Over 50 & Thriving Series

Thriving when life throws you curve balls

August 30, 2018
Thriving when life throws you curve balls

How do you cope when life throws you curve balls?  My guest this week on the Over 50 & Thriving series, is Donna McNicol an author who I met through the A to Z Challenge this year.

Donna has certainly had more than her fair share of curve balls in life but she has come through and her story has inspired me greatly. Just like the flower in the feature image, she has pushed through the tough times to blossom.

After all she has been through, she still has a gorgeous smile and positive attitude. Not to mention how impressed I am that she rides a motorbike!  You can connect with Donna through her websites and social media links at the end of this post.

Thriving when life throws you curve balls

I was thrilled to be invited to write a guest post for the Sizzling Toward 60 and Beyond site. When I asked for particulars, Sue Loncaric told me to write what Over 50 & Thriving meant to me. I pondered on that a bit since fifty is more than twenty years ago and the times were quite different then. At age fifty, I was making a major change. My mother had recently passed and my husband and I discussed the fact that we’d done nothing towards our retirement dream of traveling the country in a motorhome.

A couple months later, shortly after my fiftieth birthday, a good friend and former co-worker called us and offered us an opportunity to make a massive change. We were living in the Atlanta area, we had our dream house, all the kids were grown and on their own, and we both had high pay but high stress jobs. We discussed the opportunity at length and decided to just go for it. We sold our “dream home”, left our jobs, bought a used motorhome and hit the road.

The change was massive for me, at least initially. I had spent twenty years working in IT, moving from a data entry operator up through the ranks to managerial positions and even one as VP of Client services. This new job meant being outdoors, working along mostly men, in a career that I had never been exposed to. I, well, we, were going to be fiber optic construction inspectors.

What did that mean?

I had to learn to create as-built drawings, sort of simplistic blueprints, of the construction and installation of the fiber optic backbone for a major communications company. That also meant working outdoors in winter weather in Massachusetts. I’ve never been known for being weather tolerant, now I had to be.

The job went well, so well that I eventually got moved inside and took over all the office work. My IT background came in handy when I created a tracking spreadsheet system for auditing the billing system. It also meant I had some slack times when it was quiet and I decided to do a little more writing. I had been writing web content on non-fiction topics for several years, and over the course of my career, wrote a lot of technical reports and documentation. It was time for something different.

I started dabbling with fiction but ended up writing a short column for seniors (over 55) in a local weekly freebie newspaper. I used my IT background to put things in simpler terms that were easily understood. I also wrote a short story and a few things for children, including what I thought could become a children’ bedtime rhyming book. These were submitted to various publications and although they were rejected, one editor took time to encourage me to keep writing.

But life had other plans.

My husband was diagnosed with head/neck cancer. This was in 2001 and there wasn’t a lot of information available out there. So while I researched, I took time to document the research on a website (now sold) to help others. His initial treatment was surgery to be followed up with radiation. His surgery was in July of 2001 and he came through it well.

But life had another curve ball for us.

I discovered a large mass on the right side of my neck. After a several tests/xrays and a fine needle biopsy, I was told they couldn’t determine if it was cancer until they removed it. The good news was the mass was slow growing and I could delay until my husband completed his treatment.

Of course, nothing comes in twos.

In August, my first granddaughter was born. At one day old, she was life-flighted from Tallahassee, FL where my daughter and son-in-law lived, to Shands Hospital in Gainesville. That meant a solo drive from Pennsylvania, where we were living, to Gainesville. I stayed until we knew she was out of danger and was going to be okay. Then drive home.

This was 2001. On September 11th, my son’s 35th birthday, my husband presented himself to the Cleveland Clinic for his first radiation visit while I stayed in our hotel room, writing web content articles. The TV was on a morning show and that was when our world in the U.S. was turned upside down.

But life goes on, as we all realized, and during his six weeks of radiation treatment, my husband convinced me I should learn to ride a motorcycle (at age 54?). We had bought him a Harley-Davidson touring bike after his initial diagnosis, determined to enjoy life. So in December, we traded in his bike for a smaller one for him and bought me my first motorcycle.

