Colon Cancer Survivor Spreads Hope – Finish the Fight Friday 4-17-15

Re-Posted with permission from Being 808.

Kathy Koerte, of Kapaa, has been cancer-free for nearly 13 years. She counts each day as a gift — and a chance to give people hope and a powerful message as a colon cancer survivor. She says she counts it as her mission in life to let people know about routine colon cancer screening, which can catch the cancer early — when it’s highly treatable.

Kathy Koerte2“I’m so very happy to be here. I feel very fortunate,” she said. “I was diagnosed at a time in my life when I was trying to be healthy, eating right, exercising daily, and had quit smoking years before being diagnosed. It just goes to show you no one is truly safe from cancer, but we can prevent it with screening and can receive support through treatment.” For her efforts to help others, Kathy was named of two 2015 “Heroes of Hope” in Hawaii by the American Cancer Society.

“You have cancer”

We caught up with Kathy recently to learn more about her work to raise awareness about colon cancer, and her own health journey. She was 57 when she went in for what was supposed to be a routine colonoscopy. As she was waiting in recovery, the doctor told her that they’d found something and would need to have testing done to see if it was cancer. He told her not to worry until the lab results came back.

“You have cancer,” he told her. “It looks like stage I colon cancer. Thousands would love to hear stage I when they’re first diagnosed.”When the results did come in, the news wasn’t good. Kathy was shocked; it took a while for her diagnosis to sink in. There was a three-week wait between her diagnosis and scheduled surgery and she remembers walking around feeling anxious and not being able to eat or sleep well. She remembers thinking, “The cancer is in me right now, I hope it’s not growing. I’m shopping with the cancer. I’m doing things with this cancer in me.”

“Oh no, this isn’t good”

After Kathy’s surgery, both her gastroenterologist and surgeon called her and she said, “Oh no, this isn’t good, both of you are talking to me.” She was right to be concerned: The cancer turned out to be stage III. It had traveled beyond the walls of the colon and was also in her lymph nodes. Even all these years later, it’s hard for Kathy to explain the feeling of disbelief she had after she learned she had an advanced disease she had only seen others suffer from. She was given the phone number to the American Cancer Society (1-800-227-2345) once she started treatment at Wilcox Hospital.

She recalls, “It took me three days to call. I was so scared at first, but it was as if an angel picked up the phone to talk with me when I called. I later visited (her local office) and was given printed materials. I was told they knew what I was going through, what I would be facing. I needed that personal touch; it’s overwhelming the barrage of tests given.” Kathy had a second surgery to put in an open port for her chemotherapy that she went on to have for six months. She lost her hair, a lot of weight and would feel weak in between the week-long chemo treatments that happened every month.

ColorectalCancerIn 2004, Kathy participated in her first “life changing” American Cancer Society Relay For Life. The event is an evening or overnight community fundraising walk. Members of each team take turns walking around a track, while the crowd cheers them on (and celebrates with food, games and activities).

“When it gets dark, you’ll see lit luminaries with pictures of those who lost their battle, those still taking the journey, even pets that were lost to cancer,” Kathy said. “It’s emotional reading the names, looking at the bags. Year-after-year I go to honor those who have passed and those still fighting. It’s also a celebration of life. Everyone is invited. You’ll see cancer survivors walk with loved ones. You’ll see people you know and others you don’t. It’s incredibly moving.”

“Cancer is everyone’s problem”

Kathy says we should all be doing more to raise awareness about preventive care, which can catch problems early. She also yearns for the day when no one will hear the words, “You have cancer.” We’ll never get there, she says, without more people getting recommended health screenings. “It’s not someone else’s problem. It’s not embarrassing to have a colonoscopy, it’s may be out of your comfort zone, but it’s such a valuable tool to prevent colon cancer,” she said. “Cancer is everyone’s problem. There’s no way to get around cancer, you have to fight and go through it. “For me, I just had to get the treatment done. There is too much to live for and it’s instinct to want to live. I’m so fortunate it worked. The first challenge was just accepting the diagnosis. During treatment, it was hard to go out to just the local market with a baseball hat and no hair, feeling weak. If you see someone you know like that simply say, ‘Nice to see you.’ Kathy said while she was undergoing treatment, she met a man who said he was ashamed to be diagnosed, and asked her if she had cancer, too. “I told him, ‘Yes, I had colon cancer and it’s nothing to be ashamed of. It’s not like you ordered a six-pack of cancer. It’s happening to you, you didn’t pick this.”


denise bioDenise Lau is a content specialist at HMSA and blogs about mommyhood with her #808moms series. She has her hands full with a precocious, artistic daughter and active son. Her goal is to be healthy and fit while her kids become successful, well-rounded adults. Follow her on Twitter.

