Book review: It’s Not About the Bike: My Journey Back to Life by Lance Armstrong

While reading through Heft on Wheels a few weeks back I made some mental notes, mainly of the the authors remarks about how he read in Lance Armstrong‘s book, It’s Not About the Bike and was inspired to climb Beech Mountain in North Carolina.  Mike did it to prove something to himself, but I was curious why it had inspired him, so I ordered a copy of the book and read it over about a weeks time.

Wow.  That’s about all I have to say.  The book is as the title suggests, it’s a story about a cocky kid who was dealt a few bad cards in life and rides his bike to get away from the troubles he has.  Only, it’s not about the bike or riding at all.  Sure this book has a few paragraphs in a chapter here and there about the technical aspects of riding and why Lance rides and all that stuff, but it’s much deeper than that.

Having known little about Lance Armstrong prior to reading this book, other than he’s won the Tour de France 7 times and a slew of other races, has had one nut cut off, used to date a few celebrities and started the Livestrong movement making it fashionable to wear a yellow rubber wristband, I knew very little about who he really was.  His book reads more like a confession, about riding too hard and too fast, racing one day and literally having surgery to remove cancer the next day and his intense physical pains while going through chemotherapy treatments.  Lance also goes into great detail about the emotional bonds between his friends, being stabbed in the back by some sponsors and still fully embraced by others.

It’s an inspiration to say the least and makes it easy to identify what it must be like to live with cancer, from both a first person point of view and through the eyes of his family.  Nothing is left untouched, even the conception of Armstrong’s first child had details most would never dream of sharing.

For cycling fans, there are some really good passages about how Lance gets spanked early on in his riding career, then post-cancer training through Europe and how he prepared himself for winning his first Tour.  While all this is going on, he confesses his emotional sins about not wanting to race, to drink beer and play golf and work whatever crap job he can just to feed those habits.

Cycling fan or not, this is a book worth reading, if nothing more than to see the struggle that Armstrong has survived through and now thrives from.  Having read this, I feel a bit more proud to support his cause in the 2009 Philadelphia Livestrong Challenge.

As a side note, Amazon has this book used for as little as $4 shipped, click here to order one.

Ten Inches

On December 23, 2008, I lost 10 inches of myself.

Three years ago, my doctor diagnosed me with HPV.  I felt dirty, ruined.  That was before I learned that the disease affects over 20 million people in the U.S. alone.  In fact, 50% of sexually active people will contract HPV sometime in their life.

My form of HPV doesn’t lead to gential warts (SWEET!).  But, of course, I have the kind that gives you cancer.  The CDC classifies me as one of the 10% of women who “will develop long-lasting HPV infections that put them at risk for cervical cancer.”  That part sucks.

Luckily, my cancer scare was short-lived and treatable.  I had outpatient surgery to remove pre-cancerous cells from my cervix and get checked out about every two months to make sure that my cells aren’t mutating.  I thank my higher power every day that I got through that time relatively unscathed.  But I also pledged to try to make a difference for those who weren’t so lucky.

It seems silly, but I decided that donating my hair to Locks of Love could make a difference.  Over the next three years, I let my curly, thick hair grow down to my breasts.  It became my security blanket and my signature (as well as my scarf when it got cold).  People – sometimes random strangers – made comments about how gorgeous it was.  I felt confident, beautiful, and feminine.

But after three years, it was time (and finally long enough!) to let go.  I remembered my own fears and knew that they were nothing compared to those of a child dealing with a cancer diagnosis.  I decided to do it; the hair had to go.  I didn’t feel a sense of loss, but of freedom.  I felt like the last three years had been removed, like I had a new lease on life.  I also felt like someone else would get to experience freedom and beauty with a wig made from my hair.  There was no tax writeoffs, no public admiration, none of that.  I won’t even know who gets my hair.  I did something for myself and someone else and feel amazing.

If you fall into the qualifications for Locks of Love, I recommend donating.  If not for yourself, then just for helping someone else.  Hopefully, I’ll never need a wig and will be able to keep my own health issues at bay.  For now, I have a huge weight off my shoulders and I’ve never felt more free.

2009 Calendar For A Cause to help fight Autism

My friend and fellow photographer Jeffrey has put together a series of 12 amazing photographs for a 2009 calendar.  This calendar is much more that just some pretty images to look at hung on your wall though, Jeffrey and his wife have a son, Brandon, who suffers from Autism and Epilepsy.  Even with their medical insurance they are left with outragous medical expenses for his ongoing treatment and therapy, which is why Jeffrey has started selling beautiful, professionally made calendars that feature his photography.  All profits help pay for Brandon’s expenses.  Calendars are $15 for the first, $10 for each additional and may be purchased using a credit card with the button below.





