Bill Gifford's excellent examination into the uneasy relationship between Lance Armstrong and the Livestrong foundation, It's Not About the Lab Rats, is now live online here. One passage surprised me:
One unlikely “nav” beneficiary is cycling journalist Charles Pelkey, diagnosed last summer with male breast cancer. Pelkey has been a critic of Armstrong—“I don’t particularly like the man,” he says—but after he tweeted about his cancer, a Livestrong navigator contacted him to offer assistance. “There are really wonderful people who work there,” Pelkey says. “I respect everything they do.”
Andy Shen: I was surprised to see you in Bill Gifford's Livestrong article, and even more surprised to see that Livestrong had reached out to you and offered you assistance in dealing with your cancer. I have a feeling there's more to that story, care to clarify?
Charles Pelkey: Yeah, I was a little taken aback at how that appeared in the article. I am not saying that I was misquoted, but the article reflects a selective use of what I said. Yes, I said that I didn't particularly like Mr. Armstrong and, yes, I did say that I respect the work of the folks - particularly the volunteers - at the LAF. What's missing is the 15-minute rant that came in between those quotes.
First off, the reference to my Tweet about my cancer was to the comment I made a couple of hours I made after being laid-off by VeloNews. A little shaken up, I said - to my then small cadre of 65 or so followers - "A bit nervous. On top of everything, cancer surgery on Tuesday. All I ask, though, just don't buy me a @#$ing yellow rubberband."
Lance opted to retweet the thing to his million-billion followers and offered up "wow. stay classy charles." To which I responded "I will. I promise. Can you make the same commitment?" (Apparently, he couldn't. It's been radio silence since.)
Well, that thing went mini-viral in a way and I got more than my share of hate mail from the wristband crew. To his credit, LAF's Chris Brewer dropped me a note and said he was going to put me in touch with someone at LAF to help me through surgery, chemo and recovery. Indeed, I got a call from a really nice woman who offered to guide me through the process. For a lot of reasons, I turned her down. One, I didn't think it appropriate to be a long-time critic of Mr. Armstrong and then suddenly turn to him and the charity named after him for help when I got cancer.
Nonetheless, I said I respected the work of the group, its staff and, above all, those who selflessly volunteer their time.
I also noted that I had my suspicions about the organization, its funding and the way it spends its money. Again, I said that none of that should reflect on the staff or volunteers. Frankly, the organization has always made me suspicious. I don't like the way everyone's cancer has been "branded" with a variation of the guy's name (I am done with chemo and never did I "LiveStrong") and I was never all that sure that the funds being raised were being spent on fighting the disease from which many of us suffer. It's because of that, I turned down help from the LAF but I added that I had respect for the motivations and the work of those trying to help people fighting cancer.
Weird as it seems, my comments in the Outside article seem to suggest that I had some sort of epiphany and suddenly embraced Armstrong and the LAF the minute I got cancer. Not true.
Bottom line in my case, I got more support from NYVeloCity and its readers than from anywhere else. You guys came through in a million ways and I really regret that all of that - which I made clear to the reporter and to the fact checker who called last month - didn't get mentioned in the article.
It's kind of ironic, isn't it, that I am now bitching about how I was treated by a reporter, eh?
I have no real interest in having my cancer "branded" with a variant of LA's name or any interest in taking advantage of even the most heart-felt services offered by a group of devoted volunteers, who probably don't realize their charity is being exploited.
AS: The selective editing could have been, as you suggested, the work of his editors, who we know were put under tremendous pressure by the Armstrong people. And, to be fair, we're talking about just a few sentences in a very long and balanced article.
Having said that, I got the definite impression that you accepted help from Livestrong, and the casual reader would know nothing of Armstrong's testy tweet directed at you.
CP: I have no gripe with Bill Gifford. Indeed, what the fact checker read to me seemed to reflect the nature of our conversation. Somehow that changed from there to the print on the page. Yes, it does look like I accepted help from the LAF. Not that I have an objection to people taking help from any quarter, but in my case I just felt that it would have been the height of hypocrisy. I did not.
AS: Now that's out of the way let me congratulate you on landing at Red Kite Prayer with The Explainer, as well as finishing chemo!
CP: Sure, thank you. I was really pleased when Patrick offered me what was essentially the same deal as I was getting from Velo after my lay-off. Actually, since then I've increased my number of columns, so it's even better. Last week, John Wilcockson joined up with RKP and my ol' buddy, O'Grady, left Velo after 23 years.
I guess it's not exactly the same company I joined in 1994 and I just figure it's time to put that in the rear view mirror.
Now, as for chemo, yes! It's over. I was supposed to get weekly treatments through January 20, but just before Christmas, the oncologist found a dysrhythmia and it had her concerned enough to send me off for five hours of testing in the ER. After discussing the case with three other oncologists, she decided that the risks of further chemo outweighed the benefits. Hey, I'm cool with that.
She says the particular side-effect is rare, "less than one-percent of patients" on the drugs I was using. That means I am exceptionally rare, eh? I'm a dude with breast cancer (less than one percent of breast cancer cases) and I risked dying from a rare side-effect. I'm pretty much done being a statistical outlier. Enough already.