I was terrified, exhilarated, thrilled and refused to even attempt to ride it until I had completed a Motorcycle Safety Foundation riding course. That didn’t happen until the following May, but at age 55, I was now a motorcyclist with the big M on my driver license.

Fast forward to 2004, the cancer has returned with a vengeance. No longer a candidate for surgery, extreme radition and chemo have taken their toll. My husband passed on November 30th, less than two months after we moved from FL to TN. He wanted to see me settled in an area where I would be comfortable and we both had known, that wasn’t Florida.

I spent the winter grieving and planning, and in the spring of 2005, I set out on the first of several long motorcycle trips. My goal was to ride through all 48 states. By October, I had managed 42 states and ridden over 27,000 miles solo. It was my time for me. But knowing that, I also spent three weeks volunteering on the Blackfeet Reservation in Browning, Montana. Wonderful experience, done through the Global Volunteers organization.

Upon my return, I started to look for a job. Something to carry me through to age 60 when as a widow, I could collect social security. Guess what? In small towns, there aren’t many positions available for over-qualified 58 year old women. My options were dwindling and I knew I needed to change something.

After spending a couple of years as a full-time RVer in the past, I did a lot of research on an RV payment calculator website finally and decided to sell house and everything in it and become an RVer once again. It took me two years, two house sales (the first one fell through after being asked to move the closing date up by two weeks, prompting me to sell everything I could in the house) before I left my driveway on October 30, 2007. Considered “homeless”, I was excited by my prospects.

I had purchased a used but in excellent condition 29’ Class C motorhome and a small lightweight trailer where I stored my current motorcycle and riding gear. I headed off to Indiana for a rally followed by some repair and upgrades before heading south to Texas for the winter. Spring saw more travels and in late June, I was in Gillette, WY for an RV rally.

Fate stepped in and I met my current husband. We were both widowed, both full-timers and both Harley-Davidson riders. We’ve been together ever since, marrying in April of 2009 after a whirlwind trip around the country to meet family and close friends.

Since then, we continued our full-time lifestyle for ten years with the exception of two years we spent living in Cuenca, Ecuador (our grand adventure). I have published several novels (most “whodunit’ mysteries), two children’s books, a host of short stories and been included in several compilations/anthologies.

So, what does Over 50 & Thriving mean to me? Living life to the fullest, no matter the obstacles placed in your way. Stop waiting for your perfect tomorrow and start savoring your imperfect today.


Meet Donna

Donna B. McNicol is a retired IT professional who started writing fiction after retirement. Her preferred genre is small town mysteries with a dash of romance but she has also tackled children’s stories, fantasy and small town romance. In addition, her short stories have been included in several anthologies.

In the words of the author:


I think I was destined to be a writer – in the 4th grade I took my toy typewriter and painstakingly typed out the neighborhood news, one copy at a time, and sold it to the neighbors for ten cents each. But as often happens, life intervenes and writing took a back seat to spending 30+ years in the IT industry.

A late in life lover of adventure, I learned to ride a motorcycle at age 55, traveled the US solo on my Harley-Davidson at age 58 (42 states and 27k miles), sold my home and everything I owned to become a full-time RVer. I eventually met my current husband, also widowed, a full-time RVer and Harley rider. Fate!

Connect with Donna









If you are Over 50 and would like to contribute to the Over 50 & Thriving Series, I would love to hear from you. Send me an email at sue@womenlivingwellafter50.com.au and I can provide more details. Click here to catch up on my previous guests in Over 50 & Thriving Series Or you can subscribe here so you never miss a post and receive a FREE Copy of my latest e-book ’10 ways to start Thriving today’! Don’t forget to post your Instagram photos using the hashtag #over50andthriving.

Let’s Keep Sizzling!

Women Living Well After 50

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  • Reply Janet Mary Cobb August 31, 2018 at 07:47

    WOW! Your journey sounds incredible! Thanks so much for sharing how you thrive!

    • Reply Donna McNicol September 1, 2018 at 01:17

      Thank YOU for taking time to read! It’s been a wild ride, for sure. But life is good!!

    • Reply Sue Loncaric September 1, 2018 at 05:23

      Donna is an inspiration isn’t she, Janet? I’ve enjoyed all of my guests and their contributions in the Series and hope to continue it next year. xx

  • Reply Donna August 31, 2018 at 15:26

    Hi, Donna – I second Janet’s “WOW”! Thank you for sharing your story with us. I’ve greatly appreciated learning more about you. Your courage is inspirational!

