Fight against cancer drives bracelet trend

Lance Armstrong’s wristbands bear the Live Strong slogan.
Tuesday, August 10, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 11:46 p.m. CDT, Sunday, July 20, 2008

While Lance Armstrong was winning his sixth Tour de France title in July, he was also winning over supporters in the fight against cancer and creating a fashion trend at the same time.

The simple yellow bracelets bearing Armstrong’s mantra, “Live Strong,” have been seen on the wrists of politicians and celebrities, including President Bush and John Kerry.

“We didn’t know what to expect,” said Michelle Milford, public relations manager of the Lance Armstrong Foundation in Austin, Texas. “We are thrilled that the wristbands are so popular and gratified that we have support from a wide range of people.”

Eight million of the $1 bracelets created by Nike and the Armstrong foundation have been sold worldwide. That surpasses the foundation’s initial money-raising goal of $6 million. All of the money raised will go to support LAF programs that help “young people with cancer live strong,” Milford said.

“Young adults, in particular, are the least understood and most underserved population among people with cancer,” she said.

Armstrong, 32, was diagnosed with testicular cancer in 1996, and it spread to his lungs and brain. Although 77 percent of all cancers are diagnosed in people age 55 and older, testicular cancer is the most common type of cancer in men ages 15-35, according to the Lance Armstrong Foundation and the American Cancer Society Web sites.

Local Columbia sporting goods stores — including Champs, Kids Foot Locker and Walt’s Bicycle Shop — sold out of the bracelets within days of receiving them.

“We noticed that after the Tour de France started they became very popular,” said Megan Otto, assistant manager for Kids Foot Locker. “They were gone within a day.”

Otto, 22, said she and many of her friends sport the Live Strong bracelets. “I think they are becoming a fashion statement with the college age, but it supports an awesome cause and 100 percent of the proceeds go to the foundation,” she said.

Though celebrities such as actresses Lindsay Lohan and Angelina Jolie have added to the trendiness of wearing the bracelets, people with cancer say they stand for much more than that.

“I started getting mild headaches the last eight weeks of school,” said 22-year-old Jason Brightfield, who just graduated from MU. “On the last day of classes I got the worst headache of my life. I couldn’t even stand up because my head hurt so bad.”

By the end of May, Brightfield was preparing for surgery on a brain tumor.

“It took eight hours — they removed the entire tumor — but I don’t remember any of it past the anesthesia when I said bye to my parents,” he says. “I woke up in the ICU that night in the most severe pain of my life.”

Although the surgery successfully removed the entire tumor, it was found to be malignant. Brightfield is undergoing radiation treatments and will begin chemotherapy in mid-September. He said he was lucky that the type of tumor he had is one of the most treatable.

Brightfield said he wears the Live Strong bracelet. He is in the “young person” age group being primarily supported by the Live Strong campaign. He bought many bracelets to give to his friends and family so they could show their support for him.

“I think it’s a great campaign,” Brightfield said. “An inexpensive way to show support for people you know with the disease and a great way to keep it top of mind: on your wrist.”

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