April 10, 2014 — Today, I await the birth of my second grandchild and only hope for a healthy baby for my daughter’s first child. To bring a baby into today’s world fills my heart with joy, but also with hope that this baby will never know what cancer is.
Over 100 years ago, my grandfather immigrated from Japan to Maui as a healthy 20 year old man who worked in the sugar cane fields, operated a pig farm, and raised 10 children with my grandmother, who also worked in the fields and ran her own tofu factory. Hard work was always a part of their lives, but they lived the American dream of succeeding in a foreign land. However, stomach cancer took my grandfather’s life at age 70. Was it because of he was exposed to a lot of pesticides in his work or was it the American diet? In the 1950’s, there was not much hope for cancer patients. Years later, my uncle and his son died of colon and lung cancer, while another cousin died of leukemia.
Cancer did not spare my father or mother’s family, so when I was invited to become a Relay For Life volunteer in 2001, I said yes and found myself joining a large community of people who were all touched by cancer. In 2002 I became staff on Maui and helped to start the very first Youth Relay For Life in 2003. In subsequent years, I have worked primarily in the Health Initiatives department in Maui County.
Today, I serve as a Senior Representative in Community Engagement for Maui County and West Hawaii. To build partnerships and bridge our communities so we can all “stay well, get well, and fight cancer,” is what motivates me to strive for a world free of cancer, so that hopefully, my grandchildren or perhaps, great-granchildren will say, “What is cancer?”