Survivor story – Finish the Fight Friday 4-3-2015

     This month is my hero’s junior prom. That’s right, my real life superhero is a junior in high school and just turned 17. He is an accomplished student at Mid Pacific Institute, a member of the National Honor Society, a consistent President’s List member each semester, a young online entrepreneur who can already set up his own servers and sites, a dancer, and a paintball fanatic. He has done medical mission work abroad where he served as a circulating nurse in an ophthalmic O.R. And in a month he will have completed all requirements to be named an Eagle Scout. In just a short year, he will be off to college, where he is interested in studying to be either an astrophysicist or a pediatric oncologist. I am proud of the incredibly strong, kind, loyal, open, honest, genuine man he has become, even without a father around.Darrah Nic Mom at American Cancer Society Relay for Life

Not only does he make me laugh with his innovative songs, tag lines and dances on the daily, but he is the best listener, supporter and friend you could ever ask for. He is the first person to stand up for anyone deemed “different,” the first to give assistance to the new kid on the team, and the first to offer a comforting hug, because he can always tell when you need it. Even more than that, despite anything going on in his life, he is always positive. My little brother Nicolas may be a teenager but he is the best man I know. I just saw a show that discussed what a man really is and the conclusion is that a boy becomes a man when he accepts others for who they are, makes the best of situations and inspires others. Why is he such an inspiration?

When our Nic was just 4 years old, he was rushed into urgent care. The incredible doctors removed his cancerous tumor from his adrenal gland after hours of surgery. He was diagnosed with neuroblastoma, a childhood cancer in the nerve cells of the sympathetic peripheral nervous system, which affects 700 children in the U.S. each year ( After years of doctors visits, my mother and I are more grateful than words can describe. He is a Survivor!Darrah Nic and JJ Relay for American Cancer Society Hawaii Pacific

We took Nic to his first Relay For Life event when he was 8 years old. We were captured at the Leeward O’ahu Relay by the bounce houses where a little girl punched Nic in the face because she thought he was cute, the hilarious lip sync performances by each team in their Grease costumes, and the touching Luminaria ceremony. Nic laid in my lap as we listened to the guest speaker. I was overwhelmed. As my mother and I cried tears of joy, gratitude and humility holding our boy’s hand around our first lap of silence, I knew that Relay would become part of our lives. Our Momma still cries those same tears every time she does a Survivor Lap, proudly holding hands with her boy.

Since then our family has participated in Relays in both Washington and Hawai`i. Next year will be our 10th year of bleeding purple! It has been a passion of ours to help however we can so that no one else has to fear losing a sibling or child.
As a Relay fanatic, I am so proud to say that Nic has volunteered, spoken and read at multiple Relays. He has helped me do more prep work, set up, clean up, and booth-manning than I can count. In fact my whole family has rallied together to fight cancer and it is the most beautiful feeling in the world–to share the same passion and deepest experiences with the people you love most.

We still try to volunteer at every O`ahu event each year because the people we have met through ACS have become our family. The staff and volunteers and Survivors, have become our partners. We continue to work for them, for what they do, for who they are, and for the spirit they ensue in us with every reunion hug we get at each event.Darrah and Nic Smile

I may be biased because Nic is my everything. We go through everything together and talk about anything and everything. He is my favorite person in the world and the one with whom I feel most comfortable. We have grown up together. Being 10 years older than him, I always thought I was helping to raise him, but really, he is the one who has taught me the most. We have been complimented on our visible love and strong sibling bond. We refuse to let cancer or anything else take that away from us! So we will keep fighting. As our favorite slogan goes: Cuck Fancer! :-)

~Darrah KF, American Cancer Society Volunteer

Finish the Fight Friday 3-27-2015

Screenshot_2015-03-27-12-42-30American Cancer Society’s Hoedown for Hope raises awareness and close to $70,000 to finish the fight against cancer. This past Saturday at the Kilohana Plantation, more than 450 guests, and countless volunteers gathered together to celebrate life, paniolo style. From can can dancers, to local favorites, Not My First Rodeo, to chart topping Maddie and Tae, this year’s Hoedown was an event that will go down in history. With this, the seventh Hoedown for Hope the community on Kauai has now raised over $400,000 and touched the lives of thousands of people with our message. Auctioneer John Genovese brought the whole crowd together for a special restricted funds ask for the Hope Lodge Hawaii that gave participants the opportunity to invest directly into the Lodge. For more pictures and information visit Hoedown for Hope on Facebook. To join the 2016 planning committee, email

Our thanks goes out to Outrigger Hotels & Resorts for being a generous community partner and providing discounted lodging to our Hawaii Pacific cancer patients in 2014. Presenting the Recognition Certificate to Stephanie Nojima are ACS staff Christine Hinds, Program Manager, Mission Delivery and Alaina Cunningham, Sr. Director, Community Engagement.  Outrigger Enterprises has supported our patients for several years and we hope that 2014 marks the continuation of our fruitful partnership.

Outrigger supports American Cancer Society


Thursday night at ProtoHub in Kaka`ako the cancer community joined PBS Hawaii for a pre-screening of Cancer – The Emperor of All Maladies that will air on PBS March 30-April First. This six part Ken Burns documentary explores the history of cancer through history and examines the sometimes controvesial approaches taken towards it. Visit PBS for air times.