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Raising cancer awareness, one pedal at a time

By Lauren Pratapas and Mackenzie Green, CNN
Anne Feeley (center) sets off from Haines Park in Washington during the last leg of her journey Saturday.
Anne Feeley (center) sets off from Haines Park in Washington during the last leg of her journey Saturday.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Anne Feeley founded Brains on Bikes in 2009 after recovering from brain cancer
  • She arrived in Washington on Saturday after a three-month, cross-country trek
  • Feeley, 55, credits endorphins from exercise with helping her feel better
  • She says "it's just the beginning" for cancer-awareness group

Washington (CNN) -- When Anne Feeley was diagnosed in April 2006 with an aggressive form of brain cancer, doctors told her to prepare for the worst.

But Feeley was determined not to take the diagnosis lying down.

Her psychiatrist told her that most children who suffer from cancer do best when they can "forget" they have the disease.

So instead of retreating to her bed, Feeley began working with a personal trainer the week she was released from the hospital, running and doing yoga to build her strength and endurance -- even while sporting staples in her head from the surgery to remove her tumor. Within a year, she completed a half-marathon.

And with her psychiatrist's advice in her mind, Feeley began digging up childhood memories to connect with her inner 8-year-old.

"I thought about things I liked to do as a kid and one of them was cycling," Feeley said. "So I got a bike ... and I started riding back and forth to my treatment, and it is true: for me, there is something about being on a bike that makes me feel like a kid again."

After two-and-a-half years of surgeries, radiation and chemotherapy, Feeley's cancer went into remission.

While she says the endorphins from the exercise helped her feel better, she does not credit the physical activity to her recovery, instead attributing it to luck.

And though Feeley is lucky to be alive, not everyone is so fortunate. Her particular form of cancer -- Glioblastoma multiforme -- is the most malignant of primary brain tumors and is known to spread quickly to other parts of the brain, according to the Mayo Clinic.

"It shouldn't be about luck; it should be about science," Feeley says. "We need better treatments, there have been three treatments [developed] in 35 years. ... I want to change that."

To raise awareness about the disease she had worked so hard to overcome, Feeley founded Brains on Bikes in 2009.

"There have been three treatments [developed] in 35 years. ... I want to change that.
--Anne Feeley
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On April 9, Feeley, 55, with the support of loved ones, set out on her bike from San Francisco, California, on a cross-country trip aimed at educating the public about the disease and raising additional funds for brain cancer research.

Feeley reached her destination -- Washington -- on Saturday, more than three months and nearly 4,000 miles later.

After crossing the finish line, Feeley thanked her friends, family and supporters, some of whom are also battling brain cancer.

"It is just the beginning, and I am very, very happy and excited. ... It is definitely not over," Feeley said of Brains on Bikes.