Sue Scanlon is a mom, a motorcycle enthusiast, and a breast cancer survivor. And now she's added fundraiser to that list. In 2014, Sue founded Wigged Out Ride, an annual motorcycle ride through South Puget Sound that raises money to purchase wigs for women being treated for cancer at St. Francis Hospital in Federal Way and St. Anthony Hospital in Gig Harbor.
"Women lose so much during cancer treatment, and hair loss during chemotherapy is one of the cruelest reminders of it," says Sue. "When you have a quality wig, you can see yourself as you, not as a cancer patient."
To date, Wigged Out Ride has raised more than $15,000 which has funded hundreds of wigs for women across Puget Sound.
A persistent doctor encourages Sue to get a mammogram.
Sue is grateful to be alive for many reasons, but the key to her survival began when her doctor insisted Sue get a mammogram.
“I hadn’t been for several years and she told me to get one immediately. I went in thinking it would be routine.” Sue says. “When I called my husband and told him they were requesting a biopsy, I couldn’t really believe what I was telling him.”
Sue’s husband, Pat, was with her when her doctor told her that her cancer was very aggressive.
“She said it might not have been there six months ago, and that if I had waited even six more months my prognosis would have been far worse,” she says.
But Sue’s grief switched to fierce determination when she met her surgeon Lynne Clark, MD at St. Joseph Medical Center.
“I bonded with Dr. Clark very quickly because we both wanted the same thing: to treat the cancer as soon as possible," she says. "I was also amazed at how genuinely caring she was. She has the same difficult conversation with hundreds of women, yet she was completely present for me.”
Sue recovered from surgery and began a series of intense radiation treatments to make sure all the cancer cells were gone. Only 47 when she was diagnosed, Sue was the first of her friends to face breast cancer.
“I’m grateful my husband was with me for every minute of this journey,” she says. “And for the support of my girls. My youngest, Amy-Rose, who was only 14, even came with me to my radiation therapy. My experience with breast cancer was her inspiration to become a nurse. She started her career at St. Joseph Medical Center.”
Empowering others by building a breast cancer community
Sue was almost surprised by the strength and resilience she found within herself during her treatment. She started Wigged Out Ride to help other women who are affected by breast cancer to find that resilience too.
Sue decided that breast cancer gave her one gift — the ability to face challenges with fearless determination. That’s when she decided to start riding her motorcycle for every woman affected by breast cancer and invited others to join her. She asked for a small donation to help buy wigs for women who couldn’t afford them.
“There were about 12 of us for our first ride in 2015. I nervously asked these big gruff motorcycle guys to wear pink wigs and to give a small donation to help buy wigs for women who couldn’t afford them. Everyone said — let’s do it!” she says.
When they arrived at St. Francis, riders came to her with stories and tears of appreciation for this opportunity to come together and honor the women in their lives affected by breast cancer. They wanted to raise more money and ride again the next year.
When she and her husband arrived at the starting point a couple years later, more than 50 motorcycles were already waiting, their motorcycle gear, helmets, and bikes proudly decked out in pink including bras on the windshields often displaying the names of the women they were riding for. Last year, 80 bikes and 100 people took part in the ride that Sue and breast cancer survivors led.
“In the motorcycle community, we ride with our passenger footpegs down in memory of someone we’ve lost. It’s our invitation for that person who is gone to be on our ride with us,” she says. “It’s powerful and difficult to see many foot pedals down. And it reminds us why we’re there.”
As she’s built her breast cancer community, Sue writes the names of the women she rides for on a giant bra that she puts over the front of her bike.
“I ride and make my gifts in honor of Jeanette, Etta, Jennifer, Grace, Juli, Trisha, Joy, Jenny, Gay, Sandy, Alison, Holly, and Gerry.”
The 2023 Wigged Out event will take place on Sunday, Oct.1.