Susan Donnelley

susan bicycling.jpg

Susan Donnelley
Passionate About Bicycling!

Many of the people I have interviewed about living lives of passion have something in common – they discovered their passion when they decided to stop suffering, take control of their life and make changes.  Susan Donnelley’s story fits that description.

It first caught my attention when I was reading a monthly edition of Bicycling Magazine and came across a story about people who had lost 100 lbs. or more through bicycling.  As I read on, I became convinced that Susan was someone I needed to interview for this book. 

Susan tells the story of her weight loss journey this way:

“I have lived most of my adult life as a morbidly obese person.  At an annual check up with my primary care physician she suggested that I would be a good candidate for gastric bypass surgery.  At that time, I was 5’4”, 286 pounds and was taking medication for high blood pressure and depression.  I suffered from migraines and joint pain.

For many years, my weight stood in the way of my husband and I being able to enjoy things together.  Tom has always been pretty active…he skiis, hikes, bikes, swims etc…Today, we enjoy doing many things together…we have a shared passion for cycling.  Last year, Tom and I partnered to train a team (of non-cyclists) to ride in the MS 150, a two-day, one hundred an fifty mile bike ride to raise money for the MS Society.  We will do it again this year.  It’s been rewarding to share our passion for cycling with others.

As I have always struggled with my weight, I had once before taken up cycling When I initially began to ride, I noticed that the sport seemed ageless…by that I mean, I’ve encountered cyclists who are riding well into their late 70’s and 80’s as a way to stay healthy.  I know I’ve found the rite sport. 

As I was part of a hospital Weight Management program and still very overweight when I started to ride…I rode a hybrid bike…on or off road…very wide tires and a wide saddle, with upright handlebars…I rode on groomed bicycle trails…as I lost weight over time, my bike felt very heavy…after a 100 pound weight loss (through The Weight Management Program and riding) as a gift to myself, I purchased a road bike and began to road ride.”  Susan is modest about her accomplishment, but it certainly is no minor feat!   Having lost well over 100lbs. is something few can boast - having done it on two wheels is even more impressive. 

As I interviewed Susan Donnelley it became clear to me just how passionate this woman really is.  She related to me that in 2000 her sister was diagnosed with a terminal illness.  Her sister had two daughters.  After Susan’s sister’s death, Susan and her husband became legal guardians to one of the children who came to live in their home.  The child was struggling and as a result Susan left her job to stay at home full time to spend more time with her and tend to her needs.  I recall Susan saying “that decision, while you would think it was difficult, was not.  Family is all that matters.  My niece was reunited with her Dad about a year after I left my career.”  I went on to ask Susan what happened next - “I was jobless.  But soon after that I was contacted by a member of my church who asked me if I would be interested in becoming a caregiver for a woman who lived locally and had been diagnosed with a terminal illness.  I was glad to be able to serve her and her family during her illness.  I came to love her dearly and remain in touch with her husband today.” 

The story of Susan Donnelley’s weight loss through her passion of bicycling is the headline.  Her story, however, is so much more than that.  It is one many of us can relate to – becoming involved with the challenges of life to such a degree that we forget ourselves, our own health and happiness.  We wake up one day perhaps 100lbs. overweight, possibly deeply in debt, maybe without the family we once had or a host of other “life happens” situations.  The moral to Susan’s story is that each of us has the inner power to make choices and to change our life for the better.  Susan’s story is a great story of kindness – to others and to self!