Burt’s Bench: Meet Burt L., 3-Day Walker

There is a bench on Day 3 of the Dallas/Fort Worth 3-Day. It’s a beautiful bench, as far as benches go, with a shiny, smooth steel construction, and elegantly turned legs. It’s seated on a platform of river rocks, overlooking a fountain framed by trees. The hundreds of 3-Dayers who walk by this bench in Curtis Park may think it’s just a bench, but to 23-time participant Burt Lipshie it’s more than just a bench. This bench is the last place he talked to his cousin before she died of breast cancer.

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Burt’s cousin Judy is “my dearest, sweetest cousin in the whole world. Breast cancer killed her in 2004.”

It seems like a twist of fate brought Burt to the 3-Day. “A month or so after she died, I’m sitting in my office in New York, and Judy is everywhere. She’s just everywhere. It’s a hard thing to describe.”

Burt sent an email to Judy’s daughters, saying, “I don’t know what’s going on, but I’m having a Judy day today.” They wrote back and said they were not surprised, because they were, too. Why were they having a “Judy day,” other than dearly missing their mom?

Their answer to him: “We think our mom is proud of us because we just signed up to walk the 3-Day.”

Burt knew immediately that he would support the 3-Day. “I told them that I would donate… and I thought about it for two days. And then, I thought, no. They can’t do this without me. I’m going to do it too.”

Just two days later, Burt was signed up for his first ever 3-Day. “I had to find some way to fight back. This is the most meaningful way to fight back.”

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There was just one slight problem – the girls had already named their team “Juju’s Girls.”

“We changed the name to ‘Jujus Girls (And boy).’ We walked San Diego that year and I haven’t stopped. This is walk 23.”

What was this special woman like? Judy was “feisty.” Burt refused to tell her age, joking that he could hear Judy from heaven exclaiming, “Burt! What?! You’re telling my age?” She was the type of woman who was dying of breast cancer, but still taking care of her 91-year-old mother. Judy lived in Dallas most of her life, so Burt had plans to meet Judy at the Dallas/Fort Worth 3-Day. But by then, she was too sick to do it.

Towards the very end of the 60-mile route, Burt took a break from walking. “I’m sitting on the bench and I called to see how she was doing, and we talked for about five minutes. An hour later I got the call.”

To Burt, the bench in Curtis Park isn’t just a bench. It’s a tangible memory, a place that marks the devastation of this disease. It’s a place he visits every year before he walks sixty miles in the Dallas/Fort Worth 3-Day, an event that he’s raised more than $208,000 for. It’s a staggering sum that has no doubt helped countless men and women fighting breast cancer. By now, Burt is well-loved by all his fellow walkers and member of the 3-Day Crew. As Burt walks in his neon pink shoes and pink Yankees hat, walkers call out to him, “My man!” slapping high fives and posing for pictures.

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The bench is symbolic to all of us, because many places in the world become like Burt’s bench, marking the last place and time you talked to somebody you love.

When Burt comes to the Dallas/Fort Worth 3-Day, “It’s the first thing I do. I walk up Turtle Creek and I go up to the bench. And I sit on the bench for a little while, and I cry a little bit. And then I come back.”

Burt comes back because in this fight against breast cancer, you must always come back. You may be angry and grieving and devastated, but you must come back. Because, together, when we return to this fight, we are holding steadfast in our promise that we will never give up. And one day, Burt will sit on his bench and know that thanks to him and the help of people like you, more people like Judy will be saved.

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2016 Dallas/Fort Worth 3-Day Award Winners and Honorees

Saturday evening’s camp show at the Susan G. Komen 3-Day® is all about celebration: walkers celebrate completing an amazing 40 miles, crew members high-five over giving hours upon hours of service to their fellow 3-Dayers, and everyone celebrates each other. It’s true that every walker and crew member could rightfully be given a medal for their accomplishments, but since that isn’t really possible, we do like to take time at the end of Day 2 to recognize some walkers and crew members for outstanding achievements. We were pleased to award the following outstanding walkers, crew members and teams in Dallas/Fort Worth:

Top Individual Fundraiser

Our top fundraiser this year, Liz Fagan, raised an impressive $12,011 this season. In her three years with the 3-Day, she has raised over $17,000. Liz Fagan is an emergency room physician who won the EmCare Commitment to Care award, which is voted on by patients. You’re truly dedicated, Liz.

