Many cancer survivors continue to express appreciation for the work
of cyclist Lance Armstrong and the foundation he created, Livestrong,
even as he announced Wednesday that he was stepping down as the group's
Armstrong said in a statement that he was stepping down
to avoid distracting from the foundation's work, which he credited with
helping to "spur a cultural shift in how the world views cancer
survivors. This organization, its mission and its supporters are
incredibly dear to my heart."
MORE: Lance Armstrong stepping down as chairman of Livestrong
Many Livestrong supporters say they have mixed emotions about Armstrong.
"I am sad about the whole thing, because it puts a shadow on the fine
work he did with Livestrong," says lymphoma survivor Jen Singer, 45, of
As a mother, Singer says she's not sure how to
talk to her children about the doping charges against Armstrong, or the
charge that he lied about using performance-enhancing drugs for years.
Yet Singer says she will continue to wear Livestrong's signature yellow
bracelets, which her friends wore for her while she was in the hospital.
Livestrong, which is celebrating its 15th anniversary this month with a
star-studded gala -- guests include Sean Penn, Robin Williams and Maria
Shriver -- has helped 2.5 million people over the years and raised
nearly $500 million. In a statement Wednesday, Armstrong says vice
chairman Jeff Garvey will take over as chairman.
Many cancer survivors praise the leadership of Doug Ulman, Livestrong's president and CEO.
Rose, who was uninsured when he was diagnosed with advanced melanoma
three years ago, says he owes his health to Livestrong.
foundation is not all about Lance," says Rose, 34, who says Livestrong's
cancer navigation program helped him get health insurance. "It gives me
a feeling of security knowing the foundation is there. It's
overwhelming trying to do it all on your own. Having a resource like
that is priceless."
Livestrong also helped arrange free flights
to a Houston hospital for Rose, who works half the year as a
minor-league baseball coach in Wichita, Kan. Livestrong helped Rose with
fertility counseling and sperm banking, so that he and his wife can try
to have children one day.
Livestrong intervened when Rose's insurance company refused to allow
him to join a clinical trial. The insurance company reversed its
decision and is now covering the cost of the trial, which involves
cutting-edge but experimental immune therapy, Rose says.
The treatment seems to be working, Rose says.
"It's literally giving a guy like me a chance to walk away from this
disease," says Rose, who appeared in a video for Livestrong. "I just
know that when I need it, the foundation will be there."
Breast cancer survivor Lani Horn says she still admires Armstrong's public work, even if the doping allegations are true.
So does cancer survivor and Livestrong volunteer Rebecca Esparza, who
says she will continue to volunteer for the group, and refer other
patients there for help. Esparza says it was Livestrong's support for
Planned Parenthood, however, not Armstrong's doping charges, that made
her stop raising money for the foundation.
"It doesn't matter to
me if he's guilty or not. He's done more to change the face of cancer
than anyone else, ever," says Esparza, of Corpus Christi, Texas.
"Livestrong was the first organization I heard of that coined the phrase
'young adult survivor,' which I was in 2001, when I was diagnosed at
age 30 with ovarian cancer. Livestrong made other cancer organizations
sit up and take notice, revamp and refocus the way they looked at cancer
survivorship as a whole."
"Many great heroes are flawed," says
Horne, 41, of Nashville. "We may all come to believe that Lance's
competitive edge and desire to do the improbable went awry in this
instance. However, it was exactly those qualities that helped him think
so big and bold with Livestrong."
Beyond raising money, Singer
credits Armstrong with championing the issue of cancer "survivorship,"
or the needs of patients after finishing treatment. Armstrong, who has
served on the President's Cancer Panel, has helped raise the profile of
survivors' long-term needs, from financial issues and employment to the
"late effects" of toxic cancer therapies, which can cause heart failure,
infertility and even second cancers.
"It's heartbreaking, but
everybody is human," Singer says. "The cancer community will be forever
indebted to him for what he has done for us."