Daveline Andaya Ching of Kohala, Hawai`i was honored by the American Cancer Society as a 2013 Hero of Hope. The award recognizes 28 cancer survivors and caregivers in the 6-state High Plains Division who have had exemplary involvement with Relay For Life, made significant contributions to cancer control, and made an impact in the lives of others.
The American Cancer Society selected Daveline as well as several others from across six states representing 11 regions. The honorees selected symbolize the courageous struggle against cancer as they and family members deal with the physical and emotional aspects of their experience. They represent courageous voices of hope.
Daveline’s battle with thyroid cancer was more than a journey, it was a 10-year struggle that took her from her home in Kohala to Hilo and Honolulu for treatment and tests and finally to the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. Along the way she lost her taste buds, was paralyzed from her waist down, lived with constant seizures for 9 years, forced to sell her house, but through her struggle she remained positive and was always there for her family.
“I’ll never forget the day, it was Halloween 1994 when my OBGYN felt the lump on the side of my neck,” Daveline remembers. “My doctor took some samples, and in November I got the results. I had thyroid cancer.” Daveline took the diagnosis in stride and settled on getting better. In December, she had surgery to remove her thyroid, and in January began radiation. Her husband was her caregiver and drove from Kohala to Hilo, a 2-hour drive each way, for treatment. Every treatment required two trips to Hilo. One day for tests, and the next day for the treatment. By the end of May Daveline had enough. She couldn’t take anymore radiation and long drives. Miraculously everything was fine. The radiation treatment seemed to work. Daveline thought her cancer journey was over. What she didn’t know was that her struggles had just begun.
For the next year life was back to normal. Then one night in late June Daveline woke to find that she was paralyzed from her waist down. She struggled for an hour to reach the phone on the other side of her bed to call 911. The ambulance took her to emergency but the doctors didn’t know what was wrong. Then she started having seizures. For the next year, Daveline was constantly flying back and forth to Honolulu for tests. That’s when she contacted the American Cancer Society for help. “The American Cancer Society was there for me. They helped me with airline tickets to Honolulu,” she recalls.” Her doctors in Honolulu could not diagnose her condition and she was sent to the Mayo Clinic. After six days of tests her doctors at Mayo finally diagnosed her condition as Stiffman Syndrome. “They told me I would never walk again, and gave me about three years to live.” Daveline flew back home to Kohala, not to die, but to live. For the next four years she took her medication and she got better. In 2001, she participated in her first Relay For Life. “I could walked with my walker, but that night, my daughter walked for me.”
Daveline has been participating in Relay For Life ever since. “I will never be able to repay the American Cancer Society for everything they did for me,” she says. “For the transportation assistance they provided to get me to Honolulu. And for the ear and a shoulder, every time I needed someone to talk to. The American Cancer Society was always there for me.”
Today, Daveline is fine. No cancer, no Stiffman Syndrome, no seizures. “I participate in Relay For Life to encourage cancer patients, caregivers and their families that we need to keep fighting until we find a cure. I share my story about my struggle so others understand that there is hope.”
“The Hero of Hope Award offers an exceedingly visible sign of one’s courageous battle against cancer as well as inspires support and involvement in the programs offered by the Society,” says Maile Lincoln, American Cancer Society Hawai`i Pacific, Community Manager-Development, Hawai`i Island Field Office.
Each Hero received their award at a special ceremony during the Relay For Life Leadership Summit held in Dallas, Texas. “Hope for future cancer patients, and proof of the progress that is being made in cancer research, is evident through hearing these Heroes’ stories and meeting them,” says Lincoln. “We are proud of these individuals who prove to be true Heroes in their communities. They are without doubt profiles of courage and the reason we continue to Relay.”
For more information about the American Cancer Society visit cancer.org or call us 24/7 at 1.800.227.2345. For more information about how to get involved in a Relay For Life event near you, visit relayforlife.org.