours. Pam loved reading Bonnie's dispatches and hearing her behind-thescenes reports from le Tour.

You and Pam also have cancer in common. Pam was diagnosed a few years ago. When they operated, they thought they got it all. Then, last February, it came back in her lymph system, her neck and both lungs. Like you, they tried to treat her in both Houston and Indianapolis. Like you, she turned to Dr. Larry Einhorn at IU.

But even our mutual friend Larry couldn't save Pam. She died in March.

While she was in chemotherapy, Pam read your book, "It's Not About the Bike." She took heart from what you said. And through all the rounds of chemotherapy and clinical trials, she sucked it up and rode on. From what I witnessed, there are literal Pyrenees and figurative ones. Pam pedaled the latter.

While Pam was in treatment, my brother bought us some of your LiveStrong bracelets. Pam wore hers till the day she died. I wear mine still. And I was wearing it the other day at a board meeting when that simple yellow band-and the things I was hearing-sparked the idea.

You see, as a cancer survivor, the father of a cancer survivor and the widower of a cancer victim, I got so pissed off (pardon my French) at this disease that I joined the IU Cancer Center Development Board. I figured other people deserve the same pioneering genetic research, the same personal treatment and the same never-lose-hope attitude you and Pam found at IU. While I can't ride a bike to raise money, I can sure tell stories. So that's what I'm doing on the board.

Anyway, we want to build a cancer hospital. We want to hire more researchers and lure more physicians like Dr. Einhorn. And I'm staring at this bracelet, and I'm awestruck by the millions you've raised from these things, and I'm listening to survivor stories, and I'm thinking that what you've done here could buy some brick-and-mortar, scientists-in-thelaboratory, disease-curing, life-saving immortality-not just a peloton of vitalbut-piecemeal grants.

So imagine you've won that seventh Tour de France, and you're taking a postretirement ride through Indianapolis with your kids, and you're showing them the place where you, the docs and the researchers joined forces to save that mighty body of yours and made all your subsequent victories possible.

And imagine you round a bend on the IUPUI campus, and there before you sits a bold yellow sign that says "LiveStrong Cancer Center at Indiana University."

And right behind that sign is one of the leading cancer centers in the world-a place known for pioneering the kinds of cures that saved you, and which would have saved Pam had there been places and professionals solving such problems much sooner.

Lance, whether you win six Tours or seven, you've achieved cycling immortality. But as you said, it's not about the bike.

So imagine what would happen if you invested, say, $50 million from the sale of those little wrist bands, and we match it with another $50 million locally, and the results at the LiveStrong Cancer Center grow to international renown and we raise hundreds of millions of dollars more in research grants decade after decade.

Well ... LiveStrong wouldn't just be much-copied fad wristbands with the lifespan of a mid-stage sprint. Instead, the LiveStrong Cancer Center would outlast you, and those kids pedaling behind you, and your grandkids who one day will pedal behind them.

In that race, it wouldn't be about the bike. It would be about life.

May I meet you at the starting line?



Hetrick is president and CEO of Hetrick Communications Inc., an Indianapolis-based public relations and marketing communications firm. His column appears weekly. To comment on this column, go to IBJ Forum at www.ibj.comor send e-mail to bhetrick@ibj.com.
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