In the quiet of Silver Spring at 5:50 a.m., Edith Brown begins her workout in the physical therapy office of Edward Lee.

About four months ago, Brown was referred to Lee for treatment of a tumor growing from nerve tissue in her foot and a bone spur in her swollen right shoulder. Both conditions were making movement painful -- a particular problem for a diabetes patient who needs to stay active to control her disease.

Lee put Brown through an intensive program of exercise conditioning, ultrasound, electrical stimulation and massage. After a few weeks, the therapy helped Brown walk a little more easily and regain movement in her shoulder. But her insurer covered only two of the four weekly sessions that Lee recommended, and Brown couldn't afford the other two. Lee's solution: If Brown would come to his office an hour before it opens on Mondays and Wednesdays, he wouldn't charge her for those sessions.

"It's really amazing. You never hear of doctors or therapists going out of their way for free," she said.

Four days a week, Brown sweats through three hours of weight training and treadmill exercises -- one hour supervised, two on her own.

"I get so frustrated!" said Brown. "But [Lee] won't let me give up. There is nothing I can do to repay him."

-- Andrea Bruce