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Top Team Fundraiser

We’re thrilled to announce that Top Team Fundraising award winner is Pink Soles in Motion, who have raised an astonishing $150,000 this year, with 85 team members! In their amazing 11 years as a 3-Day team, they have raised $1,469,646. WOW!

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Top Crew Fundraiser

Our Top Crew Fundraiser this year is Pamella Whitham, who has participated in 13 events. In her time with the 3-Day, she has raised over $55,000 for Susan G. Komen. Pamella loves Paris and her home in Malibu, where she is a realtor. She loves time with her husband, children, garden, ducks, and chickens, and especially, her eight grandchildren. You’re a star, Pamella!

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Top Training Walk Leader: Mary Tengra

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Join us in congratulating Mary! Every year you’ll see Mary in a new outfit and hat on the event. She’s worn everything from a birthday cake to a sphere of pink Styrofoam cups on her head. Her talent and creativity keeps people searching for her outrageous outfits at Opening Ceremony every year. Mary is a 20-year breast cancer survivor; she has been a dedicated team captain of NO WALKER LEFT BEHIND since 2011 and welcomes new walkers to her team every year. She’s a no-nonsense leader telling new people, “be prepared to participate in group fundraiser and tell your family they’re going to be just fine without you while you’re out training with us.” Mary has a way of embracing walkers like family and as her team name reflects, there are NO WALKERS LEFT BEHIND. One of her teammates said: “I’ve been walking w/ Mary for 5 years and we have never gotten lost, turned around maybe, walked longer than we planned maybe, skipped a couple turns maybe but never lost….” Here’s what a few other teammates have said about Mary:

  • “When you say to Mary, ‘I thought we were not doing hills today!’ her response is, ‘this is not a hill it’s an incline.’”
  • “And finally when planning our 3-day décor, nothing for Mary is too big, too bright, too over-the-top, has too many feathers, has too much bling or is just way too uncomfortable.”
  • “Mary, we love you and Thanks for being more than a Captain; Thanks for being a true friend!”

Milestone Award and Local Impact Award

These two other special awards are presented to participants who stand out and shine extra brightly in a sky of very bright 3-Day stars. The Milestone Award is given at each event to one participant who has an extraordinary history of involvement with the 3-Day, and the Local Impact Award recognizes a participant in each 3-Day city who has been instrumental in strengthening the 3-Day in their community throughout the year.

Milestone Award Recipient: Catrina Gibson

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Catrina has participated in 11 events and this year will make 12 & 13, being in Dallas/Forth Worth and San Diego. She has raised over $59,000 and leads the team Pink Soles in Motion. Her dedication to Komen and the memory of her beautiful mother who she lost in 2000 has given her the drive and determination to never give up when it comes to fundraising and recruiting walkers to join the fight. A verse that she lives by is: “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” (Gal. 6:9). Catrina, thank you for never giving up and coming back to raise money and walk for the Susan G. Komen 3-Day year after year. Here are some fun facts about Catrina:

    • When Catrina arrives to an early morning training walk and there’s a great song on the radio, you can catch her jamming in her car until it’s over.
    • She tortured herself for five days of Orange Theory Fitness workouts for a great looking t-shirt.
    • She has mastered removing the under layer of clothing while walking.

Teammate Sandy Sauceda said about Cat, “One of the best memories I have with Cat at the 3-day is when she convinced me to walk wearing our Cure Bear costumes.  This is not like me but I had so much fun.  She brings that out in people. We walked more together as a group that year and chanted and laughed so much!  She Inspires! She has been a TWL for 8 years and has lead most of our walks, especially the 18 miler (nobody is crazy about that) but she is always game.  She gets all going and makes sure that we have what we need (walker stalkers) to make it.  She is dedicated! She gives even when it is hard. Life gets crazy and being a captain of a large team is stressful. Catrina is always there taking on more than her share to make the team successful.  She cares!”

Local Impact Award Winner: Dr. Sheryl Cowan

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Dr. Cowan has been a 3-Day participant since 2009 and has walked in 9 events up to this year. She registered for all seven of the 2016 cities and raised the money to participate in every one. Due to her commitment to her community and patients, she will attend four in person and walk the rest around the city of Plano where she lives. She has raised over $48,000 and contributes the generous donations she receives from her colleagues to her team mates on STEPS, which stands for Screening, Treatment, Educations and Programs. Sheryl held a board position with the Komen Dallas County Affiliate and her commitment to Komen and breast health never waivers. She has created an amazing, family-oriented atmosphere with Team STEPS as well as others and has rallied the troops to not only help each other, but she has led the charge to help the local community, especially during the 2015 tornadoes that swept through Texas.

