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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Komen Helpline: Your Lifeline for Breast Cancer Information and Resources

A woman in Playa Del Rey, CA was about to undergo a needle biopsy. Feeling alone and uncertain about the upcoming procedure, she called the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Helpline speaking at length with a Komen Helpline Specialist who listened to her concerns, answered her questions and sent Komen educational resources. The specialist also took the time to follow-up after the call. Believing that knowledge is power, she hung up feeling more at ease about what was to come.

20130807_153331The helpline team serves as a lifeline for those who are feeling overwhelmed with fears or concerns about breast cancer.

Each year, the helpline receives more than 14,000 calls and emails. More than 90 percent of those who contact the helpline are reaching out for their first time. Callers vary from those who are newly diagnosed to co-survivors, many unsure of where to turn and looking for information on how they — or someone close to them — can be assisted in their fight against breast cancer. Others are calling because they are worried about a breast problem, or because they need information about where they can go for screening tests.

“Often helpline callers are unaware of where to even begin when they call,” Director of the Susan G. Komen Breast Care Helpline Vilmarie Rodriguez said. “This is why contacting the helpline is so beneficial.  The helpline team is able to guide callers, provide them with current, accurate, safe and evidence-based information, debunk myths, address barriers to care and enable them to take ACTION.”

dsc_4109_retThe trained helpline team assists those who call or email by providing education about breast cancer, helping to locate low-cost local mammography services, coaching how to communicate with their doctors and loved ones and reassuring callers that they are not alone.

20140907_084922The helpline staff stays directly connected to Komen by participating in the Greater NYC Race for the Cure, attending educational workshops and webinars, receiving internal newsletters from the organization and staying up-to-date on breast cancer materials.

They are dedicated to being a friendly, reassuring, comforting and confidence-building voice for those who feel most alone.

You can reach the helpline Monday through Friday (in English and Spanish), from 9 a.m. – 10 p.m. ET at 1-877 GO KOMEN (1-877-465-6636) or helpline@komen.org.