There comes a time in life when virtually
everyone is faced with a mind-numbing
challenge, one that forces us to either throw in
the towel or fight and hope for a better tomorrow.
These unfortunate obstacles arrive unannounced
in varying degrees for each individual.
Regardless of the situation, the strength to hold
on, united with unrelenting support, is fundamental.
For nine years Tempe resident Bonny Dolinsek
has been supporting breast cancer awareness through
the Susan G. Komen AZ 3-Day walk. A survivor
herself, Dolinsek has devoted herself to the spirited
cause. This year marked an exceptional date, she
noted, because it’s her own 10-year anniversary of
Ironically, it’s also the 10th and final year of the
Susan G. Komen 3-day walk in Arizona, historically
a milestone ordeal for each and every individual
Before the awareness, the walk, the pink
products and the accompanying pride and support
existed in Dolinsek’s world, the arrival of an
unfortunate diagnosis was thrust into her life.
On Sept. 29, 2003, at the age of 32, Dolinsek
was diagnosed with breast cancer.
“I was completely blindsided by it,” she said.
“I had no family history of it, and I didn’t know
anything about it at the time. My first question to the
doctors was, am I going to die?”
For nearly two years, Dolinsek’s life consisted
of continuing surgeries, reconstruction and four
separate chemotherapy sessions. She had a dynamic
team of four doctors in central Phoenix: a surgeon,
a plastic surgeon, an oncologist and a naturopathic
“When I was first diagnosed I was bound and
determined to get it figured out, and demanded to
know what’s the next step and the step after that,”
Dolinsek said. “I was fortunate I didn’t have to deal
with any setbacks during chemo because typically a
lot of woman do. But I kept on fighting and healed
The doctors reminded Dolinsek that
chemotherapy would be detrimental to her fertility
and chances of conceiving a child biologically, but
she could try a year after her last chemo treatment.
“It was February 2005 that I was allowed to
start trying, so we went to Las Vegas on Presidents
Day weekend; it was my husband’s birthday,” she
“I just knew it was my time and we got
pregnant. I always say we hit the jackpot.”
When she was recovering from her last chemo
treatment, Dolinsek heard about the 3-day walk and
knew right away she wanted to get involved. She
rounded up a team of 15 close friends and family
members before she found out she was pregnant.
“Despite my due date being two weeks after
the walk, I was committed to the goal and ended up
doing the walk as best I could,” Dolinsek said.
“I just remember it being a strong mix of
emotions and contractions. I ended up having the
baby 10 days after the walk, and I can only imagine
the walk had something to do with it. ”
Bo, Dolinsek’s son, is now 8 and looked upon as
a special gift by Dolinsek and her husband Scott. She
has not had any other children since.
“That year’s walk was emotional and powerful
because it was a celebration of the fight I’d won and
the gift of our child.”
Dolinsek continued to train, raise awareness,
support and walk for seven more years. Last year was
the first she earned herself a spot on the route safety
crew alongside her husband. This year the two will be
bicycling along the route with the crew one last time
This year’s 3-day walk hosted nearly 1,000
brave, exuberant participants. The event helped
raised more than $2 million this year, totalling
$43 million for the past 10 years.
The Nov. 7 opening ceremonies began in Gilbert
at 6:30 a.m.
“The opening ceremony is big and powerful, and
they really know how to jump-start the crowd and get
you excited to start walking,” Dolinsek said.
“During the ceremony there is a group that
comes in carrying flags, and they join to raise the
survivor flag. It’s really emotional. This year my
husband was asked to carry the flag that says ‘my
After the ceremony the walkers and crew set off
from Gilbert to Chandler and Tempe, completing a
20-mile trek that ends at Benedict Park in Tempe.
Event 360, the company behind the grand event,
set up a luxurious camp for the walkers at the park
for both nights, there to be found a sea of pink tents,
hot showers, warm meals, entertainment and three
speakers each night.
Dolinsek was one of the survivor
speakers on Friday. On Saturday the
walkers cheerfully marched through
the streets and neighborhoods in
Ahwatukee, then back to camp. There
were plenty of cheering stations and pit
stops along the way, including a couple
of Kyrene schools: Niños on Friday,
Monte Vista and Colina on Saturday.
“We walked through a lot of
neighborhoods, and people offer their
homes and hospitality to all of the
walkers,” Dolinsek said.
“Sun Devil Auto gives out
Gatoritas (Gatorade slushees); people
have spray bottles, and some will even
massage your feet. When we walk by
the schools the kids hold signs and
cheer. There is so much community
support it’s amazing.”
The final day consisted of
packing up and finishing the last
20 miles through downtown Tempe
and Old Town Scottsdale to the final
destination at Scottsdale stadium.
“The closing ceremonies are really
neat. All the walkers go out onto the
field and all the crew and the route
safety members follow,” Dolinsek said.
“When the survivors finally
walk out, everyone takes one shoe off
and raises it into the air. It’s really
The walk forms lasting friendships
and memories, as well as everlasting
hope for the future and a noticeable
difference in the movement toward a
Dolinsek will never give up hope.
“I do the 3-day walk because I
can. I’m healthy, I’m capable, and it’s
my way of giving back,” Dolinsek said.
“I walk because I believe that
everyone deserves a lifetime.”