On April 28, 2017, my husband and best friend passed away from breast cancer at age 59. Lee fought for nearly 12 years, four of it with metastatic disease. To anyone reading this who may not be personally affected by breast cancer, let me share with you just how devastating it can be. It’s not pink ribbons. It is not cute sayings or happy walks. Breast cancer is deadly and manifests in ways that you cannot imagine. It leaves a permanent scar in the hearts of those who witnessed what their loved ones endured. It is not curable.
But it can also be more than tears and sorrow. It can be about hope for another day. Or camaraderie with those who share the same journey. It can be about finding an inner strength you never knew existed. It is about friends and family who hold you up and keep you lifted.
This will be my last time walking in the 3-Day. There is a symmetry in this being my last event. We began walking in the 3-Day just after Lee was declared a survivor in 2006. This year, I walk in his memory. We walked in Boston and San Diego that year. This last walk will also be in San Diego. And this will be my 18th walk. In Judaism, this is significant because 18 means “chai” or life.
After 12 years of participation, I am satisfied with our accomplishments. We helped bring awareness to the fact that men can have breast cancer. We have raised hundreds of thousand of dollars and we have shown people what perseverance and optimism looks like. Lee exemplified all that is good in a person and in the way he lived his illness. Never a complaint, never any self-pity. He allowed himself to be a face of male breast cancer, most often in places inundated with women. He never felt shame or embarrassment at what so many still think of as a woman’s disease. Lee was brave, kind, generous. And he was taken much too soon.
Breast cancer has changed every corner of our lives. Lee’s cancer saved our daughter by learning she carried his BRCA gene and being diagnosed early. It has showed us what a hero is, from a man who would grimace at being described as such. It has taught us to truly value every day and not take those we love for granted. Sadly, we have also learned how short time can be.
We love our 3-Day family. You give us hope and love and wonderful memories. At the end of the day, this is all any of us have. Please never forget my Lee. Tell the men in your lives how he lived and died. And keep walking. We need a cure.