Web Exclusive: An Amazing Journey with Remarkable Women

Breast cancer survivor and editor-at-large Kathy LaTour's daily diary from the 2008 Amazon Heart Thunder motorcycle ride. 

A breast cancer diagnosis at age 37 has a few positives, one of which is tending to not put off the things you said you would do before you die. So to celebrate making it to my 50s I decided to get a motorcycle license.  

My older brother Ed (Skeeter to me and my siblings), always rode a motorcycle. If I wanted to go somewhere while a young teen, it was on the back of his bike. I remember wishing I had my own, but back then nice girls didn’t ride motorcycles. My mother worried every time he left the house on his bike, but he made it through college with few mishaps. Ironically, Skeeter died in 1972 while co-piloting a helicopter in his last days of Naval Aviator training. A friend sold his motorcycle in Florida where he was stationed, and I never saw it again.

So, it was with many happy flashbacks, and the feeling that I would never ride alone that I got my motorcycle license in 2002—and then bought my bike, a 2000 Yamaha V Star named Suzie— really, her name is painted on the bike. Since my first ride was a fundraiser for Susan G. Komen for the Cure, I thought that was very appropriate.

I know what you’re thinking: “She survived breast cancer and she rides a motorcycle?” My answer: “I ride a motorcycle because I survived breast cancer—getting the message early that life is to be lived.” I ride carefully, like everyone is trying to kill me, and I don’t ride in Dallas traffic if I can help it.

The Amazon Heart ride looked like just the kind of ride I love. Ride, eat, form community, and meet amazing women. I was the oldest rider at 59 and the farthest out from my cancer diagnosis at 22 years, and I planned to enjoy the ride and write a story about a different kind of healing without getting too emotionally involved. It was an impossible wish at the start. How do you get to know people like Megan, Meredith, Michele, Stacy, Alyssa, Blue (Lisa), Marie, Gail, Ginny, Colette, Nancy, Wendy, Andy, Karen, Beth, Anna, Jan, Wanda, and Lisa and not care about every moment of their lives. Come along and meet my sisters. 

As soon as I arrived at the hotel, I started meeting women from the ride. It was easy to spot us since we were all carrying motorcycle helmets. We met officially that evening when Meredith, one of the founders of the organization, took out a beautiful hand-carved talking stick made by an Aboriginal friend of hers and gave it to the first woman, explaining that the one holding the talking stick has the floor. As it went around the room we heard from each woman. Of the 19, two are from England, three from Australia, and the rest from eight different U.S. states. We raised more than $40,000 total. Two of the riders have metastatic breast cancer and two, Michele and Colette, learned to ride to take part.  

Today we met our ride group—the five bikers that stay together at all costs. We also met our bikes. I say “met” because it’s the only way to describe all of us standing around a parking lot waiting for her bike to roll off the trailer. 

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