The Sandoval Signpost

An Independent Monthly Newspaper Serving the Community since 1988

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Debra Thal
Debra Thal at Ooh Ahh Point on the South Kaibab Trail in the Grand Canyon—1.5 miles and 780 feet below the rim.

Breast cancer survivor Thal lives the motto: “Hike On!”


When twenty-two-year Placitas resident Debra Romero Thal joined the Hike For Discovery program in January, like most other participants, she wanted to help raise money for blood cancer research while getting outdoors and meeting new people to hike with. As a thirteen-year breast cancer survivor, she knows the importance of continuing research against cancer, and Hike For Discovery’s parent organization, The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, works to find better treatments and cures. She signed on to train with the team for four months, preparing for a long hike at Grand Canyon National Park as the highlight of the season.

She never dreamed that very soon she’d be back in the cancer battle herself. About a month into the hiking season she still couldn’t kick a bad chest cold. Her physicians initially thought she had bronchitis, or exercise-induced asthma. Thal knew from previous experience this wasn’t the answer, and insisted the doctors keep looking. It turned out Thal had a relapse of the breast cancer she defeated over thirteen years ago. While she was initially shocked and saddened, her attitude was optimistic: “This is a reminder to be an advocate for your own health, and proof that research has come a long way in thirteen years.” Instead of the chemo and radiation that were her fate before, this time around Thal is on an oral medication that allows her to continue her active lifestyle with relative normalcy. This includes continuing to exercise and hike with the team. When she had to take a break from hiking for the diagnostic tests, she sent a message to the team through The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society staff: “I told them, ‘If you don’t think your doctors are on the right track, or think more is going on, you may be right. Keep asking, keep pushing; this is your life at stake. Be your own best advocate. Ask questions, research information, and always promote a dialogue with your doctors.’”

And life goes on for Thal. On May 18, she traveled to the Grand Canyon for Hike For Discovery’s event hike, having raised over $11,000 for research into cures for blood-related cancers through the Hike For Discovery program. Despite her diagnosis, Thal kept hiking, kept fundraising, and inspired the entire team to greater success this season.

Each Hike For Discovery participant is assigned a mentor, and Thal’s mentor Liz Huffman believes, “Having Debra on the team this season was eye-opening for all of us at Hike for Discovery. Debra immediately shared her diagnosis with us, so the team would know to be proactive about their health, and aware of how cancer can sneak back into your life.” Huffman added, “What’s most amazing about Debra is that the concept of quitting Hike, or anything else, never occurred to her. Here’s a breast cancer patient, who could very easily retreat into her own nightmare, reaching out and fundraising for the cures for leukemia and other blood-related cancers, because she believes in what we do. That’s been very powerful for the team, and for me, to know this season.”

Hike For Discovery is currently registering participants for the fall season, with event hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park and Great Smoky Mountains National Park. For more information, call Kirsten Theisen at The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society at (505) 872-0141, ext. 235 or visit

Keith Wilson

Keith Wilson

Duende Poetry Series presents a tribute to Keith Wilson

Friends and cohorts will read their favorite Wilson poems and share stories to offer tribute to one of the Southwest’s most influential poets, the Poet Laureate of Las Cruces, Keith Wilson. Coming to read their favorite Keith Wilson poem are Bobby Byrd, Wayne Crawford, Tony Mares, Leo Romero, Heloise Wilson, and more.

Keith Wilson, a native New Mexican poet and short story writer, is the author of many books. He is Professor Emeritus in English at NMSU, and has received numerous awards, among them the National Endowment for the Arts Creative Writing Fellowship, the Premio Fronterizo from the Border Book Festival for Lifetime Achievement, and the New Mexico Governor’s Award in 1988 (Wilson was the first poet to receive it). Wilson was named Poet Laureate of the city of Las Cruces. His memoir, a compendium entitled The Cause of Rite was published in October 2001 by Pennywhistle Press, and his Collected Poems are forthcoming by Clark City Press.

Wilson attended UNM and the U.S. Naval Academy, and after military service during the Korean War, became not only a writer of both prose and poetry, but a professor at the University of Nevada at Reno, University of Arizona, and for many years at New Mexico State University. He has also taught as Visiting Professor/Poet at the University of Kansas, Utah State University, and the Universities of Sibiu and Cluj in Romania, as well as Visiting Poet at the William Joiner Writer’s Conference at the University of Massachusetts.

Other awards include a PEN American Center Grant; PEN-West Book Award; D.H. Lawrence Creative Writing Fellowship; Senior Fulbright-Hayes Fellowship to Romania; and his book Graves Registry was nominated for the National Book Award in poetry.

Among Wilson’s many books are: Graves Registry & Other Poems, Sketches of a New Mexico Hill Town, Homestead, The Shadow of our Bones, Some Faces for America, The Shaman Deer, While Dancing Feet Shatter the Earth, Bosque Redondo, and Streets of San Miguel.

The June 15 afternoon event will be an homage reading for Keith (now eighty), who can no longer speak but is very active, still writing, publishing, and going to poetry readings. His wife Heloise has become his voice and reads his work very well. She will read some of his work, and then poets from all over New Mexico will come to the podium to read a tribute poem for him.

The reading will take place at 3 pm, June 15, at the Anasazi Fields Winery in Placitas. Guests can taste and purchase wines made from local fruit, and be inspired by the region’s wealth of poets. Snacks and non-alcoholic beverages will be available, too. A suggested donation of $3 will pay the poets. To get to the Winery, take I-25 to the Placitas exit 242, drive six miles east to the Village, turn left at the sign just before the Presbyterian Church, follow Camino de los Pueblitos through two stop signs to the Winery entrance.

The next reading in the Duende Poetry Series of quarterly poetry readings will be on September 14. For more information, contact Jim Fish at 867-3062 or, or Cirrelda Snider-Bryan at 897-0285 or

Desert Cenote

There is sadness among the stones

today, the rabbits are silent.

No wind. The heat bears down.

It has not rained for one year.

We have faith out here, desert

people, we wait, knowing with sureness

the swift cross of clouds, the blessings

of moisture (to deprive a man is to give

charms to him). I love this dry land

am caught even by blowing sand, reaches

of hot winds. I am not the desert

but its real name is not so far from mine.







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