I didn't start long distance cycling, competition rowing, or mountain climbing until after I was diagnosed with brain cancer. Before that I was living a normal life in Prague as a mom, wife and baker, who exercised to keep reasonably fit. My husband and I moved to Prague when our two children were young, figuring if we didn't do it then, we never would. We lived there for fifteen years, and I opened and ran Bakeshop Praha, which remains a popular landmark for locals and tourists.
My name is Anne Feeley and four years ago I was diagnosed with glioblastoma multiforme, the most common and deadly form of brain cancer. In San Francisco this Friday I will kick off a journey cycling with my trainer and friend Gundula and my dog Walter across the USA to raise awareness and funds for brain cancer patient support and research. We are Brains on Bikes.
Last spring while attending the American Brain Tumor Association Path to Progress 5K I realized I had to do something to help. With four years under my belt I am now a longterm survivor, but at events like this I didn't meet anyone alive as long as me. We survivors are too few. The grim survival rate of the most common brain cancer hasn’t changed in over 100 years, and only three new drugs have been approved for brain cancer in 35 years.
I started excercising after I got out of hospital following my brain surgery. I was weak but determined. I am lucky to be able to do this because many brain cancer sufferers have balance and coordination problems. I didn’t. People have said that exercising daily through cancer treatment is remarkable, but I think it is what many mothers would do. I didn’t want my daughters' final memories of me to be of their mother giving up. Besides love, our example is all we really have to give.
Training began for the Brains on Bikes effort last fall when I asked Gundy to join me to cycle across the USA. Happily she said yes, as I thought she would. This event is right up her alley. She has taught me that preparation is key in anything you try to achieve. For the journey we have focused on developing my stamina and staying power (she already has it!). We worked up to 90-minute intense cardio bike sessions, training side by side, which really helped us egg each other on. I trained at least once a week in a hypoxic chamber that mimics the air in higher altitudes. I also learned to use clip on bike shoes.
We are now in San Francisco as I write this, doing the final checks and double checks with Gundy, my husband and our mothers. Training here has been wonderful. Cycling in Sausalito is inspiring because it brings home the amazing beauty of natural America we’ll see. We are so excited to see more of California and our country in the coming weeks.
It’s determination and luck that will get Gundy and me to the finish on July 15 in Washington DC. Please join us online - we'll be providing updates on our blog, Facebook and Twitter. We also have an iPhone app and Flash game available at brainsonbikes.org -- check it all out and help us outsmart brain cancer!