Two months from the calendar:

All twelve months plus the cover:

Please support Brandon and his family buy purchasing several of these calendars featuring Jeffrey’s beautiful photography, they make great gifts!


You are what you eat

Think about it. You eat a French fry, it goes into your mouth (chew chew chew) and down into your stomach (plunk), works it’s way through your digestive track (refined carbs make you a little gassy?) and all of those Frenchy fried nutrients get taken out and put into your bloodstream, where it feeds all the organs, muscles and cells in your body. A French fry body!

I’ve wanted to write about this for a while, but haven’t known how to approach it. I didn’t want it to come out as a lecture or anything, like your mother telling you to eat your greens, but more of an inspirational piece. And so, hopefully this will motivate you to make better choices with your eating habits.

Every time you put food in your mouth, you have a chance to refuel yourself. Every morsel that you ingest is essentially a chance to recover your body and to improve your mind and its functions. Every time you eat junk food, you lose out on that instance to gift your body something good, something that will fuel you through the bumps along the road.

I’m talking healthy eating here, so let me be clear: this is not about dieting. It is about straight up, healthy body, get yourself on track, smart eating. If you are making the right choices for optimal health, you will whip your body and lifestyle into shape without even trying. Healthy eating will bring your body to its optimal capability, which is primarily where we should want to be and genetically how we look and feel our best. It is not healthy to want to look like a stick figure regalia of a Hilton descendant, although everyone’s body is different. Their money isn’t the only thing they have going for them, genetically the Hiltons and Richies have small frames, but we’ve all seen the tabloid pictures of them looking like walking skeletons. The point is to get to the best body for you.

For starters, check out the ADA website. The American Dietetic Association is the world’s largest organization of food and nutrition professionals, which includes doctors, dietitians, health instructors, etc. It is tried and true information on nutrition and diet whose foundation is research, education and advocacy. You can find articles about eating healthy on the run and figuring out which artificial sweetener is best, as well as the benefits of chewing gum. Who knew that Bubblicious could help manage weight and relieve stress?

The basics of nutrition come down to an appropriate balance of the major food groups. See here for a refresher course on the food pyramid. If you can truly make it a goal to hit all of the requirements in each food group, you are going to be so full that you won’t have any room for cheese fries (Ok I will always have room for cheese fries, but hopefully you catch my drift). If you are one of those that count McDonalds as your primary food group, start slow. Add a piece of fruit a day as a snack instead of chips, wean yourself off of M+Ms by adding 10 or 12 to a cup of yogurt instead of eating the whole bag, add veggies to your pizza. By filling yourself up with a few extra healthy choices each day, you’ll notice a reduction in cravings for high fat and sugary foods.

It’s not about being a nutrition nazi and eating tofu and spinach at every meal. While that may work for some, it isn’t realistic for most. Plus, food is one of life’s greatest pleasures. From personal experience, I know that if I deny myself something it only makes me want it more. Its ok to enjoy a little variety and moderation in your diet without killing all the excitement. You don’t need to pass up your chocolate chip cookies for carrot sticks, try having one cookie with a glass of low fat milk instead of eating the whole bag with a can of pepsi. Eight ounces of 1% milk has 8 grams of protein in it, combined with the moderate indulgence of a cookie it will leave you feeling full without the deprivation of living off of carrot sticks. Also, listening to your body is key. If you are hungry, eat something. It’s all about making the right choices.

Another great tip is to focus on eating real foods. Real foods are anything unprocessed, non-industrialized, and are fresh and seasonable. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel, choose natural foods that don’t have a paragraph of ingredients on their labels, or better yet choose food that doesn’t come with a label. If you need help with this one, please step into the fruit and veggie section of your local grocery store. Hopefully this won’t be a new experience for you. Even so, you don’t need to eat all fruits and veggies to eat real foods. Real cheese (gasp! sorry Velveeta), free range chicken and eggs, whole grains, juices made of 100% juice are great choices as well.

I could go on and on about this topic. Of course, I am not a nutritionist and only speaking from experience and my own knowledge with a little help from Google. Especially for those with high blood pressure, diabetes or heart disease, always consult a doctor before making any dietary changes.

When you eat crap, you feel like crap, and essentially you are crap. So start working on uncrapping yourself!

What are your healthy eating tips?

The Best of the Gold is at the Bottom of Barrels of Crap

Hanging out just under your stomach and snuggled next to your duodenum is your good old pancreas. The pancreas is pretty important; along with aiding digestion, it produces important hormones such as insulin that regulate blood sugar. Sadly, pancreatic cancer is one of the most deadly forms of cancer today, and is generally predisposed to men but can and does inflict over 33,000 Americans of all races and genders each year. Remission is very rare, as cancer of the pancreas kills the majority of people within 5 years of diagnosis. Most of the time it’s sooner. I’m sure many of us have heard the sad news that our beloved Patrick Swazye has been diagnosed (alright maybe not beloved but he’s dying and I’m embellishing), and perhaps some of us have heard of Randy Pausch due to his amazing and heartfelt Last Lecture. If not, here is your chance to learn about this wonderful father, teacher and human being. Read on.

