Resilience is the theme of the 34th Annual Cancer Walk-a-thon taking place on Sept. 6, 2014. There's an old proverb that says, "The bend in the road is not the end of the road unless you refuse to take the turn." Resilience could be defined as: taking the turn, not accepting the end of the road. The building blocks are persistence, grit and a dogged belief in a rebound – hope.

Alana Nichols, who will help San Juan Medical Foundation kick off the walk-a-thon, is an example of taking the turn in the road – resilience. At age 17, Nichols, a Farmington native, was injured in a snowboarding accident, leaving her paralyzed from the waist down. After recovery, Nichols challenged herself to wheelchair basketball, which won her a scholarship at the University of Arizona. In 2006 and 2008, she and her team won medals, including gold at the Beijing games.

Nichols was not content. Her heart yearned for still more - speed and snow. In Colorado, she began training for alpine skiing. In 2010, Nichols became the first woman U.S. Paralympian to claim gold in both summer and winter games. She participated in the Paralympian Games in Beijing, Vancouver and Sochi, winning three golds, three silvers and one bronze medal. As she wiped away tears of joy, she told the audience in Whistler Creek, BC, "I'm just so proud. ... I've had so many people supporting me to get here, my family and friends, this isn't my win, it's everybody's win."

Cancer patients grip that same resilience. Their battles demand persistence, grit and optimism. Alongside those qualities is a strong and passionate will to bounce back – no matter what it takes. Cancer patients tolerate painful surgeries and grueling therapies. They and their families commit their personal and financial resources to survivorship – passionately believing in success. The 34th Annual Cancer Walk-a-thon is always dedicated to those cancer patients and their champions.

Like Nichols, cancer patients will say they had many people supporting them, it's not one person's win – it's everybody's win. One of the most remarkable ways the Four Corners community has supported cancer patients is through the Annual Cancer Walk-a-thon. The Walk began in 1981 and has grown into one of the largest in San Juan County. All money raised stay right here in this community to benefit cancer patients and to sustain Connelly Hospitality House. Many cancer patients travel long distances to receive treatment in Farmington. They find a "home away from home" at Connelly Hospitality House – a place of hope and healing, a place where resilience is nurtured.

The 34th Cancer Walk-a-Thon will take place on Saturday, Sept. 6, at the Piñon Street East Parking Lot across from San Juan Regional Medical Center. Sign in is at 7 a.m. Special guest, Alana Nichols, will speak at the kickoff at 8 a.m. She will greet walkers and sign autographs following the walk.

Gather all your friends, family and co-workers to form a team. It's easy to do. Register at, call 505-609-6813 or drop by San Juan Medical Foundation, 730 S. Lake St. in Farmington.


Leslie Fitz represents the Connelly Hospitality House. The House is a project of San Juan Medical Foundation, a community based, independent, nonprofit organization committed to enhancing healthcare in the Four Corners area.