I was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 1998 at the age of 38. My participation in a clinical trial included a stem cell transplant, five chemotherapy sessions, and full-body radiation treatments. I am an advocate for participation in clinical trials, which paves the way for new treatments or prevention methods. Although it was a rough experience, the responsibility of being a single mom kept me going. My inspiration for surviving was my son Brian who was 12 years old at the time. He was born with microcephaly (small brain) which made him totally dependent for all his needs. I was blessed to have support from my sister Theresa and my Aunt/Godmother, who helped care for Brian while I went through and recovered from treatments.
Sadly, my gift from heaven was called back to heaven at the age of 15. It is because of Brian that I am the nurse I am today. I am now a registered nurse for a home-care agency as a Clinical Coordinator, overseeing and training our home health aides and nurses to ensure that they are providing efficient and quality care for our patients. When I first was diagnosed, I participated in a cancer support group at Pali Momi Medical Center. I also had the honor of co-facilitating this group for a few years.
Finding support is extremely important for cancer patients, and I’ve been involved with the support group ever since. Everyone is going through the same thing. They became like my family. I also facilitated the cancer support group at Hope Lodge Honolulu. I found this group really unique because they came from different places of the Pacific Basin. Most of the patients were newly diagnosed and starting treatments, which is a critical time of their journey with cancer. I found that they were surprisingly very vocal and spoke from their heart. Most of the participants I only met once, but most of them said that they were glad that they joined in because they learned that they are not alone, and they connected with other residents staying at Hope Lodge.
I have had the honor to volunteer as a facilitator for LLS’s blood cancer support group for the past four years. I thoroughly enjoy this group because most of us have gone through the same treatments and survived the side effects of recovering from a transplant. My hope is that one day, residents of Hawaii will be able to have blood cancer treatments done in Hawaii instead of traveling away from their family/support system for weeks or months at a time. I feel blessed. I met new people, found new opportunities, and went back to school to become a registered nurse. I have been a caregiver for most of my life. Sometimes things happen for a reason, to give us a purpose. Now I’m able to give back.