‘I’m walking’

LIHUE — Uri Martos and Mariann Ornellas said they are both walking in the Paint the Town Pink hosted by the Kauai Committee on the Status of Women, Oct. 4 starting at 11:30 a.m. at the Moikeha Building rotunda.

“I went last year, but didn’t walk,” Martos, a cancer survivor, said. “I stayed behind and helped with the clean up. This year, I’m going to walk.”

The public is invited to join the walk which will be preceded by a proclamation announcing October as Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and a warm up routine led by Bev Brody with Get Fit Kauai.

The County of Kauai has pledged its support of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, an annual international initiative, by displaying pink lights at the Historic County Building for October.

“There are so many different kinds of breast cancers,” said Ornellas, a current cancer patient. “When I was diagnosed in November, I didn’t know anything about cancer. But I wanted to know and started reading everything I could find. It turns out the type of cancer I have is small, but it’s an aggressive type so the doctor recommended the full cancer treatment — chemo, radiation, and target treatments.”

Ornellas said she was involved with the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life events because of her friendship with Patti Ornellas, the Kauai American Cancer Society officer.

“When I was diagnosed with cancer, my whole perspective on living changed,” Ornellas said. “I live for the moment.”

Martos said support is important in helping people with their fight against cancer.

“As a cancer survivor, people have a way of knowing what you’re going through,” she said. “Even complete strangers come up and offer their encouragement and support. I have been blessed by this community, and by walking, this is my way of giving back.”

During the Paint the Town Pink, participants are encouraged to wear anything pink to show their support of breast cancer awareness and to remind the public of the importance of early detection.

“I have my pink,” Ornellas said. “The fire department on Maui has supported the cause and provided me with pink items to wear. My most important message to other women is to make sure to go for your screenings. Early detection is key to recovery, and with the techniques and cancer treatments available today, recovery is very doable. I’m not able to, yet, but I want to get back to being able to to my exercise classes.”

This year’s Paint the Town Pink is getting support from the American Cancer Society, Wilcox Medical Center, and the YWCA which will have brochures and other educational materials about cancer awareness available for participants.

“There is so much more to be done on cancer research,” Martos, who just returned from an advocacy meeting in Washington, D.C. said. “Patti Ornellas recruited me to go to the Hill for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network. Our job was to advocate for funding for cancer research, prevention, and care of cancer patients. Without funding, the cure may be in a flask, but we won’t know it.”

Martos said she also advocated for the care of cancer patients so the treatments are not so taxing on a body.

“I was lucky,” she said. “I could get all my treatments done on the island. The hospital’s infusion center, nurses, and the radiology departments are a blessing. And yet, there is a lot more to be done.”

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