KOLOA — Bernie Nunes, the assistant store manager at Sueoka’s, was not fazed by the fact she was leaving early, Tuesday for a doctor’s appointment.
“You have to set an example for the younger generation that sickness does not stop you from working,” Nunes said. “I always tell the young people ‘If I can work, you can do more.'”
Nunes was diagnosed with cancer in 2009.
“I was in for a regular checkup,” the 15-year employee of Sueoka’s said. “The doctor said my blood pressure was high, and the next thing you know, I had to cancel a planned trip to the Mainland.”
Nunes was diagnosed with Multiple Myloma, a cancer which she simply describes as a blood disorder which can go into the bones.
“Because of the medication I had to take for the cancer, one of the side effects which came about is I live with necrosis of the jaw which reverses the healing process,” Nunes said. “Three years ago, I had to have a tooth extracted and it never healed. Parts of the bone are decaying and I’ve got to have some of it cut away.”
Despite the effects, Nunes said she can live with the discomfort, occasionally relying on counter pain killers for help.
“I’m one of those people who just can’t stay at home,” Nunes said. “After I was diagnosed, I took a break from work for three months for treatment because it’s not fair for employers to have to pay for someone who cannot work.”
After returning to work in September, 2009, Nunes said she has met several people who have encountered cancer, including a co-worker whose wife was recently diagnosed.
“After what I went through, it’s easier to understand what these people are going through,” Nunes said. “I’m here to support them.”
Her gesture of support for people dealing with cancer was reinforced following her participation at an American Cancer Society Relay for Life in Hanapepe.
“It’s undescribable,” she said. “There are so many people — from caregivers to survivors — who have such amazing stories. The amount of support there is for people who have to deal with cancer is amazing, and it comes out at the Relay.”
Nunes said she felt the event also helps people better understand what cancer victims go through.
“I continue to give my all to this job,” Nunes said. “After I received my diagnosis, Sueoka’s allowed me to work until I couldn’t function, and after the doctors cleared me for work, I came back.”
She currently suffers from neuropathy, a condition she attributes to her treatment.
“For me, neuropathy makes me lose feelings in my feet and hands,” Nunes said. “But the fact is, I can still function. As long as I have my sight, I can do things. I keep telling all of the younger generation that sickness can’t stop you.”
The American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life will take place at the Hanapepe Soccer Fields from 6 p.m., April 25, opening with a Survivors Lap, a Caregivers Lap and highlighted with the Luminaria Ceremony.
The Relay, the world’s largest and most impactful fundraising event to end cancer, unites communities worldwide to celebrate people who have battled cancer, remember loved ones lost to cancer, and take action to finish the fight against cancer.