Hilliard cancer survivor Laura Wetmore pedals to Pelotonia success

KEVIN CORVO
kcorvo@thisweeknews.com
Laura Wetmore trains with her old brother, John Wetmore, for a recent Pelotonia. Laura Wetmore has participated in Pelotonia every year since it began in 2009 but must do so "virtually" this year because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

Laura Wetmore, a breast-cancer survivor, was single-minded as she struggled to pedal uphill en route to Athens more than a decade ago during the first Pelotonia ride, the signature fundraising event of the Ohio State University James Cancer Center and Solove Research Institute.

The 60-year-old Hilliard resident repeated again and again: "I'm not getting off this bike."

Wetmore has kept that promise each year since the inaugural Pelotonia ride in 2009, including this year – though her 2020 experience, and those of other participants, will be decidedly different.

Because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic and a desire to keep participants, volunteers and supporters safe, Pelotonia in May canceled its annual weekend ride and in-person events, which were slated Friday to Sunday, Aug. 7 to 9.

But a reimagined 2020 Pelotonia has been rolling on virtually, with participants setting their own fundraising and activity goals and tracking them through mypelotonia.org to continue the mission of supporting cancer research at the James Cancer Center and Solove Research Institute.

"It is disappointing not being able to ride on the weekend, and I will miss the kickoff and all the events. (The riders) are part of a community that I will miss (this year)," said Wetmore, who rides with Stefanie's Team of Hope for Stefanie Spielman, the late wife of the former NFL and Ohio State University football player Chris Spielman.

Stefanie Spielman died in 2009 at age 42 from breast cancer. The Stefanie Spielman Comprehensive Breast Cancer Center at Ohio State is named for Spielman, who was an advocate for breast-cancer screenings and research in her lifetime.

Pelotonia's traditional kickoff has been replaced by a ceremony that will be streamed to viewers.

This year's Pelotonia format includes a unifying event in the spirit of Pelotonia's traditional opening ceremony: a special broadcast called Legends LIVE! that will be streamed on pelotonia.org/rise, Facebook (facebook.com/pelotonia) and YouTube (youtube.com/ridepelotonia) from 7 to 8 p.m. Aug. 7.

"As we've had to pivot away from our traditional mass physical gathering this year, our priority has been to create new opportunities for our community to engage and continue to raise critical funds for cancer research," said Doug Ulman, president and CEO of Pelotonia.

Wetmore, who has participated in every Pelotonia since its inception, said she has adapted to the new format but hopes to enjoy the Pelotonia she knows next year.

She pledged to raise $1,250 this year and to complete 12 rides of 20 miles each by Saturday, Aug. 8 – a goal she already had met by July 29.

"I ride with my (older) brother, (John Wetmore), who helps me get up those hills," said Wetmore, adding she is further inspired by her 26-year-old daughter, Makenzie Adkins, who was a teenager when Wetmore was undergoing breast-cancer treatment.

Wetmore was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2007, one year after her father died at age 72 from the prostate cancer he had battled for 10 years.

Wetmore, then 47, said she was performing a self-examination three months after a mammogram and detected a lump that led to the diagnosis.

By 2009, Wetmore had completed "invasive treatments" and chemotherapy, she said.

"I was starting to feel a little like myself again," she said.

When she heard about the first Pelotonia and its purpose, Wetmore was "super-charged" to participate "and give back" for all the support and treatment she received at the James, as well as living for her daughter, she said.

Wetmore said each time she visits the James for continuing checkups, she is cognizant of the women she sees – some without hair like her a decade earlier – and thinks, "There but for the grace of God go I."

Wetmore is retired from Worthington City Schools, where she was a counselor for 34 years.

Although she has completed her goal, Wetmore said, she plans to ride even farther on what would have been the Pelotonia weekend.

kcorvo@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekCorvo