Hope Springs Eternal
American Cancer Society Hawai‘i Pacific has long been a beacon of hope for so many people affected by cancer. Now the nonpro~ t is inviting the public to register for its annual Making Strides Against Breast Cancer of Hawai‘i walk, and support those affected by the disease.
American Cancer Society has been around for 100-plus years, and in that time, it hasn’t strayed from a foundation built on hope and the understanding that no one should walk through a cancer diagnosis alone.
“We’ve all been touched by cancer, whether directly or indirectly,” says Cathy Alsup, executive director of American Cancer Society Hawai‘i Pacific. “I’ve been touched by cancer in my family, but at that time, it wasn’t quite as personal as it is now.”
Alsup was diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukemia about three years ago, while she was working on the capital campaign for American Cancer Society Hawai‘i Pacific’s Hope Lodge.
“To me, it’s a chronic disease, and part of what American Cancer Society is trying to do is really create that process where it can be a chronic disease,” she explains. “It can be like diabetes that is treated throughout your life, but it’s not a death sentence.”
Over the years, she explains, cancer research has improved by leaps and bounds.
“We definitely put our heart and soul into making sure that we have so much going into that area because it’s really the future of being able to battle this disease,” Alsup adds.
Immense progress is being made on multiple fronts — medical fieldwork, advocacy, support — which means cancer treatments are becoming more effective as time goes on.
Cancer incidents will continue to rise, but the disease is no longer considered fatal. In fact, cancer mortality rates have dropped about 25 percent in the last 20 years, according to Alsup.
“There are so many things that are allowing us to survive now,” she adds. “We’re just trying to gather around every part of cancer and work to figure out how to either prevent it, to treat it, or to allow people to live with cancer as they age gracefully.”
Alsup, who assumed the executive director role this summer, started her journey with the local chapter a decade ago, and has had her hand in areas such as major gifts donations, fundraising and grant writing.
“I really wanted to make a difference, and the mission we have here was one that I could really get behind,” she recalls. “I needed to put my hand in and be a part of fighting those diseases.”
In 2018, there will be an estimated 1,150 new cases of breast cancer in Hawai‘i, and 160 deaths from breast cancer in the state.
Since her diagnosis, Alsup claims she has become more “grounded in the mission of American Cancer Society Hawai‘i Pacific.”
“I feel probably much more comfortable with my diagnosis because of where I work,” she explains. “I know that amazing things are happening. I’m just more hopeful because of that.”
For breast cancer survivors Chandra Quinlan and Sharleen Anderson, that feeling of hope is the cornerstone for their recovery.
“Through it all, I’ve met and been inspired by some of the most courageous, hopeful, giving women and men and am proud to be in this community of survivors, caregivers and volunteers,” says Quinlan.
Meanwhile, Anderson found a lifelong friend in her Reach to Recovery buddy, Erin.
“In Erin, I saw hope at the end of this chapter of my life,” Anderson says. “My life has had many chapters, as has yours. Childhood, education, romance and marriage, career, parenthood, friendship. One of the chapters I started three years ago is titled ‘breast cancer survivor.’
“We are here for all those affected by cancer. We’re attacking cancer in every single way possible,” Alsup adds. “We are absolutely attacking cancer. There is hope around cancer, and I think American Cancer Society is a big part of that.”
For more information about American Cancer Society, visit cancer.org.
At Home at Hope Lodge
American Cancer Society Hawai‘i Pacific’s Clarence T.C. Ching Hope Lodge Hawai‘i is a home away from home for neighbor island residents needing treatment on O‘ahu. The vision for the facility came to fruition back in 2016, and since then has been a safe haven for patients battling the disease and their family/caregivers.
“When you first hear the words, ‘You have cancer,’ it’s scary,” says Cathy Alsup, executive director for American Cancer Society Hawai‘i Pacific. “So many things run through your mind: What’s going to happen, how do I tell my kids, who should I go to, will insurance cover all this? I lived on the Big Island for a little while, and I know that kind of fear when you need to get treatment.”
Tack onto that the added burden outer-island residents shoulder of coordinating treatment on O‘ahu — hotel stays, car rentals, food and transportation — and the whole ordeal becomes overwhelming very quickly.
“If they live on Kaua‘i and they have to come to O‘ahu for treatment, if their insurance doesn’t cover it, we pay for their airfare, we will pay for a taxi cab to get them to their service,” Alsup shares. “We’ve had so many amazing stories about people deciding that they could get their treatment because they could stay at Hope Lodge.”
Pink is in
It’s that time of year again when American Cancer Society Hawai‘i Pacific invites the public to join its ranks for the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer of Hawai‘i 5K walk. Don pink Nov. 17 and head to Ke‘ehi Lagoon Beach Park for a morning of encouragement and celebration as community members rally around those battling breast cancer and survivors of the disease.
Making Strides, though, is also a fundraising effort that focuses on the prevention of breast cancer.
“Almost everybody knows somebody who’s had breast cancer, and it’s not something that we should take lightly,” says Cathy Alsup, executive director of American Cancer Society Hawai‘i Pacific.
A lot of the money raised from this annual event gets funneled into breast cancer research, while other portions go toward support and providing information to those who received a diagnosis.
Alsup cites mammograms as a good way to catch the disease early — when it’s the most treatable — and says that technology was brought about by fundraising efforts by American Cancer Society decades ago.
“You look at 20, 30, 40 years ago, our research dollars and long-term research went into developing the mammogram back then,” Alsup explains. “In the future, they’re going to look back at now, when we’re funding current research, when groundbreaking things are coming out about breast cancer.”
In addition, local fundraising dollars also go toward transportation and treatment assistance, and Hope Lodge accommodations.
As in past years, Making Strides Against Breast Cancer invites all participants to come dressed in pink — and, as Alsup says, it’s nearly impossible to wear too much of the color that day.
“People go all out,” she adds. “They’ll wear pink tutus, they have capes, they dye their hair pink, guys dye their beards pink. Everything is pink.”
Day-of registration for Making Strides Against Breast Cancer of Hawai‘i kicks off at 6 a.m., an opening ceremony starts at 6:35 and the walk begins at 7.
For more information, visit makingstrideswalk.org/hawaii, call Alicia DeVoll at 432-9141 or email email@example.com.