“A real cancer hero.” By Christie Aschwanden, The Last Word On Nothing

This month marks six years since Karen Hornbostel died. I’ve been thinking of her this week as the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency released 1,000 pages of evidence showing a vast doping conspiracy by Lance Armstrong and his entourage. The affidavits, emails, bank records and other documents paint a picture of Armstrong as a bully and a cheat. I wish Karen was around to discuss Armstrong’s downfall. She admired Lance, and in many ways, she modeled her cancer fight after his. In 2003, the Lance Armstrong Foundation (now Livestrong) awarded Karen its “Spirit of Survivorship” award. It was an honor she proudly accepted from Armstrong himself. Like him, she vowed never to yield to cancer, and indeed she fought it to her last breath.

There’s a popular narrative that has emerged about Armstrong — that he fought his cancer with everything he had, and his triumph over the disease exemplifies his bravery and heroism. But Lance Armstrong’s survival is not a testament to his personal character. He didn’t beat cancer because he fought it with all of his will. He didn’t beat cancer because he adopted the right attitude or fighting stance. He beat it because he was fortunate in his misfortune to have developed one of the most curable cancers known to medicine.

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