I wore a certain yellow bracelet off and on throughout my cancer treatment’s five months. It made me feel connected to other cancer survivors, to a healthy recovery that I was hoping for, and to the perseverance of a particular high level athlete who had recovered from a devastating cancer diagnosis.
I think that the yellow bracelet phenomenon helped me accept myself as a cancer survivor without shame or apology. I think it helped me feel hopeful and, yes, stronger. It helped me see past the pain, fear, and bewilderment of cancer treatment to the days when I might reach a mountain summit or a race’s finish line again. I saw the yellow bracelet as a symbol of that hope.
Now, the little yellow bracelet’s many fans are suffering from, at least, some confusion as Lance’s reputation takes a few more knocks.
I’ve decided, for myself, that the yellow bracelet and Livestrong’s global message is so much greater than any one person now. It’s an undefeatable message of strength, hope and courage.
Last fall, 2010, I went to a so-called “Twitter Ride” near my hometown in Vermont, when Lance Armstrong was coming through town. I wore my Livestrong t-shirt and my bracelet. Lance was running a bit late, and those of us waiting around had time to chat. In the crowd of hard-core bicyclists in various team kits, I looked less like a cyclist and more like a cancer survivor. People inquired, politely, was I cancer survivor? I got a lot of heartfelt congratulations and “way to go” comments from strangers. I felt like I was special. I was proud of being a healthy cancer survivor, a part of a tribe.
I owe my willingness to be a public cancer survivor, in large part, to the way that Livestrong has changed the public’s mind about what being a cancer survivor can be. I’m grateful for that. Years ago, a woman with my type of cancer history would have done her best to keep it secret. Now, I can be public, write a book to help others, and wear my Livestrong kit with pride.
Let’s try this: Keep believing in the power of individuals to overcome cancer diagnoses; keep believing in reaching towards a full recovery for as long as you can with as much courage as you can; keep being proud to be yourself, no matter if you are bald, tired, weary or frightened.
I believe in the collective power of the cancer survivor community. We must all help each other get through cancer, and then we must work towards ending cancer. My little yellow bracelet still represents all that to me. I hope it does to you, too.
We are lucky that we have that yellow band as a worldwide symbol. Stay strong.