Celebrating, and fighting

WAIPOULI — When you are dealing with incurable breast cancer, every birthday counts.

Cheryl and Ken Morita, children of Elaine Morita, coordinated a birthday celebration for their mother where more than 80 people turned out Saturday night at the Hukilau Lanai.

Among those attending were staff members of the Samuel Mahelona Memorial Hospital where Elaine worked for more than two decades before her work was cut short following the diagnosis of cancer.

“The doctors didn’t want me to work anymore,” Elaine said. “But I can’t stay at home so I go to volunteer.”

Richard Fukushima, one of Elaine’s classmates, presented her with a quilt he made.

“He made two,” Elaine said. “I got mine. The other one is going to be presented through a lucky number drawing for the cancer walk.”

Josie Pablo, the Mahelona Hospital recreation director, said she wants to invite people to share in the “Walk to Celebrate Life,” an event created by the hospital staff and volunteers three years ago following diagnosis for Elaine and several of the hospital’s long-term care residents.

“This is the only breast cancer event we have on the island,” Pablo said. “Donations are welcome, but more than that, we want people (dressed in pink which is symbolic of breast cancer fighters) to join the fight against cancer by volunteering to help push a resident in their wheelchairs as we do the walk to raise awareness about breast cancer. Call 823-4138 if you can volunteer to help a resident.”

Pablo said there is still time to get tickets for the Fukushima-created quilt. People can purchase tickets at the Mahelona Hospital Thrift Shop which is the basic fundraising arm of the Mahelona Hospital Auxiliary, formally known as the SMMH Auxiliary.

Patti Ragasa of the American Cancer Society said all proceeds from the Mahelona Hospital walk will go to the American Cancer Society’s Making Strides program which helps breast cancer research to better understand, prevent, find, and treat the disease.

Making Strides also affords comprehensive support for breast cancer patients with free information, answers, and support.

The program also helps people take steps to reduce their breast cancer risk, or find it early when it is the most treatable.

“This is the only breast cancer event we have on Kauai,” Ragasa said. “It is a perfect time to lend support toward finding a cure for breast cancer.”

The Mahelona Hospital “Walk to Celebrate Life” will take place Thursday, Oct. 1, when buses will unload hospital patients at Ke Ala Hele Makalae, the multi-use path, adjacent to the Kapaa Neighborhood Center.

From there, it is a short walk to past the Kapaa Beach Park, returning for refreshments and fellowship provided by the Mahelona Hospital Auxiliary.

Kathy Koerte, a cancer survivor and volunteer with the ACS office in Lihue, said the American Cancer Society celebrates birthdays.

“We believe every birthday you celebrate is a victory — another year that cancer has not prevailed,” states the ACS website. “Your birthday means everything to us.”


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