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 can be deadly and manifest in ways that you cannot imagine. It leaves a permanent scar in the hearts of those who witnessed what their loved ones endured.
Lee was my North Star. When things were dark, he was my beacon of hope and love. He was the constant in my life that I could always rely on for direction and purpose. And when I lost Lee, I lost my compass. There is no way to prepare for living without the person who was the center of your universe, even when you know it’s inevitable. Life is suddenly bisected into two halves: before and after. As I come upon the first anniversary of Lee’s death, I still struggle to find my place in this new world.
But in the midst of this seemingly endless grief, I am slowly realizing that my North Star still twinkles. I see Lee in our children and granddaughter; in our family; and in our friends. And Lee lives large in the 3-Day community. There he stood so humbly but strongly, reminding us that breast cancer is not just a woman’s disease. He exemplified how to live courageously and gracefully with breast cancer, but not be limited by it. 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 mutation and being diagnosed early. It has showed us what a hero is from a man who would grimace at being described as such. It taught us to truly value every day and not take those we love for granted. Sadly, we have learned how short time can be.
So in honor of Lee and all the lessons he taught me, I am going to walk again in the 3-Day. I thought I could put this behind me but I need to be Lee’s voice, and I need to find mine. We are still Breast Man Walking. We are still a team. And we still need to fight for a cure. So many extraordinarily generous people have supported our efforts over the years. With their help, our family has raised almost a half-million dollars. I know these contributions have improved the level and quantity of research that is so vital to those living with breast cancer, and for those yet to be diagnosed.
This will be my 20th time walking in the 3-Day. I will be going it alone. But I also know I will have the love and support of thousands of men and women who have a shared dream for the day when no one will ever have to bear hearing those life-changing words. The 3-Day has given 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 I know that when I look skyward and inward, my Lee will be shining brightly, guiding the way.