Cancer survivor leading the way

Roosevelt County resident and cancer survivor Colleen Tollett did not know until a week ago that she would be leading cancer survivors in their starting walk at the 2012 Portales Relay For Life.

Courtesy photo

This year's Portales Relay for Life Honorary Chair Colleen Tollett, right, and Patty Mohon, a five-year cancer survivor, look over their Relay T-shirts Thursday afternoon at Dora schools. Tollett fought breast cancer for more than a year before it went into remission in November 2010.

"They really didn't ask me to do a lot. They just asked me to be there, say a few words and lead the walk," Tollett said. "I consider it a real honor to be representing the survivors."

The relay begins 5 p.m. today at Greyhound Arena with a survivors reception, followed by 6 p.m. opening ceremonies. Events run through the evening, with closing ceremonies set for 4 a.m.

Tollett said she has been preparing to walk with her own relay team with the Causey Fire Department but had no idea she would be asked to be the honorary chair, who starts the walk and represents the relay cancer survivors.

"I had other people contact me and tell me that she was a cancer survivor and a really great person," said Relay For Life Committee member Julie Miller, who said various survivors can be suggested to the committee by different people.

Dorothy Nelson, community relationship manager for the American Cancer Society, said relay committee members look for good speaking qualities in the honorary chair but there are no specific qualifications. Each person is asked for different reasons, depending on their situation and who they are as a person.

Tollett was diagnosed with breast cancer in March 2009.

"It was a long, drawn -out process and it's still hard to talk about," Tollett said Thursday afternoon through tears. "I couldn't have done it without my husband and family's support and my students' and the community's support. With all of that support, it really made it easier to bear."

Tollett said she continued teaching at Dora Schools during her period of chemotherapy and radiation treatments. She has worked for the school for 21 years.

Her cancer has been in remission since November 2010, and she credits her husband Dennis as her biggest supporter.

"He went to every doctor's appointment with me. The chemo would make me nauseous and they would give me medication for that but it would make me sleepy," Tollett said. "He would practically carry me to the car and carry me into the house and I would sleep for a full day."

Tollett said along with the support of others helping her along the way, she also kept strength with God's support.

"I knew from the time I was diagnosed that I was going to be cured," she said. "God told me I was going to be cured. God gave me that faith."

Tollett said her team will be walking the entire night at the Portales relay at the Eastern New Mexico University Greyhound Arena.

"I think that anytime you can get people together, it creates more support, more fellowship, more of a community feeling," Tollett said. "I'm sure I'll meet some survivors on the walk that I don't know now and it will be nice to share. The closer you become, the more strength there is."

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