    • Reply Donna McNicol September 1, 2018 at 01:23

      Thank you, Donna. I have enjoyed the journey (for the most part…LOL).

    • Reply Sue Loncaric September 1, 2018 at 05:24

      Donna is remarkable and such an inspiration. I learn so much from my guests in the Over 50 & Thriving series and she has taught me never to give up. xx

  • Reply Debbie August 31, 2018 at 17:16

    This is an amazing story of courage and determination. Good for you Donna, I hope you continue to find happiness.

    • Reply Donna McNicol September 1, 2018 at 01:28

      Determination for sure…I didn’t necessarily feel courageous at the time in some cases. Thank you for taking time to read and comment.

    • Reply Sue Loncaric September 1, 2018 at 05:25

      Donna is amazing, Deb and her story just inspired me so much. With each knock down in life, she just kept getting back up! That is true courage. xx

  • Reply Samantha Smith August 31, 2018 at 18:59

    I’m in awe of you Donna. Wow thank you for sharing!! You’ve overcome so much & if ever there was anyone to prove that you do whatever you put your mind to, it’s you! Such a brave, positive woman. You published novels after 50 too hmmmm there’s hope for me yet then?! ? loved reading this

    • Reply Donna McNicol September 1, 2018 at 01:36

      Ah, Samantha (the name of my first granddaughter who was the one life-flighted after birth), you’re never too old to pursue a dream. Write, write, write…and let me know if you have any self-publishing questions.

    • Reply Sue Loncaric September 1, 2018 at 05:26

      Donna is remarkable, isn’t she Sam? So inspiring and motivating with her story and so courageous. I love all the women I have had a guests in the series – I learn so much from you all xx

  • Reply Candi Randolph August 31, 2018 at 21:04

    Truly an amazing life, Donna. You have been through so much and found ways to not only overcome, but to thrive (yes, Sue…the perfect word!). I have already checked out your books and will be reading them soon!

    • Reply Donna McNicol September 1, 2018 at 02:00

      Thank you, Candi. We sort of plow through life and only upon reflection do we sometimes realize how much we have overcome.

    • Reply Sue Loncaric September 1, 2018 at 05:28

      Thanks Candi. When I read Donna’s post I just knew it was all about digging deep, having courage and moving forward to thrive. I’m so pleased to have introduced her to you all. Have a great weekend. xx

  • Reply Leanne | www.crestingthehill.com.au August 31, 2018 at 23:51

    Donna you are an amazing woman – your zest for life just shines through – and I love that someone who should be so logical and desk-bound has instead found such an adventurous life. Nothing seems to have slowed you down! I especially loved your last little comment “Stop waiting for your perfect tomorrow and start savoring your imperfect today.” Something we all need to take on board and start celebrating.

    • Reply Donna McNicol September 1, 2018 at 02:03

      That’s my quote from back in 2006…and it’s so true! My late husband always said, “Life is for the living” and I’ve taken that to heart. Thank you, Leanne!

  • Reply Jean | DelightfulRepast.com September 1, 2018 at 01:43

    Donna and Sue, what an amazing story! I could never embark on a solo RV and/or motorcycle adventure! But I love reading about yours, Donna.

    • Reply Donna McNicol September 1, 2018 at 02:05

      I never thought I would, either, Jean, but sometimes you just have to leap! Thanks for stopping by.

  • Reply DeeDee September 1, 2018 at 01:53

    Wow! What a powerful story?

  • Reply Kathleen King September 1, 2018 at 03:40

    Loved reading the steps you went through to be where you are! You always have been a role model for me and I suspect will be forever! I often think “What would Donna do”?

    Keep writing! I am currently taking a course to publish on Kindle, so soon will be picking your brain on diferent things!

    Love you!


    • Reply Donna McNicol September 1, 2018 at 04:33

      You go girl!!! You are the one who is inspiring me lately, you and others fighting the C beast. I’m ready for any questions!! Love you, too!! Proud of you!

