Bunny Terry with Keller Williams poses for a portrait at her office downtown on Monday, April 19, 2021. Luis Sánchez Saturno/The New Mexican

Bunny Terry wasn’t always in real estate.

Originally from the small Eastern New Mexico town of Logan, she spent 27 years as a paralegal. She had been raising her two kids in Albuquerque, but when her son went off to college, she decided to return to her hometown with her daughter.

As a single mom, Terry felt real estate, especially with all Logan’s ranches and lake houses around Ute Lake, would be a manageable and lucrative career path, and in 2004 earned her license. She partnered in the Dos Rios brokerage, situated where the Canadian River converges with Ute Lake. But all the while her mind kept wandering to Santa Fe.

“I’m a native New Mexican and I always wanted to live in Santa Fe,” she says. “People think living in Santa Fe is unattainable because they think it’s so expensive.” Convinced otherwise, as soon as her daughter left for college, Terry took a leap of faith. She sold her Logan lakehouse and in August 2012 moved here.

From the beginning, she kept herself busy beyond her real estate work. “I was also doing online marketing, blogging, and running social media for 14 clients. That was really good prep for coming to a real estate market I didn’t know.”

Her diligence and savvy in real estate paid off. “My income doubled every year. As long as I stayed online on a consistent basis, built an audience and took care of people consistently, it just grew,” she says.

Every morning she went running and dedicated time to her social media. “I was really ready to take the world by storm,” she recalls. “I had just turned 50, and I was excited.”

Then, in November of 2012, a pain in her side changed everything.

“I went to the ER,” she says. The next day her doctor told her she had stage 4 colon cancer.

“I had not a symptom. I just didn’t believe it,” she says. “It couldn’t be true.”

Unable to work for a year while she underwent surgery and treatments, Terry experienced the immense support and kindness of the friends, family and colleagues who took care of her. Her gratitude for their kindness, for beating cancer and for her health cemented her determination to give back. She got involved with the Cancer Foundation for New Mexico, an organization that supports cancer patients in Northern New Mexico.

In 2014, Terry joined the Keller Williams team, where she found a mentor in broker Judy Camp, who had brought Keller Williams Realty to Santa Fe in 2011. Camp’s mantra was “come from contribution” -- or put another way, build a career that’s designed to give back. That phrase married perfectly with Terry’s dedication to the cancer foundation and focused her sense of purpose as a Realtor.

“I give $500 from every closing to the cancer foundation,” she says, although she’s open to her client’s charity preferences.

For every client, she says, “I’m going to make a donation to a charity, and it can be the charity of their choice.” If they don’t indicate one, Terry defaults to her cancer foundation, and says she’s proud to support an organization doing prolific work.

“Last year the Cancer Foundation of New Mexico served over 28,000 patients,” she says. This August she’ll become the foundation’s board chair.

“I’m just so passionate about what we do,” she says of the cancer foundation. “I’m really honored and excited. The reason I keep showing up and selling houses is because it funds that.”

In the wake of successfully beating the odds, Terry believes an attitude of gratitude is what saved her. This year she published her book Life-Saving Gratitude, to share her cancer-conquering story and elicit hope in others diagnosed with cancer.

She says that being open about her personal journey has proven useful for her business, as that transparency builds trust.

“You’ve got to tell your story,” she says. “People have to know who you are in order for them to trust you with the biggest purchase of their life.”

Her Facebook page, blog and websites all are versions of storytelling, which is something she’s now coaching others to do. Certified as a life coach, Terry has shifted her approach to encourage people to tell their own stories.

“I think Realtors sell themselves short when they don’t tell their own story,” she says, adding that that transparency helps them make critical human connections with clients.

Terry, now eight years past her surgery and still cancer-free, remains grateful every day.

She says her affirmation is, “Thank you for the people I get to help today.”

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