Her Story. A series of blog posts telling the stories of 'women who ride' from all corners of the globe. We hope that by sharing these stories we can help encourage other women to build their confidence, learn from others and inspire others.
This month we have a story by Mercedes, 44, from Brisbane. She has battled cancer whilst bravely getting back on the bike and having the most amazing time doing it. Warning that this story is incredibly inspiring!
We hope you enjoy her story!
Hi, I’m Mercedes, I’m 44 years old and I live in Brisbane (Australia), though originally hailed from Argentina. I fell in love with bikes in the most unexpected way later in life. Like many South Americans before me, I was gifted a little bike (Honda Dax 125cc) when I turned 15 years old, which was super fun to zip around in the small town I grew up in. Once I finished college, I moved to New York City, and my little bike stayed behind.
Forward many years, and a different continent, I found myself trying to convince my partner to let me ride pillion with him. We went on many rides, and I really enjoyed it to the point of thinking, hey, I can do this too. But found some (common) excuses: I was a mum to little kids, I should be responsible; it's expensive, I should be responsible; I had no time; and possibly I was a bit scared too, if I am being totally candid.
But then the unthinkable happened: I got diagnosed with breast cancer in March of 2022, and the gruelling treatment started to try to get rid of this unwanted intruder. I still managed to do some rides on the back of my partner’s Yamaha XSR-900. We had to make some adaptations to the way I held onto the bike, I had a port inserted in my chest, which limited my movement and chemotherapy was causing pain in my hands so basically, I tied a scarf in a number 8 around my wrists to hold on around him, it was uncomfortable but it felt so good to put on my helmet and feel the wind again.
I did chemo, had a double mastectomy, and by the time I was starting radiation, my partner suggested an early Christmas present to keep me motivated: my learner license course! We said no pressure, I will do it when I felt better and could move my arms and chest more freely, but at this point, I said screw it; life is really just too short and things can change with no notice whether I ask for it or not; I’m going for it!
I bought a Honda CB300R and started practising. I’m short, and this was an ideal learner bike for me: low seat, light and easy to maneuver. As I became more confident, I started looking at other bikes, and talking to other female riders helped. I started doing longer trips, and I knew I wanted to get good at this. Even on bad days, I would put on my helmet, get my favourite playlist on, and ride with a big smile plastered on my face, even if it was just to hospital appointments.
By the time active treatment came to an end, 18 months of it, I had bought my next bike, a Triumph Trident 660, which I’m in total love with. I lowered it to suit my small frame and was so happy I did. When the first anniversary of my surgery came around, I didn’t want to just think about what the surgery did to me, what cancer did to me and my body: I wanted to feel empowered. So I put my riding gear on, fought off anxiety and went on my first really twisty mountain ride, which I had been avoiding.
I didn’t break any speed records that day or take off any chicken strips, but I felt alive, grateful to be there, grateful that there are still amazing things to experience. This picture here is from the day waking up in the hospital and a year later, at the coffee shop at the top of the mountain.
The bike doesn’t care about my scars; I have learned not to care about them either. For those touched by this dreadful disease, it’s a lonely and scary road, but the bike has been there for me unconditionally. Riding has given me a new sense of confidence, helped me recover and saved me in ways I couldn't have imagined on those first shaky parking lot practices.
I have met some wonderful people on the road and seen amazing places, and I can’t wait to get out and explore more. Buy that bike, form a gang!!
Follow her journey on Instagram: @mercedesmonteleone