  • Reply Christie Hawkes September 1, 2018 at 04:29

    What an inspirational story you have, Donna. I love how you summed it all up, “Stop waiting for your perfect tomorrow and start savoring your imperfect today.” There is so little in this life that we actually can control. Instead of asking “why me,” or “what if,” we have to roll with “Now what?” Happy adventures to you!

    Thanks, Sue, for another great guest post.

    • Reply Donna McNicol September 1, 2018 at 04:36

      Thank you, Christie. You are so right…and I believe some things are fated (good and bad). We keep on, keeping on! Glad you enjoyed it.

  • Reply Sue September 1, 2018 at 12:24

    Donna I just love your inspirational story of resilience and new beginnings! It’s so beautiful that your full-time, high-stress, high-pay, corporate lifestyle could give way to an amazing adventure, with all of its ups and downs, and that you’ve navigated it all with such grace. In my life I’ve found that curve-balls come whether I think I’m in control or know that I’m not, and my job is to trust that through it all God is sovereign (and I’m not, lol)!!!
    Thanks Sue for sharing Donna’s story xx

    • Reply Donna McNicol September 2, 2018 at 02:48

      Thank you, Sue. You are so right…those curve balls do keep coming! LOL!

  • Reply Pat September 2, 2018 at 05:35

    Wow. I cannot imagine going solo around the country! But, I am trying to live life. I just got my motorcycle permit and signed up for classes. OK, I’m going to buy a scooter…not a Harley. But I want to be able to “zip around” looking cute. And yes, I’ve drafted my book…and am working thought the editing. I need to begin to plan a cross-country road trip. I’ve wanted to for years. No, not the sell it all and buy an RV-type… a it’s Tuesday we must be in Kansas type! If you can do it multiple times (motorcycling, RV-ing) , I can do it too. You are an inspiration!

    • Reply Donna McNicol September 3, 2018 at 03:01

      Yay, Pat! Great way to start….scooters are fun. Automatic is easiest to deal with. Just remember – look where you want to go, not down at the road right in front of you. LOL!

      Great job on getting the book written and into edit mode. That always takes me three times as long as writing the darn thing. LOL!

      I can’t wait to hear you hit the road for a bit…so much beauty to see out there. Good for you!!

  • Reply Kathleen - Bloggers Lifestyle September 4, 2018 at 18:25

    Donna, that was an inspirational read. I am so amazed at your courage after your husband died.
    ‘Stop waiting for your perfect tomorrow and start savoring your imperfect today.’ That is a quote for all ages – we can all do with a good dose of.
    We will feature this post on the next Blogger’s Pit Stop – ready to inspire more.

    • Reply Sue Loncaric September 5, 2018 at 07:09

      Donna is such an inspiration, Kathleen and I know she will be thrilled to be featured at Blogger’s Pit Stop. Have a beautiful week and see you Friday!

    • Reply Donna McNicol September 7, 2018 at 03:48

      Kathleen, thank you so much for reading, commenting and sharing even further. Life does throw us curve balls, we either duck, catch them, or get hit hard. I have done all three at times!

      • Reply Sue Loncaric September 7, 2018 at 06:32

        It was a lovely surprise, Donna and well deserved. Thanks again for being such an inspiring guest for me. 🙂

  • Reply Victoria September 9, 2018 at 09:15

    Donna, I have read your blog and I always marvel at all you have done and keep doing. Cancer is hard no matter where in the body it is but head and neck is especially hard to treat. My husband is going through treatment for stomach which is another hard one to beat but it is all in Gods hands. I pray if the worst happens I can be as strong as you have been.

    • Reply Donna McNicol September 9, 2018 at 09:44

      Victoria, it’s a tough battle, you’re right. I have way too many friends fighting right now. Unfortunately the older we get, the more often it happens. I hope your husband is one that can beat it. If not, I am sure you will handle it the best way you can. Just don’t be afraid to take care of yourself right now…it’s so easy to forget our needs while we do double duty and become both a cheerleader and an advocate. Hugs!!!!

    • Reply Sue Loncaric September 11, 2018 at 07:38

      Donna is remarkable isn’t she, Victoria? I sure you are much stronger than you think and I wish you and your husband all the best wishes as you travel along this difficult path. xx

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