Bebe Burns hitting a return.
© Jeff Bottari/USTA
By J. Fred Sidhu
INDIAN WELLS, Calif. – One week before Bebe Burns came to the 2008 USTA League presented by Chrysler 4.0 Senior National Championships as a member of the Pacific Northwest Section women’s team, she was diagnosed with breast cancer.
It is not the first time Burns has had to deal with cancer. Twenty-six years ago, she was diagnosed with melanoma, which is considered to be the most serious form of skin cancer.
When recalling that episode in her life, she said, “Tennis saved my life.” Burns, a retired school teacher who lives in Seattle, describes herself on the tennis court as “a pusher - one of those players who just gets the ball back.”
With that type of game, it was not unusual for Burns to play long matches. After one particular tournament where she spent many hours on the court, she went to the doctor to get treated for sunburn. At that point, the doctor discovered she had melanoma.
“If I hadn’t been a pusher, I would have probably been dead today,” Burns said. “They (doctors) removed a third-stage melanoma. If I had been a big hitter, I would have never gotten sunburn.”
“Since that time, I joined Team Survivors, which is an organization for women that are cancer survivors,” Burns said. “They are very supportive. When I got breast cancer, I called Team Survivors and my tennis friends. I have this huge system of support that is incredible.”
The 66-year-old Burns feels her breast cancer is in the early stages and will meet with her doctor after the 4.0 Senior National Championships, which are being played at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden.
“When you think about that little (tennis) ball, all of those other things go away,” Burns said. “It’s the best medicine in the world. I can’t tell you how many people have called and helped me. There’s all of that support there.”
She added, “I want to thank my team, especially my captain, Kenet Frodle for the support. That’s what it’s all about. Half of these women I’ve known for more than 30 years.”