Lisa Baker, Ph.D., admits she didn’t know if she could go through with it. After all, who really likes showering in a tractor trailer and sleeping on the ground after walking 20 miles a day?
And did we mention that the assistant professor in the UAB Department of Social Work has to do it two nights in a row and follow it up with another 20 miles of walking?

Baker has done just that for two consecutive years, taking part in the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Three-Day Walk. It’s 60 miles in three days, and while it’s never easy, she says, it’s always rewarding.

“It’s a life-changing experience,” she says, “and it’s worth every blister.”
Baker will participate in her third three-day walk — and second in a row — in Atlanta, Ga., Oct. 20-22.

“The Komen Foundation is just fantastic,” Baker says. “The opportunity to participate in something like this, something bigger than yourself, is just indescribable.”

The Komen Foundation typically schedules 12 three-day walks a year. The first one this year was in Boston in August, and an event has been held every weekend except for one since. The final walk of the year will be in San Diego the weekend of Nov. 10-12. Last year’s walks raised more than $30 million combined.

Baker and her friend Angie Thomson first decided to participate in the three-day walk in 2004 in Boston. Baker, who exercises regularly and has taken part in the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure 5Ks in the past, says her desire to take part in the walk was in part because of her mother’s battle with breast cancer. Thomson also has a friend with two young children who is in the middle of her own breast-cancer fight. That’s given both women plenty of motivation.

“We do it for everybody who’s fighting this disease, and we do it so our kids hopefully won’t have to struggle with it, too,” Baker says.

Baker finds plenty of encouragement along the way over those three days she commits to this cause.

It’s not uncommon for people to sit out in front of their houses with signs and cheer for the walkers, or for some who have lost a loved one to the disease to show up each day of the walk to provide drinks and encouragement.

“In Boston there was this man who had two daughters and one of those old Volkswagen vans from the ’60s. They would drive the whole race route and play music and cheer the walkers on,” Baker says. The man had lost his wife to breast cancer.

“It just fills you up when you see things like that,” Baker says. “You really get so much more out of it than what you put in to it.”

And all the camping and showers in a tractor trailer? “Believe me, you’re just thinking ‘Oh, this feels so good,’” Baker says. “You just want a pillow and a patch of ground.

“Besides, what we’re doing is nothing in comparison with what millions are going through fighting this disease every day.”