“The Scariest Alphabet Letter Many Don’t Want To See,” an article I wrote in July 12, 2005…
Lance Armstrong owned a $1 million Texan home and a French villa with a ravishing blond girlfriend swimming in its pool. He pedaled home the World Championship crown; sprinted first to snatch Tour de France stage victories. He was such a European celebrity that he couldn’t walk down Paris without getting swarmed. He was the world’s No.1 cyclist.
Then it struck… Mary Anne Alcordo-Solomon couldn’t have enjoyed life better. With husband Tito, she spent lots of hours with her teeners Ma-ann, 18, and Mikey, 16. For eight years, she was one of the most active at the Rotary club, rising to the top spot as the district secretary. Back in the office, she owned and managed the billboard giant Alcordo Signs, one of the largest outside Manila.
Then it struck… It was Oct. 2, 1996. Lance was coasting along hills on a training lap when he’s forced off the bike in excruciating pain. He looks down. One of his testicles is swollen, much bigger than the other. He coughs up blood. “It might just be a common infection,” the doctor said. He’s relieved. But not for long. For after the X-rays, he’s asked to see the doctor. Privately. After clinic hours. Hmmm. Doctors don’t stick around after closing hours to give you good news.
It wasn’t. Cancer never is…
It was Sept. 1 last year. A beautiful sunshine awoke Me’anne. She felt a little itch on her right armpit. She scratched. Then in an instant: “I felt the lump in my right breast,” she recalled. The next day, she undergoes a battery of tests: mammogram, ultrasound, biopsy. After countless hours, she hoped to hear the good news.
It wasn’t. Cancer never is…
Lance’s 5-foot-11 frame, including his lungs and brain, had been feasted on by cancer cells. Doctors gave him a flip-of-the-coin chance to survive. In reality, it was 20 percent.
Me’anne had a radical mastectomy to determine the extent of the disease. If the results proved positive, she’d have Stage 3 cancer; if negative, Stage 1.
“On the day of Mama Mary’s birthday (Sept. 8) and after I had gone to novena, the result came out,” Me’anne says. “Negative. What a birthday! Mama Mary gave me her birthday gift instead.”
Fast forward today. For Lance, it’s been almost nine years. Today, we know that he’s not only alive and well—but has evolved into one of history’s greatest athletes.
The Big C is Cancer. The Bigger C is Champion.
With Me’anne, it’s been 10 months. “I finished my sixth and last chemo last February and my 30th and final radiation last April. Now I’m under medication and will have quarterly check ups this year,” she said. “I may have lost my hair, but I have not lost the spirit and drive to live each day to the fullest.”
The Big C is Cancer. The Bigger C is Courage.
“If you asked me to choose between winning the Tour de France and cancer,” Lance once said. “I would choose cancer. Odd as it sounds, I would rather have the title of cancer survivor than winner of the Tour, because of what it has done for me as a human being, a man, a son, and a father.”
He adds, “I don’t have any more bad days. I have good days and I have great days… If I have a tough week, all I have to do is sit back and reflect on what I went through, and look at my son, and things don’t bother me anymore.”
The Big C is Cancer. The Bigger C is Compassion.
“Pain is temporary. It may last a minutes, or an hour, or a day, or a year, but eventually it will subside and something else will take its place,” Lance says. “If I quit, it lasts forever.”
The Big C is Cancer. The Bigger C is Challenge.
Me’anne echoes the same words: “Like Lance, I don’t regret this chapter of my life where cancer is no longer an enemy but a friend… With the rollercoaster of emotions that I went through, I felt at peace when I accepted what I had and surrendered everything to the greatest physician and savior. When you discover you have cancer, you have a choice: You can prepare to die or you can prepare to live. I chose to live. I live not for myself but for my husband, my kids, my family, my friends, the cause, my fellow survivors and the beneficiaries of our Rotary projects.”
Here’s an inspiring message, “To See With The Heart,” that Me’anne loves to read…
Sometimes it takes cancer to wake us up to the wonders of the world around us. A blossoming flower. A sunny sky. Sometimes these are the only things our eyes look for and value as worthwhile. But there is so much more to life, so much more to enjoy, if we can learn to see with our hearts as well as our eyes. To be aware of each day, each experience, as a separate wonder of its own, to meet each challenge eagerly and grasp each moment with a sense of newness and discovery—this is what living is really all about.
Me’anne adds, “God has a purpose for each one of us and through my cancer I’m finding my purpose. We pray for everything but God does not give us anything, he gives only the best.”
The Big C is Cancer. The Biggest C is Christ.