Seven-time Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong was not alone on his bicycle during a recent ride in California.
Armstrong had the name of nurse LaTrice Vaughn, RN, whose last name was Haney when Armstrong knew her, in black letters on a yellow background on his bike.
Vaughn was Armstrongs nurse at Indiana Universitys Simon Cancer Center during his battle with testicular cancer, which had spread to his lungs and brain, according to the cyclists biography on lance armstrong.com.
LaTrice got me through some tough days and was always so encouraging when she knew I was having a rough time, Armstrong said in a statement. Looking back, I cannot imagine going through those treatments without her.I have often referred to Latrice as my angel when I was at IU getting treated. The nurses are the ones on the front line dealing with everything day to day.
The Amgen Tour of California in May was part of the I RIDE FOR campaign in which Armstrongs bike featured the name of a different honoree in each of the eight stages. Vaughn was the only non-cancer survivor honored during the race, says Doug Ulman, president and CEO of LIVESTRONG, the organization Armstrong established after his diagnosis.
It was important for Armstrong to honor Vaughn during the ride because she was one of the inspirations for forming the LIVESTRONG organization, formerly known as the Lance Armstrong Foundation. Armstrongs first impression of Vaughn was that she looked like just another efficient, clipboard-and-syringe-wielding nurse in a starched outfit, according to his book, Its Not About the Bike: My Journey Back to Life. But the nurse and patient became friends when she started asking about his cycling career and family, Ulman said.
Her compassion and desire to really get to know Lance as a person helped take his mind off the disease, he said. LaTrice was really the one who saw him when he was at his lowest points, when he was really struggling mentally and physically and not sure what the future was going to hold. She was one of those lights in his life that provided a lot of information and hope and inspiration.
Vaughn also introduced the cyclist to other cancer patients, Ulman said.
It was then that he truly began to grasp the magnitude of cancer, Ulman said. He got really angry and became interested in fighting cancer, not just his own, but cancer in general. He knew that he needed to use his experience to help others, which was how the idea for LIVE-STRONG began.
True Unsung Heroes
Nurses play a unique role in treating cancer patients, said Ulman, a three-time cancer survivor.
The nurses are the ones on the front line dealing with everything day to day, Armstrong said.
Doctors often receive credit for treating cancer patients, but frequently nurses are the true unsung heroes, Ulman said.
Most cancer survivors, myself included, find it is the nurses who help them through the toughest times of treatment, Ulman said. Patients spend most of their time with nurses, who are there to answer questions, in some cases deliver test results and many times deliver medicine and care.