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Book Review: It’s Not About the Bike

20 April 2008

It's not about the bike, my journey back to life

It’s Not About the Bike: My Journey Back to Life
by Lance Armstrong & Sally Jenkins

At the age of 24, Lance Armstrong was at the peak of his career. He was ranked the number one cyclist in the world. But a few months later, he was diagnosed with advanced cancer – tumours all over his body and brain. He underwent chemotherapy and surgery.

After a long and torturous battle, he survived. He resumed his training and went on to win the Tour De France seven consecutive times. This book chronicles his life as a young boy, a budding athlete, a cancer patient, survivor, world champion cyclist, husband and father.

I was a bit reluctant to read this book, firstly because I wasn’t an athlete and I wasn’t too fond of autobiographies (after I bought the book, I discovered it wasn’t written by him).

However I gave it a go, mainly because, like my husband, Lance was diagnosed with the same cancer, at the same age of 24. (My husband had cancer twice, in his 20s and again in his 30s).

Overall, the whole book completely floored me. It hit me close to home. His story is truly inspiring – to anyone, not only to men and athletes. It’s about living life with passion and courage. It’s about surviving and thriving.

It is written in a very straight-forward style. Short, strong sentences, with lots of punch. Which I liked. He explains very involved subjects like his childhood, chemotherapy, professional cycling – which has the potential to be very boring, if you’re not actually interested in any of those things – however the writer did well, and I didn’t find myself bored once.

It was fascinating to read another person’s detailed account of chemotherapy, and the way it destroys the body, mind and spirit. And then how that someone at his lowest point, picks up his pieces, moves forward, and then triumphs in such a spectacular way!

As I finished the book, yes, I was completely inspired and deeply moved by his story.

But I was also struck by two thoughts.

1) So many times in the book, he sounded arrogant, aggressive, controlling and extreme. I mentioned it to my husband, who wisely pointed out that it takes a certain kind of focus to win the Tour De France SEVEN TIMES.

2) I also realised that this book was written in 2000. Since then, he and his wonderful wife had two children, but their marriage failed, he got engaged to a singer/celebrity, which then also failed.

And these things just made me remember that, even though this guy survived the unimaginable and triumphed the unthinkable… he is still human.

He still has problems. Issues. Flaws.

He’s not a god. He’s just like you and me.

I highly recommend this book.