Here’s a little bit about Sheryl from her teammates: “Sheryl carries business cards with her at all times. Wherever she goes she finds a connection with people through health or fitness or a family member touched by cancer. She gives them her card as a personal contact if they are in need of medical help, as a way to tie them in with Team STEPS through our Facebook page, or to offer an opportunity to walk the 3-Day in honor of someone with breast cancer. Sheryl is very much a believer that everyone has something to contribute to a team so that the team can achieve its goal. The goal of the 3-Day is to raise funds and walk 60 miles. She connects people who need help with fundraising, people who have aches and pains that need stretching, solo walkers who need motivation. She finds that strength in each person which is why our members keep coming back. They feel needed and appreciated. “Although we began as a group of walkers under the name Team STEPS, we have grown to be a team of walkers passionate about “saving lives and curing diseases”. Our training walks, under Sheryl’s leadership, are inclusive of teams from all over Dallas and its suburbs. We consider everyone an important part of the 3-Day family no matter the team they register under and invite them to train with us. Sheryl has said that she is not the “cutesie/tutu type” personality. Her team was built to train any walker who wants to walk the 60 miles to reach that goal.”

Please join us in giving a round of applause and a high 5 to all of these extraordinary 3-Day participants. With your help, we’re 60 miles closer to ending breast cancer forever!

A Survivor’s Story: Tracey Aho

This October for Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we’re sharing stories of survivors. Read our most recent post from Sherri O’Berry here, and today, we’re honored to share Tracey Aho’s story.

Like many others before her, Tracey’s breast cancer journey started when someone close to her—her mother—was diagnosed. It was after her mom’s second breast cancer diagnosis, Tracey recalls, that she took action for her own health. “Based on my family history as well as previous scares on personal mammogram results, I decided to see a specialist as a preventative measure. After a few visits and a few tests, we decided that I would have an MRI. It was then that the tumor was spotted and a biopsy was ordered. I was told that the results would take a day or two and knowing my doctor, I knew she would call me as soon as she had the results.”

Years prior to this frightening turn of events, Tracey became part of the Komen 3-Day. “I had heard about the 3-Day over the years but was watching TV one night in 2014 and saw a commercial. This was shortly after my cousin was diagnosed with breast cancer and I sat there thinking, “I should do that. I’m not doing anything for Jennifer (my cousin) just sitting here”. I thought about it for a few minutes and then decided to register. Almost immediately after I did, I thought, ‘What in the world did I just do?’” What she did was step up to the challenge of the 3-Day and crush it. She raised over $2500 for the 2014 Michigan 3-Day, then came back and did it again in 2015.tracey-aho-1

Flash back ahead to the spring of 2016, and Tracey was in a meeting when her phone rang with the call that would change her life. “My boss knew I was waiting for this call and of course immediately excused me from the meeting. My doctor asked me if I wanted to go home first and then call her back but based on her question alone, I knew I was going to want the results right then. She confirmed that I did indeed have breast cancer.

“My immediate reaction was not shock; I had prepared myself for the worst but prayed for the best so I was mentally ready to hear the diagnosis. Of course there were tears and nervousness but my next two thoughts were ‘How am I going to tell my son, husband and the rest of the family’ and ‘What’s the plan?’

“I received my diagnosis on March 17, 2016 and my husband and I were in the doctor’s office the very next day discussing treatments. I had a couple of options which included a lumpectomy but due to other health issues that I have, we decided on a bilateral mastectomy followed by reconstruction surgery.

“Follow-up treatment was still unknown at that time but eventually, my doctor ruled out radiation and my oncologist wanted to run an oncotype test to determine the aggressiveness of the tumor before he could advise if chemotherapy was necessary. My results came back in the low intermediate stage so we decided that I would not need chemo.”

Tracey had walked in the 3-Day two times before her diagnosis, but 2016’s Michigan 3-Day was special for her: “This year was a little different for me because it was my first as a survivor. I kept thinking, ‘I’m very blessed. I could be getting chemo treatments or worse right now but I’m here.’”tracey-aho-2

We’re glad you’re here, Tracey, and thanks to you and all the people in our 3-Day community, we’re working hard on ending breast cancer forever.