Maria Mercader is a CBS News producer and a cancer survivor.
The Lance Armstrong story saddens me.
His story saddens me not because he doped and because he lied. I'm sad because Lance had to win at all costs: He wanted to be a champion. I do not understand. Isn't beating metastatic cancer enough of a win?
I feel duped.
I connected with Lance. We were both told that we had cancer two days apart on an October day in 1996. Though we had different diagnoses, we had the same chemotherapy regimen: ifosfomide, etoposide and cisplatin, powerful and exhausting medicines.
We both had surgeries. They were in different parts of our bodies, but invasive nonetheless. The treatment was tough, but I did it and so did Lance. Then he went on to win the Tour de France! It was amazing.}
On top of that, Lance started an organization called Livestrong that raised money and awareness for cancer survivors. That was fantastic! Then he won the Tour another six times. It was awe-inspiring! Lance was someone to look up to. Lance looked like a champion.
In 2004, I produced a piece about cancer survivorship for CBS News Sunday Morning. Martha Teichner was the reporter. We landed an interview with Lance, and that was a big deal. It was not about sports. The interview was strictly on cancer, survivorship issues and Livestrong. He was knowledgeable and affable. He knew his stuff. I was impressed.
For two years in a row, I volunteered for the organization. Livestrong was a word to live by. Then, the allegations started coming. I heard them, but Lance said they were untrue and unfair. He said that his competitors were out to get him, and I believed that.
After chemotherapy, how could Lance put another chemical in his body? That would be insane.
But as time passed, the shadow of the dark side seemed to be getting darker. I heard the controversy, and I watched the interviews in shock and disbelief. I did not want to believe it.
But when the evidence presented itself, I woke up from the fantasy. The truth has come out, and I'm sad. But, I have learned a valuable lesson.
Cancer survivors do not need Lance Armstrong. They only need themselves to look in the mirror and applaud themselves for getting through the treatment and winning all the victories, big and small.
My disappointment with Lance has dissipated because I feel camaraderie with other survivors who did not win the Tour de France. They are the survivors who live their lives with grace, joy, honesty and authenticity. These are values that I cherish, and that is enough.
My hope is that one day Lance will realize that, and then he will be a champion. For real.