Thanks to modern technology, Randy Pausch is spreading his message to millions, and it’s been totally unintentional. With a PhD in computer science, he has spent the majority of his exceptional career exploring and expanding the realms of virtual reality. He’s one of those people that make you wonder what crazy, intense, supremely intelligent river is feeding his thoughts. A professor at Carnegie Mellon, Randy has authored/co-authored 5 books and numerous articles, loves turkey sandwiches on white bread with mayo, and has 3 adorable young children and a lovely wife. It’s an otherwise picture perfect life aside from the 10ish ugly cancerous tumors on his liver and pancreas that are currently and rapidly killing him.

In September of 2007 with a prognosis of 4-6 months left to live, Randy participated in a lecture series at Carnegie Mellon about reaching childhood dreams. His childhood dreams, consisting of playing in the NFL, meeting Captain Kirk, writing for an encyclopedia (I promise you his dorkiness is the root of his charm), reaching zero gravity and being an imagineer have successfully and for the most part been achieved. Although he never reached NFL status, Randy says that he got more out of not accomplishing this than he ever would have in reaching it. He learned the power of enthusiasm, and that experience is what you get when you don’t get what you wanted in the first place. Randy speaks of the importance of the head fake throughout his lecture – lessons learned indirectly. When parents enroll their kids in something such as sports, most of the time it isn’t about becoming major league, its about learning hard work and team work. Its stuff like that in which the lecture is based upon.

Randy speaks about brick walls, how they are there for a reason, brick walls let us show our dedication and they only there to stop those that don’t want it bad enough. He talks about how there is always a villain, there will always be someone in our lives that will challenge us. He talks about people in his life that have inspired him, how one such person told him that people will always surprise and impress you, even if you are pissed off and angry at someone, you just haven’t given them enough time.

Another aspect that is important about this speech is that it isn’t only telling us how to reach our own dreams, it’s also about helping others achieve their dreams. Randy is doing just that, reaching out to everyone and sharing his moving and honest path to success. Help others. Loyalty is a two way street. Pay attention. Don’t bail. Show gratitude. Don’t complain, just work harder. Find the best in everyone. Be prepared. Never give up. It isn’t necessarily about monetary success either, although that evidently seems to follow. The words of wisdom that Randy passes on are priceless, and in the end of the speech he reveals that he’s really been head-faking us all. These words aren’t really a lesson on how to reach your dreams, they’re on how to live your life. Most importantly, Randy says that if you lead your life the right way, karma will take care of itself. The dreams will come to you. In a world where it seems everyone is out for himself, the most motivating words are coming from a dying man to all of our ears.

And now they can be read as well. Soon after the lecture was given, it was posted on the Internet. Through the glory of sites such as youtube, over 6 million people have since accessed and watched Randy Pausch’s talk, and counting. Word spread and soon enough he had a book deal, which was cranked out skillfully in less than a year as Randy is on borrowed time. Every day it seems there is a new test, a new regimen, a new treatment that extends his life by what could be days or weeks or months. Each second is precious, the book was written in just an hour a day as to not take any time away from Randy’s children, two of which might be too young to even remember their father. Of course, as he states in his lecture, the biggest head-fake may be that Randy hasn’t done any of this for us, it’s for his children. His three young kids who will grow up without their father and perhaps without even a memory of him. It is a life guide dedicated to them that the public is now being gifted, and we should all be so fortunate to experience it.

Please click on the following links:

Watch the Last Lecture on video, buy his book (I’m sure you can find it on half.com), and be inspired. Randy Pausch’s story is truly fascinating and the lecture is great, I promise you will not be bored and you may even laugh a few times.

You can read about Randy Pauch’s daily progress on his website here. Be sure to check out the link to his personal and touching update section. Interestingly enough, its not depressing. He is optimistic and strong and he is fighting.

For more information on pancreatic cancer research and education, please visit the Lustgarten foundation here.

How helpful are drug ads and commercials?

It seems that every other commercial on TV and one quarter of the ads in any given magazine are promoting some kind of prescription drugs. They vary from ones to help you get up, ones to help you put your head down at night, even ones to help reduce the burn and outbreak. In our society of information being everything, is this really helping us be more educated or simply putting more of a burden on doctors and the health industry? No doubt that the drug industry tends to be highly profitable and kick-backs to doctors for writing scripts is far from a secret, but does it really help anyone?

