The Times West Virginian

April 1, 2013

Cancer doesn’t keep Stottlemires from riding their motorcycle

By Emily Gallagher
Times West Virginian

MONONGAH — For two Monongah residents, nothing has kept them from doing what they love to do.

Not even cancer.

Gary and Donna Stottlemire are both cancer survivors, and one way they dealt with the illness was by riding their motorcycle.

“Riding would take the stress away,” Gary said.

Gary, who is also a Vietnam veteran, was the first of the two to be diagnosed with cancer when he was diagnosed with lung cancer. Because of that, he retired from his job as a truck driver.

But that didn’t hold them back from riding.

“I think about it every now and then when we’re riding, and before I had my surgery I didn’t know how it was going to turn out,” he said. “Once I got all fixed up from that, (Donna) gets breast cancer.”

Donna said because her husband had surgery in the month of October, he didn’t have to miss out on riding their motorcycle in the spring and summer. When she was diagnosed with breast cancer, she didn’t have to miss out either.

“Mine was minor. It wasn’t that big of a deal,” she said. “But we didn’t let that stop us. We kept riding. We’re both very lucky.”

When the two were younger they rode their motorcycle all the time, but when they had kids they gave up riding on the open road. Now that both of them are retired, the world is their playground.

“Basically we just run around with our friends,” Donna said. “And we see our grandchildren whenever we can, except on weekends during the summer — they know where we’ll be, out running around.”

In 2004, the two bought a new Yamaha motorcycle. Donna was hesitant at first because of the expenses, but Gary said she quickly got over that.

“Now she’s the one asking to go for a ride all the time,” he said.

Last summer, they got a new Harley-Davidson motorcycle and Gary has given it his own touch.

“I tricked it out,” he said. “I put a lot of chrome on it and got some of it repainted.”

Donna likes the bike because it’s comfortable.

“I can take naps and do my nails,” she said. “I like this bike a lot. It’s really nice.”

At first, Donna and Gary rode by themselves, but over the years they’ve picked up a few riding friends.

“We ride sometimes with our friends because they all work, and sometimes we’ll go by ourselves,” Donna said.

“Sometimes there will be four or five couples and we’ll make plans to go and just take off,” Gary said.

But they don’t have to be riding their motorcycles to hang out with each other. Every Friday night the couples meet for dinner to catch up with each other.

“At first we thought we’d ride in the summer and then not see each other in the winter,” Donna said. “We thought that was silly, so now we meet up every Friday.”

Depending on the weekend, Donna and Gary ride with their friends or by themselves. Either way, they enjoy the feeling of being on the bike.

Donna said since they started riding again they have seen more of West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Ohio than ever. Sometimes the two take trips and don’t return for a few days just because they can.

“All I have to do is send my daughter a text (message) because she would have a fit if she didn’t know where we were,” Donna said. “Sometimes we might leave one morning and come back a few days later, whatever we decide to do.”

Washington, D.C., is one of their favorite places to drive, especially for Gary.

“D.C. is my place to go,” he said. “We never go back to the same place. We’ve seen all the memorials so this year we’re going to start hitting the Smithsonian museums.”

Spring and summer plans have already been made for trips to places like Summersville and D.C. Bigger plans in the years to come are in the works, including a trip to Sturgis, a motorcycle rally in South Dakota.

“Us and another couple might go,” Gary said. “It’s 1,600 miles so we might ride between 300 and 400 miles a day.”

Donna said when they plan longer trips they have to take weather into consideration.

“There’s nothing worse than riding in the rain,” she said. “It just beats you up and you have to worry about the bike sliding out from under you.”

Over the years of riding, Donna and Gary have met many people, and they say they have friends in several places.

“We don’t really know them too well, but we know them when we see them,” Gary said.

When the two aren’t riding their motorcycle, they stay just as busy in the community. They’re involved with the PACE Project, Relay for Life and will participate in the Marion County Cleanup on Saturday.

“It gives us something to do,” Donna said. “We have time now to get involved with the community.”

Email Emily Gallagher at egallagher@timeswv.com or follow her on Twitter @EGallagherTWV.