American cyclist Amber Neben has been quietly racking up outstanding results in the European women's peloton. After coming second to Judith Arndt in the Thüringen Rundfahrt, she dominated the La Route de France Féminine, winning by more than one minute over Svetlana Bubnenkova. However, when the season ended, she received a shocking diagnosis of skin cancer. Cyclingnews' Laura Weislo talked to Neben about life before and after her brush with cancer.
The C-word. Cancer. It's something you never want to hear coming out of your doctor's mouth, even more so if you're at the peak of your physical condition and at the top of your career as a professional athlete. However, not everyone's fight is as dramatic as that of Lance Armstrong, and Amber Neben was one of those lucky ones who escaped with a relatively simple treatment.
Earlier in the year, Neben had noticed a mole on her back that seemed suspicious. Being red-haired and fair skinned, she knew she had to be on the lookout for signs of skin cancer, but thought it unusual that it might crop up on a spot that was always covered. "It was just a small mole, less than a centimetre in diameter, in the middle of my back. It was not in an area that I could easily see," Neben said from her one bedroom apartment in Irvine, California where she lives with husband Jason. "In fact, it was my husband who asked me what was on my back that brought my attention to it."
"From that point on, I watched it. The more I looked at it, the more I thought I should get in to get it checked out. I was worried, but not so worried to do it in the middle of my season. I waited until after World's, and went to the doctor as soon as I got home. Thankfully, I did."
After putting in another solid performance at the World Championships where she finished fourth in the time trial and at the back of the first chase group in the road race, Neben finally had a chance to see the doctor where the diagnosis was made - it was melanoma, the most dangerous form of skin cancer which can be hard to control if it spreads.
"It was surreal to hear," Neben said about the news. "As a healthy athlete, the last thing on my mind was a disease like cancer. Even though I knew skin cancer was a possibility because of what the mole looked like and the history of cancer in my family, it certainly wasn't expected."