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Conquering the Obstacles

Aug 06, 2010 // Lady Riders //

When Karen Allen puts her mind to something, she doesn’t turn back. That trait has proven useful in her life, from parenting, to learning how to ride a motorcycle, and to conquering a cancer diagnosis.

Karen Allen learns to Ride Like a Cop

The Wenatchee, Washington mother was working and raising a family when she received news in June of 2008 that she had cancer.

“I was diagnosed with stage 4, follicular non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma,” Karen stated matter-of-factly. “Currently, there is no cure, but I can expect to live a long while and have remissions. The newest drugs work better, and there has been a recent shift to view this cancer more like a chronic disease that we can live with.”

Karen adopted a positive attitude from the beginning, telling people she wanted to “die living.” One way she started was to finally do what she’d been putting off for years: learn to ride.

“I don’t like to think of learning how to ride as a Bucket List thing, but I may not have learned without the influence of my diagnosis,” Karen admitted. “I took our local MSF course, and within a couple weeks, I was lucky to meet a female mentor, Flo Fuhr. She located my first bike, which happened to be in her hometown, Campbell River, British Columbia. I bought it and when I went to pick it up, Flo taught me techniques that can be applied to any motorcycle when doing slow, tight maneuvers.”

After purchasing the bike, Karen was unable to ride for several weeks. During that time, she said she lost confidence in her ability and was nervous to try again.

Thanks to the support of friends and her own determination, she got back in the saddle and signed up for a private lesson with the owner of Northwest Motorcycle School, Ed Melroy. After their session, Karen decided to take his 40-hour "Ride Like a Cop" class to continue her skill improvement.

Ride Like a Cop graduation certificate

“The course was fantastic, and I encourage anyone to take it regardless of his or her skill level,” Karen smiled. “It was an incredibly rich learning environment.”

Karen put those new skills to use this summer when she helped Flo Fuhr organize the Conga III, which raised money for breast cancer research in Canada and the United States. She’s learned that her situation has given her a unique platform to speak about cancer and riding:

“People are surprised a woman my age is just learning to ride, but when they hear I have cancer they look like they really start paying attention. At first, I was uncomfortable with the idea they thought I had something profound to say… but I think I’ve come to the point where I’m just being me when I suggest that we need to have something in our lives like motorcycles. Life is short. My motorcycle helps me have a lot of fun, and I can’t image anything else being so empowering!”

Karen Allen and the Conga Line III raise money and awareness for cancer research

The only thing more empowering is an example like Karen’s.