Relay-ing to fight cancer

KILAUEA — Hidemi Miyasaki said he was one of the lucky ones, as he sat ringed by his wife, children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren in the descending darkness of night at Kauai Christian Academy in Kilauea.

“We have four generations here tonight,” Miyasaki said Friday night while watching a steady flow of people walk past his group, next to a tent full of activity generated by the crew of the Westin Princeville Ocean Resort Villas. “I’m one of the lucky ones, surviving colorectal cancer. This is the first time in my 86 years that the newspaper even talked to me.”

Miyasaki was one of the big group of survivors who opened the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life of North Shore during the Survivors Walk, a celebration of cancer survivors and caregivers.

He was swallowed up by the sea of survivors, walking silently, hand-in-hand with two of his great-grandchildren.

The Relay for Life is the world’s largest fundraising event to end cancer, uniting communities around the world in celebration of those who battled cancer, remembering those who succumbed to the fight, and taking action to continue the fight against cancer.

“Ben is my angel in disguise,” said Barbara Lizama. “It’s been 17 years since I had breast cancer. Now, I’m fighting colon cancer. It’s hard being a caregiver. There is no break. But he’s been there with me, helping to keep me on the upside.”

At least 20 teams, a huge increase over last year, ringed the circle of luminaria which formed the core around which walkers paced through the night, encouraged on by emcee Mel Rapozo whose mother Jessie Sam Fong was a victim of cancer.

Tricia Adams of Honolulu joined the mass of people as the Hero of Hope, 2012.

“I was very lucky,” Adams said. “I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2006. It was an aggressive cancer which required aggressive treatment. It’s usually fatal, but I’m here. I go to a lot of these events to share stories of hope. I see a lot of the young people and I’m happy because it’s my hope that if they each learn something from participating in these Relays — even if it means reading just one of the track signs — we can end the fight.”

Patti Ornellas of the Kauai American Cancer Society office said the goal of the Relay for Life of North Shore is $24,500.

“So far, we have about $14,000,” said Megan Perius, an event leader who just graduated from Oregon State University. “This is my third year volunteering while I’m home for the summer, and hopefully, we’ll get more money throughout the night.”

Ornellas said people can contribute by visiting www.relayforlife.org, or by calling the American Cancer Society office at 246-0695.

“This is Coach Dean Petro’s luminaria,” said Mickey McMillian of the Wilcox Memorial Hospital Infusion Center. “I have his visor which he gave to me before passing. He and his mother were diagnosed at about the same time. She’s fine, but he didn’t make it.”

Her electronic torch brought life to the votive-filled paper bag decorated with his name. The lighting ceremony was ignited by the impact of a fire knife performance from Michael Drake and his ohana as the vestiges of night swallowed the remaining rays of day at the Kilauea field.

“We have a team lighting luminaria of those we cared for,” McMillian said. “There are just too many.”

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