Social Encore: ‘Relay’ aids in cancer fight
BY JERMEL-LYNN QUILLOPO / Special to the Star-Advertiser
Nearly 14.5 million Americans have a history of cancer in their families. That means there is a very high chance you know a person who has been affected by cancer.
RELAY FOR LIFE MAGIC ISLAND
» Where: Ala Moana Beach Park, 1201 Ala Moana Blvd.
I hate cancer and what it has done to people I love, but it unites people as well. This Saturday, hundreds will gather at Magic Island from 6 p.m. to midnight to take part in the Relay for Life, including Craig Petty, Erika Kobayashi and Daniel Shockley.
According to Relay For Life, more than 4 million people in over 20 countries have raised much-needed funds and awareness to save lives from cancer. Petty knows first-hand how cancer effects families; on March 4, 2010 his son Max was diagnosed with Leukemia.
“From day one, Max showed determination to beat the cancer he was beginning to fight,” said Petty. “Each day, he found a way to show us a smile letting us know that he was all good and wasn’t going to let cancer beat him.”
Each year the Petty family celebrates with heartfelt emotion and great joy as Max is now a healthy, active 7-year-old boy. This year marks an even more special cancer birthday for Max, as he passed the five-year mark of being cancer-free and his chance for remission is less than two percent.
“My family and I know that we wouldn’t be where we are today if it weren’t for the love and support from so many people,” Petty said.
Honolulu resident Erika Kobayashi is walking this weekend in memory of Sharon Black. The two met when Kobayashi was a volunteer at the Hawaii Humane Society. She remembers Black as a hysterical, steadfast, iron-willed and passionate person.
Black had three Great Danes: Polo, Mokka, and Rambo. They are all certified therapy animals that accompanied her on regular visits to hospitals and care homes across the state. In July 2011, Black’s cancer went into remission and while she was still recovering at the time, she was a little weak and became easily winded.
“While accompanying her on a visit to Tripler Army Medical Center, I remember wondering if I would had it within me to be as selfless, given (the) far-from-perfect physical condition as she was in,” said Kobayashi. “Regardless of her condition, we would make our way through the hospital comforting patients, all the while talking, laughing and smiling.”
Black’s philanthropic spirit did not stop with pet therapy. Being homeless at one point in her life, Black also founded the Kau Kau Wagon, a non-profit that provided food every Saturday in downtown Honolulu. During holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas the Kau Kau Wagon would feed more than 600 people.
“She was someone that made you step back and reassess yourself,” said Kobayashi.
On April 5, 2012 Black lost her battle to cancer in a hospice facility in Kailua. To this day, Black’s contribution and legacy prevails and she remains one of the most influential and empowering women Kobayashi has ever met.
Retired military sailor Daniel Shockley stresses the importance of annual checkups and early detection. In May 2012 at the age of 51, he went underwent his first colonoscopy.
Doctors found approximately 100 polyps throughout his colon, rectum and anus. His DNA was gathered and sent to a molecular oncology laboratory in California where doctors diagnosed him with Attenuated Familial Adenomatous Polyposis (AFAP). According to cancer resources, people diagnosed with AFAP have an increased chance of developing colon cancer.
Shockley said the diagnosis was a surprise since he was an active person who maintained a healthy lifestyle. When he was diagnosed, he maintained a positive outlook that he said made all the difference while undergoing various medical treatments.
“My initial mindset, a mindset that I keep to this day, is to not think about things that I’m not able to control and just control my responsive attitude towards things,” he said.
Shockley educated himself about what was happening and often took the time to read and talk to experts about what to expect and how to recover. He underwent a six-hour surgery to remove a pre-cancerous tumor and create an ileostomy.
Today, Shockley is healthy and said he has made it his mission to be a source of encouragement and an advocate for other colon cancer patients. He highly encourages everyone to make Relay for Life a family event and said people giving others a source of support and encouragement helps those who are coping with cancer.
“We are all in this together and it’s a combined effort that we all help each other out,” he said. “Relay For Life is about the camaraderie and allowing me to share my story helps spread the awareness.
“Early detection was a vital factor to overcome adversity and press on with my life after major colon surgery.
“It has taught me that no matter what happens in life, to always forge ahead with purpose.”
For more information about the event, including how to donate and how to sign up, visit the Relay for Life Magic Island website.
Jermel-Lynn Quillopo is a multi-faceted, energetic individual with experience in both print and broadcast journalism. “Social Encore” aims to tell diverse stories about Hawaii’s food, events and people; share your tips with Jermel via email or follow her on Twitter.