Fight Back, Get Well, Your Society, Your Volunteers

Volunteer profile Roger Yu and why he drives

Road to recovery volunteer driver Roger Yu, shares some first hand accounts of what it is like to help people get to treatment and some of the things he’s seen along the way. Learn more about Road to Recovery here

My first Road-to-Recovery rider came from Kapa`a, Kauai. The husky male patient wore a well-used black t-shirt that advertised “Big City Diner” on its back. His black rubber slippers revealed less-than-pedicured feet and toenails. His cracked hands and chocolate skin told a tale of spending years in the hot tropical sun. Yet the look in his eyes was sparkly, alive and said he was “there” and ready for the challenge. I, too, am an optimist.

Driving Road to Recovery for American Cancer Society
A Road to Recovery driver talking story with their patient
 
My next rider was a colorful counterpoint to the first. Frail, and in her September years, she wore a teal cable sweater, white bermuda shorts and a pair of well kept but also well used white sneakers. The impression she gave was a woman with a history filled with perhaps golf, autumn leaves and maybe mint juleps. She traced to Oahu from the remote and culturally-assorted (Hawaiian) Ocean View on the Big Island. I sensed that in this individualistic locale, she could live her own style of life.
 

Third was a quiet, non-English speaking Spanish woman confined to a wheelchair who, with her accompanying husband, lived a rural life on Molokai. They were staying, doubled down, at a relative’s already-crowded matchbox apartment in Makiki (on Oahu) for the duration of her treatment, which was to be chemotherapy for several months to come.

Hawaii American Cancer Society Road to Recovery Driver
Road to Recovery driver and patient
 
What these three patients all had in common was that they lived on the neighbor islands and needed vital cancer treatment on Oahu, the only place in our state that certain treatments are available. All were financially challenged, displaced from their own homes and struggling with the dark thoughts of facing a potentially fatal disease.
 
A critical mass of patients on the neighbor islands does not exist to justify the kind of equipment and expenditure on facilities to adequately deal with a disease as challenging as cancer. Even in Honolulu some of the newer, more exotic pieces of equipment need to be shared by institutions because there may not be the patient load at any given location to justify the purchase and upkeep of these machines. Creative cooperation like this, between medical institutions is a wonderful solution but underscores the scarcity of some treatments.Road to Recovery Hawaii American Cancer Society
 
Traveling inter-island, even while on vacation, can be a time-consuming, arduous affair. Doing it for the sole purpose of meeting with a doctor about potentially devastating scan results, or having a surgical or other procedure to battle the disease’s progression is a lot to tolerate both physically and emotionally. That is why I concentrate my “Road to Recovery” volunteerism on neighbor island transfers because I feel these patients have to go through so much just to get to the “starting line,” that is making it, on time, to an important appointment on Oahu. Perhaps it is my own family experience with cancer that sensitizes me to their demanding journeys, but that story is for another post.
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Finish the Fight, Local Events, Relay For Life, Your Society

Relay For Life 30 Years Strong May 17th

Relay Hilo GroupDid you know that Dr. Gordy Klatt walked 24 hours around a track in Tacoma, WA 30 years ago on May 17th 1985 to raise funds for cancer awareness and from that day started the worldwide movement we now know as Relay For Life? The High Plains Division will be celebrating the American Cancer Society Relay For Life 30th birthday on May 17, 2015. We ask that you join us in this celebration by taking one or more of the following actions:

* Light a luminaria in honor or in memory of a loved one or friend and place it in a visible spot near your home (i.e. front porch, window, line your driveway).

* Change your Facebook profile to a luminaria to honor Dr. Gordy Klatt or others who have been touched by cancer.

Relay for Life* Visit relayforlife.org or your local Relay For Life event website to purchase a luminaria in honor or in memory of a loved one who fought back against this disease. It is because of you and your efforts through Relay For Life which allow us to do the most to help people with cancer today. The American Cancer Society helps nearly 1 million people touched by cancer each year get the help they need when and where they need it. Our cancer information specialists answer questions, provide information, and refer people to community resources 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, via phone (1.800.227.2345), email, and live online chats on cancer.org. We look forward to joining together on May 17th to celebrate Relay For Life – 30 years strong!

Fight Back, Finish the Fight, Learn About Cancer, Local Events, Men's Health, Your Society

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.

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 (cancer.org). After years of doctors visits, my mother and I are more grateful than words can describe. He is a Survivor!

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.

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