Learning to live strong

Armstrong fans wearing their hearts on their wrists

John Forgay wears a daily reminder of the struggles he's been through. Every time he looks at his wrist, he remembers.

Forgay overcame prostate cancer in 1998 and wears a yellow Live Strong wristband every day.

"I wear it because I'm a survivor. It just reminds me, No. 1, you're vulnerable," he said. "It reminds me every day that I've survived (cancer) and to keep going."

The wristbands were created as a fund-raiser for the Lance Armstrong Foundation, whose mission is to support cancer research and community awareness.

Armstrong, a six-time Tour de France bicycle race winner, battled testicular cancer and won. He's one of the most recognized athletes worldwide.

"He's continually done a lot for awareness of cancer and still is working at it," Forgay said.

Nike donated $1 million to the foundation and is leading the fund-raiser with a goal of an additional $5 million. The wristbands were released in May, and Craig Conrad was one of the first people to get one.

His son Colton got him one at a cross-country camp he attended, and Conrad has worn the bracelet every day since.

"Back when I was a kid, athletes were kind of revered," he said. "Nowadays I've become kind of disgusted with athletes ... but Lance Armstrong kind of represents what I think athletes should be."

Conrad has ridden his bike to the high school, where he is a woodshop teacher, each day for 23 years, so he has a connection with Armstrong. But that tradition started closer to Conrad's heart.

His best friend in high school was in an accident and would have been paralyzed if he had survived.

"I made a commitment to him to be his legs," Conrad said. "He never got to see how committed I was."

Brett Sperl also enjoys riding, and relates to Armstrong. He and his wife, Julie, rode in the 420-mile Bran bike ride across Nebraska this summer, and now they both wear the Live Strong bands. Looking at his band now reminds him to be more positive.

"That seems to be my new theme, to be happy all the time," Sperl said. "Sometimes I don't realize how much I have to be thankful for."

Forgay said he's thankful he survived his cancer, but he ignored his test results the first time they came back positive. Now he's an advocate for men to get tested before cancer spreads further.

"They have to get over that macho thing of getting the tests done," Forgay said.

Plus, he wears his wristband every day to remind others how important awareness and research are.

The bands cost $1 each and are available at www.wearyellow.com. They are sold in groups of 10 or more.

"I use it as a constant reminder that we're lucky to have what we have," Conrad said.

Michelle Perry can be reached at 824-7031 or mperry@craigdailypress.com.

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