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Our Authors: One woman's journey for rediscovery
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Our Authors: One woman's journey for rediscovery

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Name: Elizabeth H. McGowan

Age: 59

Current town/city of residence: Washington, D.C.

Connection to Racine County: I covered Racine and the county for five years in the mid-1990s, first as a government reporter then as features reporter for The Journal Times.

Occupation: Energy and environment news reporter

Title of book: “Outpedaling ‘The Big C’: My Healing Cycle Across America”

Publisher: Bancroft Press in Baltimore, https://bancroftpress.com

Synopsis of book (plot): My father died of cancer when he was 44 and I was 15. I was diagnosed with the same disease, melanoma, in my early 20s, and endured surgery, chemotherapy and other treatments for 11 years. In 2000, I marked five years of remission with a solo 4,250-mile bicycle odyssey that I named “Heals on Wheels” and organized as a fundraiser for what was then Waukesha Memorial Hospital. It’s a frank and unsentimental adventure story about how immersing myself in this country’s remarkable landscapes and the kindness of strangers allowed me to rediscover the father I lost so long ago.

Is this your first book? My first hardcover, yes. In 2013, after I won a Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting as a staff writer for InsideClimate News, my dispatches from Michigan were turned into an e-book, “The Dilbit Disaster: Inside the Biggest Oil Spill You Never Heard of.”

Why did you write the book? I needed to clearly understand the connections between my bicycle trek, my cancer journey and my relationship with my father. My Wisconsin oncologist urged me tell this story “because we often have a shortage of hope in the world of cancer.” People need to be aware that a cancer diagnosis is not necessarily a death sentence, that people can flourish physically, mentally and spiritually afterward.

How long did it take you to write the book? Too long! I labored at the manuscript for 15-plus years after finishing my ride. This is a memoir, not a news story, and as any reporter knows so well, we’re used to asking our sources difficult questions, not ourselves.

How did you get interested in writing? I’ve always loved words. In the early 1980s, I graduated from the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Journalism. Ever since then, I’ve been telling stories on paper and in digital formats.

Where is the book available for purchase? At any online or brick-and-mortar bookstore. Just be a little patient because the COVID-19 pandemic has significantly slowed book distribution.

Is the book available at the library? Oh yes. If it isn’t on the shelves yet, have your librarian order it from book distributor Baker & Taylor.

Website or Facebook page readers can visit for more information: renewalnews.org/book.

If you are a Racine County author that has published a book within the last year and would like to be featured in Our Authors, please send request to Loreen Mohr via email at Loreen.Mohr@Lee.net; send letter to Loreen Mohr, The Journal Times, 212 Fourth St., Racine, WI 53403; or via fax at 262-631-1780.

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