Monday, May 10, 2010

Live Strong

My father was diagnosed with cancer three and a half years ago. He had stage three malignant melanoma, a very aggressive form of skin cancer that ended up with the amputation of one of his toes. Luckily, it had not spread into his internal organs, and now, after a series of stem cell treatments and chemotherapy, he is as strong as he can be and thriving. Through the help of excellent doctors, supportive friends, our family and most of all my mother, he still lives to tell an extraordinary tale of how best to deal with this deadly disease. His secret lies in his unwavering will to live and not allowing the cancer to take any part of his life. He never went around calling people to tell of his sad fate. Though afraid, he never gave the disease any acknowledgment or importance, never allowed it to dictate how he spent his days. In the three and a half years since he was diagnosed, he has traveled to around four different countries, never lost a single strand of hair, and did not take any leave of absence from work, except when he needed to have surgery. 

I think if he ever met Lance Armstrong, they will find that they have a lot in common. They both turned to unwavering strength and faith, and remarkable drive and determination as the most powerful weapons against this disease. My dad who is an architect, continued to create buildings all throughout his treatments. Lance Armstrong, in February 2009, completed renovations on a former warehouse turned into the new headquarters of his LIVESTRONG Foundation.

Sometimes if you are lucky to survive, cancer creates a wholly new person in you. My dad emerged with renewed energy and appreciation for life and many agree that Lance Armstrong emerged an even better person and athlete because of his cancer. The powerful sprinter who was comparatively weak in the mountains returned after the cancer to dominate the steep climbs that separate the winners from the losers in the Tour de France. The cancer spared Armstrong's preternatural lung capacity and his piston-like thighs, but took 15 pounds of muscle off his upper body — a combination which made him unbeatable in the mountains.

His Livestrong Foundation is dedicated to helping people battling the disease The highlight of their philosophy lies in the words 'Livestrong' itself, which is to find ways to improve the experience, the journey and the battle that people with cancer go through, using an attitude-based approach.
The Livestrong Headquarters at night. Photo credit: Bommarito Group

On to buildings. The LIVESTRONG Foundation has a new headquarters in Austin, Texas. It is a beautiful, LEED certified building, dedicated to non-profit organizations in Austin. The sustainable design by San-Antonio based architectural firm Lake+Flato, features great reuse of existing materials, including the building's foundation, most of the original structure and the repurposed floor and ceiling wood. Its innovative design, which reused or recycled 95% of the building’s original materials, earned the facility a gold-rated LEED certification. The building was originally built in 1952 to store paper products, was discovered by Lance on one of his bike rides. Now, the 30,000 square-foot former warehouse is now committed to making a lasting imprint in the lives of people fighting cancer, with nary a carbon footprint.

Wood and glass create airy, open spaces that flow in each other to inspire youthful energy and upward thinking. Armstrong also believes in having a sense of egalitarian commonality, so there are no private offices in the building, not even for him. Instead, a loftlike atmosphere pervades, with rooms that are open and collaborative, with total visibility and transparency, great for sharing of ideas. Natural lighting enters the rooms just as easily as the outdoor scenery beyond.

Photos: Above, the media room. Below, lobby. Photo credit.

The LIVESTRONG Foundation Headquarters is located at 2201 E. 6th St. Austin, Texas.
Visit their site at

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