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Making move from hospital bed to bike seat

Jimmy Fowkes is taking part in Lance Armstrong's event
by: Vern Uyetake, Jimmy Fowkes, left, a cancer survivor, plans to raise $20,000 for the Lance Armstrong Foundation and ride in the 40-mile Livestrong Challenge on July 30 with his father, Dan Fowkes, and their friend, Morry Fealy, also a cancer survivor.

Six months ago, Jimmy Fowkes was laying in a hospital bed recovering from surgery when his dad signed him up to bike the 40-mile 'Livestrong Challenge' in July.

At the time, the decision was a product of Dan Fowkes' positive thinking after doctors removed a golfball-sized malignant tumor from Jimmy's brain.

Dan hoped his 13-year-old son would gain back enough strength, even through multiple rounds of chemotherapy, to celebrate his own survival by completing the ride.

His wife, Margo, however, had her doubts.

'I told her, 'Let's leave it … until we determine he can't do it,'' Dan Fowkes said, adding, 'I thought it may be a long shot, but it's a terrific thing for Jimmy to look forward to.'

Today, with about a month until the scheduled ride, Jimmy is doing just that - and then some.

About 110 friends and relatives of the Fowkes family have donated more than $15,000 toward Jimmy's goal of raising $20,000 for the Lance Armstrong Foundation, which helps fund cancer research and empower people affected by the disease.

He will complete the relatively flat course alongside his dad and Lake Oswego resident Morry Fealy, a family friend who was diagnosed and treated for esophageal cancer two years ago.

'When I found out Jimmy and I had something in common, it was a reason to get fired up,' Fealy said. 'Watching him come through this makes it worthwhile.'

Dan Fowkes credits Armstrong's courage and attitude toward cancer for helping his family make it through a difficult time.

Armstrong was scheduled to pay a visit to a 24-Hour Fitness in Tualatin on Wednesday, but Jimmy decided to avoid the crowds and wait to meet his hero.

Because of the large amount of money he's raised for the foundation, he's invited to join Armstrong at the 'Ride for the Roses' in Austin, Texas, in October and participate in a autograph session.

'I knew I wanted to raise a lot of money,' Jimmy said, adding meeting Armstrong is a significant incentive. 'Lance Armstrong is my favorite athlete just because of what he's done for other people with cancer, what he's done in his battle with cancer and what he's done in the Tour de France.'

There are also heartfelt reasons behind his fund-raising.

Jimmy especially realizes the importance of cancer research to help treat - and save - future generations.

According to his dad, the survival rate of Jimmy's medullblastoma 20 years ago was close to none. He expects Jimmy to make a full recovery, although he'll have to undergo routine check-ups for most of his life.

'Cancer changes your life forever,' Dan Fowkes said. 'It's not a period that comes and goes.'

In the end, the ride will become more about the meaning of survival and hope, rather than money. Fealy, who experienced the Challenge last year, assured that it will be an emotional event for everyone involved.

'Jimmy has found a way to fight back against the disease,' Dan Fowkes said. 'When you're 13 and you've got brain cancer, a lot of decisions are made for you and there isn't a lot you can do … This is his way to give back.'

The trio will wear matching Stanford University cycling jerseys during the ride. Jimmy, a newcomer to cycling, will ride his father's road bike.

And if only for a second, crossing over the finish line reserved only for survivors, he can feel like Armstrong in more ways that one.

To donate to the Lance Armstrong Foundation through Jimmy Fowkes' fund-raiser, visit www.livestrongchallenge.org or click on 'Donate,' then click on 'Portland.' Enter 'Jimmy Fowkes' in the first/last name boxes provided. Click on Fowkes' link.