Personally, my trips to the doctor’s office for a prescription to help the common cold are getting less and less. Not only does it cost too much for the visit, the time spent with my family doctor has drastically been cut back, and I’ve been going to the same doctor for over 20 years now. I’m assuming that the pressures of turning more clients in a day, getting more scripts written and more money made for everyone is the reason, but is it helping us patients? With the internet being the way it is, television and magazine ads basically telling you the answers to every problem you may have, I’d imagine that some doctors simply open the door, ask the patient what they think they need prescribed, check a few things out and write the scrip. I’m lucky my doctor doesn’t do this, but I have no doubt other greedy doctors do.

For many years hard alcohol ads were banned from TV, and if I recall, tobacco ads were pulled a few years ago. They were pulled, from what I gather, in an interest to not influence youths and adults into bad habits. Prescription drug addiction is just as bad as being an alcoholic and I can easily see someone with an addictive personality being drawn into these ads, being told what their problems are and what a solution would be. I honestly think that marking a product that the end consumer cannot buy without first seeing a doctor should be eliminated as much as possible from media and marketing. It’s something you can’t go down to a corner store and buy [legally] and I’m willing to bet that someone has written a study somewhere to indicated a good number of people are being prescribed drugs that they either don’t need, are in the wrong quantity or are the wrong type, simply because the patient knows what the symptoms are before they step foot in the doctors office.

TV does not belong everywhere

I am the product of divorced parents, I was a latchkey kid, I grew up in the late 80s addicted to TV, it was my entire world. I love TV, in fact, I could spend weeks doing nothing but channel surfing. I am now an adult, I still love TV but I also really enjoy a lot more that life has to offer. TV is no longer a priority, however I do enjoy it, but it has a time and place.

That place is not at my dentists office. For serious. OK, the idea is cool, I like having a TV to watch when you clean my teeth over staring at the ceiling or into your pretty eyes. Great, OK, so maybe I do like the idea.

What I don’t like is when you, the dental hygienist stop cleaning my teeth because you are too interested in Good Morning America. Seriously, you get paid a lot of money to do your job and you do a very good one at that, I appreciate it, I pay my health insurance premiums so you can drive around in a BMW and I enjoy the extra luxury of being able to watch TV, but, it is for me, not you. You are paid to do your job, do it!

Anti Monkey Butt Powder helps when you have, well monkey butt

Big thanks to Keith for pointing out possibly one of the funniest products to be sold through Amazon that real people actually buy and use. Die-hard BMX riders swear that this stuff is top notch and they wouldn’t use anything else. What is this gloriously funny product? Anti Monkey Butt Powder is designed to help keep you dry, it is a legitimate product with some creative minds behind the brand name. From their own website,

Anti Monkey Butt Powder is specially formulated to absorb excess sweat and reduce frictional skin irritation.

If anyone uses this, please leave a comment. If you don’t use it, go buy a bottle and let me know how it works.

Breast cancer awareness month and the pink madness

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month and pink is the color associated with the entire month. Many blogs are changing their skins to pink, a lot of retail outlets change their ads to pink, all in an effort to help bring more awareness. There are hundreds of ways you can help, the link above will give you tons of resources, for my part I donating my time / talent to shoot the Women’s 5K Classic tomorrow morning, the photos will be available to be purchased as prints and those proceeds will go to the charity. Some of the photos may be used in a charity calendar sold next year as well. Everyone can give a little, time, talent and money to bring more awareness to the cause.

And courtesy of Nicole, here is a playful graphic on a serious topic.

breastcancerbca-penguin-banner.gif

Vitamins, Lycopene INCREASE Cancer Risk

I will freely admit that I am openly skeptic about the abilities of modern medicine. I have very little faith in the true abilities of doctors and rarely find the information from those in the medical profession of any true value. As I see it, they’ve read some books and are simply guessing. Yes, they can fix a broken bone, but insofar as illnesses are concerned, I find their diagnoses about as professional as the guy who guesses your weight at amusement parks.

Case in point, for a majority of the last decade, medical professionals and pharmaceutical companies have forced the benefits of multi-vitamins and lycopene down our throats (no pun intended). They constantly reminded us that lycopene was essential for men in the fight against prostate cancer.

Well, once again, medical professionals across the globe are retreating as fast as they can as new studies have shown that taking a multi-vitamin in excess of 7 times a week had nearly a 100% INCREASE in likelihood of developing prostate cancer. Furthermore, the studies showed that an increase in lycopene had no measurable impact on the development or suppression of the cancer.

So, what does this tell us?

  1. Doctors are, for the most part, sheep. They take what companies tell them and use it as fact.
  2. The pharmaceutical companies, though nothing new, will do whatever it takes to sell their product.
  3. Eating smart and exercising is still probably the top way to stay healthy…what a concept!

More Info: WebMD
More More Info: Healthcare Republic