‘I didn’t think it could happen to me’

LIHU‘E — Susan Oshiro-Taogoshi is the self-proclaimed poster child of excuses. The community manager at the American Cancer Society’s Kaua‘i office kept promising herself she would go and get a mammogram after her 40th birthday.

“I didn’t have any history of cancer in my family and I was in pretty good health,” Oshiro-Taogoshi said of her negligence to get a mammogram. “I didn’t think it could happen to me.”

A single mother of three, she kept putting the needs of others and her family ahead of her own. It wasn’t until she felt a lump in her breast that she visited the doctor for her first mammogram.

Oshiro-Taogoshi was 45 when she diagnosed with stage III breast cancer. She had a mastectomy followed by six months of chemotherapy and 30 days of radiation treatment in O‘ahu.

Today, Oshiro-Taogoshi has been cancer-free for three years.

“This is more than just a job for me,” Oshiro-Taogoshi said. “I want to make sure everyone does their prevention and early detection.”

October is Breast Cancer Awareness month, and Mayor Bernard Carvalho, Jr. is scheduled to give a proclamation before participating in the a Pink lunch walk with members from the community. The mayor will give the proclamation today at noon in the breezeway of the Pi‘ikoi Building.

In the 2010–11 fiscal year, the American Cancer Society’s Kaua‘i office served 237 people.

Oshiro-Taogoshi said one of her toughest challenges is to encourage people to visit her office and participate in the organization’s programs without feeling ashamed or shy.

During her treatment, Oshiro-Taogoshi took advantage of most of the programs the American Cancer Society has to offer, which includes the Road to Recovery, Reach to Recovery, Look Good … Feel Better and Hope Lodge programs. These programs offer one-on-one support from fellow cancer survivors, money to travel to medical appointments, even if they are off island, and techniques on how to look your best when going through chemotherapy and radiation treatments.

“The Look Good … Feel Better program taught me how to put my eyebrows on and my wig, but I didn’t use the wig. It’s way too hot here,” Oshiro-Taogoshi said. “What was important to me was that I got to see somebody who’s been there, done that, and is still here. She’s alive and healthy.”

According to the American Cancer Society, approximately 1,040 new cases of invasive breast cancer are expected to be diagnosed in women in Hawai‘i this year.

“We want you to stay well and enjoy a healthy life,” she said. “Prevention and detection are the keys.”

Oshiro-Taogoshi said she wants to emphasize donations to the American Cancer Society goes back into the program.

“I know when people give money, they wonder where it goes and who it helps,” she said. “I’m one of those faces.”

Forty percent of all donations goes toward research, she said, and the rest goes toward outreach programs and personnel training.

In addition, the ACS does advocacy work and helps uninsured women get access to breast cancer screenings.

After a year of being cancer free, Oshiro-Taogoshi began volunteering at the American Cancer Society, and this year she was hired as the community manager of the American Cancer Society’s Kaua‘i office.

“My main goal is no to let anyone feel alone on this journey,” Oshiro-Taogoshi said.

The American Cancer Society’s Lihu‘e office is open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday. If you need to meet outside these hours, call 246-0695 to schedule an appointment.

On Sunday, Kiahuna Golf Club will host a benefit for the American Cancer Society. Check in for the Paint the Town Pink Golf Tournament beginning at 11 a.m. with shotgun start at noon. A $79 entry fee includes cart, green fees and a pupu party featuring awards and a silent auction. Call 742-9595, ext. 1, to reserve a spot.

• Andrea Frainier, lifestyle writer, can be reached at 245-3681, ext. 257 or afrainier@ thegardenisland.com.

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