Armstrong remains hero to cyclist who has his own battle with cancer

Armstrong remains hero to cyclist who has his own battle with cancer

By Doug Fernandes

Tony McEachern and friend Kink Crowley's have a little fun with ice cold water bottles after completing the third annual Cycle of Life race, a two-day, 200 mile cycling event on Oct. 14.

PHOTO / CARLA VAARISCO-WILLIAMS

Tony McEachern and friend Kink Crowley’s have a little fun with ice cold water bottles after completing the third annual Cycle of Life race, a two-day, 200 mile cycling event on Oct. 14.
PHOTO / CARLA VAARISCO-WILLIAMS

SARASOTANot everyone possesses the urge to shove Lance Armstrong’s face into the spokes of a spinning bicycle wheel.

Not everyone wants the pariah label hung on the disgraced American cyclist for a widespread practice that turned his sport into a mobile juice bar.

Tony McEachern, a man who shares with Armstrong more than most, is one of these people.

The 42-year-old Sarasotan has become a fixture in the local cycling community since moving here in 1998. A couple of years ago, McEachern organized a world championship race in Vietnam.

“I’m known for that,” he said, “and being diagnosed.”

McEachern’s other connection with Armstrong.

It happened on a bike ride back from Longboat Key — McEachern suffered a full seizure. A subsequent hospital visit revealed a lemon-size tumor on the right side of his brain.

He underwent two surgeries locally, and when the tumor returned, two more at the Duke University Hospital, followed by an experimental treatment program in which radioactive isotopes were injected into the tumor cavity.

Next came the chemo, four years of it. For the final two, McEachern received his medicine from Duke via FedEx.

“At one point, I said, ‘I just got to get through this,’ ” he said. “So I put my head down and got through it.”

For five years, he’s been free of any cancer evidence, though it left its calling card. Hair doesn’t grow on the right side of McEachern’s head.

“Every day I have no internal compass,’‘ he said. “I know Starbucks is downtown. I don’t think I could find it though.”

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