No one attending the Oct. 28, 2010, groundbreaking ceremony for a new University of Hawaiʻi Cancer Center facility in Kakaʻako understands the need for such a center better than four of the speakers, all cancer survivors.
ʻIolani graduate and UH Mānoa first year student Mari Galiher said she can pursue her dream of becoming a special education teacher thanks to treatment she received in a clinical trial offered through the cancer center after she was diagnosed with leukemia at age 4.
Trevor Maunakea, a Kamehameha Schools and Kapiʻolani Community College alumnus described learning that even an active young man who decided early to live a healthy life can require cancer care. “I come to this day with hope that this center will continue to reach people in need and encourage even prideful young men to consult a doctor,” he said.
Maui Sen. Roz Baker was a preteen when her young cousin was diagnosed with leukemia. Her father survived skin, kidney and colon cancers. Thanks to early detection—the result of research that led to the Pap test—she herself survived cervical cancer. “My experience is one reason I am so passionate about this center,” she said.
“We are fortunate to have survived and thrived,” said UH Mānoa Chancellor Virginia Hinshaw, who also credits her survival to the work of cancer researchers. “The progress we are making will help ensure there are many more survivors and thrivers in the future,” she added, noting that the center also serves as a memorial to the one in four individuals diagnosed with cancer who do not survive the disease.
Maggie Inouye, for one. U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye described sleeping on a cot at his wife’s hospital bedside for five weeks and listening as she described her decision to limit medical attention to painkillers and water, knowing that she would be dead in 10 days.
“It was a terrible day that hits all of us,” he said. “That’s why I’m involved.”
Guests from the university and community were invited to write their own reflections of memory, loss and hope. The messages were collected in a lauhala basket, to become part of the foundation of the building.
“My dream is that soon I will be able to tell all cancer patients that they can receive state-of-the-art treatment for whatever cancer they have here in Hawaiʻi surrounded by family and friends, have access to the most advanced tests and be treated by experts who are second to none,” said center Director Michele Carbone.
Carbone thanked CEOs Art Ushijima, The Queen’s Medical Center, and Chuck Sted, Hawaiʻi Pacific Health, for being early partners in the effort, lawmakers and donors for their support and university administrators for making the project a priority.
The first question after a cancer diagnosis is usually “why,” reflected UH President M.R.C. Greenwood. Cancer Center scientists will ask why every day—why certain cancers strike Hawaiʻi residents more often, why cancer occurs at a molecular level—and keep asking until they have answers that will help, she pledged.
Read about the project and cancer center research in the April 2010 issue.