The fifth of September 2014 marked my fifth year working with the American Cancer Society. The first person that comes to mind when I think about cancer itself is my sister, Joanne. She is who brought me full circle with this disease. Then, I recall all the patients and families I’ve met over the years and I have a mixed bag of emotions. I am thankful, for the opportunity to brighten someone’s day and hopeful, that one day we will find a cure that puts an end to this thing we call cancer.
Growing up on Maui was the best, amazing parents and family, fishing and camping, lots of cousins, animals, and always music. My parents were high school sweethearts, married for 52 years and had four children (three daughters and a son). My brother Sheldon passed away when I was only eight months old and then three years later, my sister Leeann was born. Although I’m pretty sure that eight month old baby was their perfect child, they insisted on trying again!
I began my journey with cancer back in 1998. My dad, the eldest of nine, lost his brother Herbert to colon cancer. Peter would be next in 2004. After that, his youngest sister Nicki passed from cancer in 2008, and then his oldest sister Rita in 2010. My mom as well, lost two first cousins, who were also brothers to cancer. Keith–the reason I am a registered bone marrow donor–passed away in 1999 from leukemia and his brother Ben in 2008 from stomach cancer.
My cancer journey hit home when Joanne asked my sister and I if we could go with her to an appointment on Oahu. It was August of 2005. Asking no questions we found ourselves sitting in Oncology and an hour later hearing the words, “it’s cancer.” Six months later on February 20, 2006, Joanne succumbed to pancreatic cancer at the age of 44.
For me, my journey became full circle in September of 2009 when I started working with the Society. I cannot think of a better way to honor my sister, than by helping someone whose cancer journey has just begun. I can’t imagine a better place to remember her than by being here, at the American Cancer Society. It gives me such a great feeling when a woman’s face light up after finding a wig that works perfectly for her during treatment, or see that kick in her step when she receives a breast fluff. Or hearing “thank you” after arranging travel to Oahu or the mainland for cancer treatment, I know I am doing the right thing. The term, “little things” has new meaning here at ACS, because what I perceive as being little, is actually HUGE to someone else. I love that I get to be a part of that!
I am one of many at ACS Hawai’i Pacific and I am thankful every day to be here. We are a great team with journeys of our own and together we do great things. I could not think of a better place to have spent the last 5 years and I look forward to what I hope will be many more years to come.
Read more about bone marrow donation here at cancer.org