Biking to beat cancer and supporting others — from Massachusetts

‘Who cares that I’m in Massachusetts and you’re in Kentucky? We’re all in this battle together.’

High school English teacher Annemarie Finn has never been to Louisville to ride in Bike to Beat Cancer. In fact, Annemarie does not live in the region or even in the state. Annemarie lives in Mashpee, Massachusetts, a small coastal town around 50 miles from Boston. For the past two years Annemarie has ridden a 35-mile route as a virtual rider in Bike to Beat Cancer on the Wheels of Hope team.

Why, you ask? Annemarie answers without hesitation, “Who cares that I’m in Massachusetts and you’re in Kentucky? We’re all in this battle together.”

Annemarie heard about Bike to Beat Cancer through her brother, Joseph M. Flynn, D.O., MPH, FACP, chief administrative officer of Norton Medical Group and physician-in-chief at Norton Cancer Institute.

“Joe is so passionate about his work and Bike to Beat Cancer,” Annemarie said. “He works so hard to find a cure and cares so much about his patients. I wanted to support my brother and his work.”

Annemarie, Dr. Flynn and their other five siblings are a tight network of support for each other. That support was on full display when Annemarie was diagnosed with bladder cancer in July 2018. According to Annemarie, Dr. Flynn was there for her every step of the way, providing her reassurance and support.

While he is a physician specializing in oncology, Annemarie said, “He is my brother first.”

Bike to Beat Cancer

Learn more, donate or register as a virtual rider, or as a spin rider, a 5-, 15-, 35-, 65- or 100-mile rider in the Bike to Beat Cancer

In January 2019, Annemarie had a radical cystectomy to remove her bladder.

“In a matter of months, at the beginning of that year, my life changed forever,” Annemarie said.

She was barely able to walk to the end of her driveway after surgery. However, inspired by her brother and sister-in-law who ride in memory of their mom — who passed away from cancer — and for their dad, a cancer survivor, Annemarie registered for the virtual 35-mile Bike to Beat Cancer ride that September.

Annemarie loved the virtual option because it allowed her to participate in pieces over about a week. It was a hard ride for her, but, self-described as “stubborn,” she persevered. Her favorite part of her ride?

“Finishing. It was a major accomplishment for me. The fact that I could get on the bike and finish — that was a steppingstone back to normal life,” she said.

Throughout her journey, Annemarie felt a desire to give back. This was not only through fundraising but also through awareness and education.

“I am teacher at heart,” Annemarie said.

She volunteers to mentor those newly diagnosed with bladder cancer. She tries to raise awareness and provide an example to others with cancer by riding her bike.

“You get that diagnosis and your world changes forever,” Annemarie said. “Think about a person with an ostomy bag raising money for other people. Think about what that does for people. It shows them that, ‘I’m going to be OK.’ It also shows people that anyone can ride.”

For those who are not interested in riding, Annemarie encourages them to volunteer or make a gift as a show of support for a loved one battling cancer.

“Making a gift is a tangible way that people can help and show support. As a cancer survivor, you feel that support,” Annemarie said.

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