The Rider

July 5, 2010

Thumb Your Nose at Cancer

Filed under: Rider Profiles — The Blog @ 6:01 AM

Sue Dayton wasn’t sure if she could ride the entire 100 miles on the first day of Pelotonia 2009.

“I was thinking I could stop at the 43-mile mark if I couldn’t keep going,” said Dayton, a talented oboe player, graphic designer at Nationwide Children’s Hospital – and a cancer survivor.

Sue and her son Donald will be riding Pelotonia together

Sue’s bout with uterine cancer in 2007 took a lot out of her, mentally and physically -and riding 100 miles was the biggest athletic challenge of her life. Her longest previous ride was a little over 50 miles – and had been on a flat course. And now, Sue was about to double this distance and the challenging Hocking Hills loomed large off in the distance.

When Sue, 50, got to Amanda and the 43-mile mark, there were people lining the streets, cheering, ringing cow bells and waving signs.

“That was so amazing and it brought me to tears,” she said. “And it made me say to myself that I had to keep going, that I was riding for everyone else, for all the people in treatment right now who couldn’t ride … This was my way of thumbing my nose at cancer and taking my life back. This was my comeback.”

Sue had to walk her bike up a few of those Hocking Hills and it took her until about 6 p.m., which made for a long day – but she did it.

Take that cancer!


Sue grew up in Palo Alto, California and attended the famed Julliard School (of music) in New York, with the goal of one day joining an orchestra. Despite persistence and talent, Sue struggled to land a spot.

“I did a lot of freelancing and played with a lot of orchestras, but eventually I got tired of going to auditions for spots that weren’t really open.”

Sue eventually moved back to the west coast, married and had two children, Donald, 24, and Kim, 20, and moved to Central Ohio in 1992.

Since she’s been here she’s played with the Columbus Symphony, Columbus Bach Ensemble, Opera Columbus, Mansfield Symphony and Newark-Granville Symphony. Music remains an important part of her life.

Here's the Nationwide Children's jersey that Sue designed.

Sue also got into graphic design and currently works for Nationwide Children’s, in the marketing department. When the hospital formed a peloton last year, she joined up and designed the colorful jersey that team members wear.

Three years into her survivorship, Sue says cancer remains a big part of her life.

“My mom is a four-time cancer survivor,” she said, adding one of these was uterine cancer, which means “I have to worry about my daughter.”

Sue’s son, Donald, will also ride in Pelotonia this year. Mother and son have been training together and will ride Pelotonia with several other members of the Nationwide Children’s peloton.

“I went to a meeting at work in mid June (2009) about Pelotonia,” Sue said of how she got involved in the ride. “I had a lot of friends at Nationwide who were into biking and had been doing Bike To Work Week and said I should do it. I hadn’t biked in years. I said I’ll do 100 miles if someone else does 100 miles … and someone else said they would.”

Uh-oh, Sue was in a bit of trouble!

Here's Sue (L) and Mary Cismowski, another member of the Nationwide Children's peloton

“The tires on my old bike were all rotted,” she said. “I got new ones and started training on July 5.”

Now, a year later, Sue is an admitted bikeaholic, for which there is no known cure.

“Everything I do now is about cycling,” she said. “On Facebook and Twitter, that’s all I write about. I’m always trying to find people who want to go for a 50-mile ride.”

And thumb their noses at cancer!

If you’re interested in ordering one of the bike jerseys Sue designed (or shorts), contact her at: – and she’ll email you an order form.

10 things about Sue…

Favorite ride


Dream ride


Current Pelotonia bike

Jamus Quest Femme

Dream bike

Trek Madone

Favorite movie

Under the Tuscan Sun

Favorite band/singer

Sylvia McNair

Favorite TV show


Favorite book

It’s Not About the Bike

Favorite athlete


Favorite post-ride meal

A big fruit smoothie


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