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Waimea Relay for Life marks 10 years of celebrating, remembering and fighting back against cancer

<p>Waimea resident Harry Edmondson has battled cancer five times, having had breast cancer, lung cancer twice, and bladder cancer multiple times. (PHOTO BY ANNA PACHECO|SPECIAL TO NHN)</p>

Waimea resident Harry Edmondson has battled cancer five times, having had breast cancer, lung cancer twice, and bladder cancer multiple times. (PHOTO BY ANNA PACHECO|SPECIAL TO NHN)

<p>Five-time cancer survivor, Harry Edmondson, shares his story. (PHOTO BY ANNA PACHECO|SPECIAL TO NHN)</p>

Five-time cancer survivor, Harry Edmondson, shares his story. (PHOTO BY ANNA PACHECO|SPECIAL TO NHN)

<p>Cancer survivors from the first Waimea Relay for Life pose for a photo. The Waimea 12-hour event is celebrating its 10th anniversary. (PHOTO COURTESY OF ACS FOR NHN)</p>

Cancer survivors from the first Waimea Relay for Life pose for a photo. The Waimea 12-hour event is celebrating its 10th anniversary. (PHOTO COURTESY OF ACS FOR NHN)

<p>Survivors prepare to walk the Survivor’s Lap at the Waimea Relay for Life last year. (PHOTO COURTESY OF ACS FOR NHN)</p>

Survivors prepare to walk the Survivor’s Lap at the Waimea Relay for Life last year. (PHOTO COURTESY OF ACS FOR NHN)

<p>At last year’s event, Kylee Stone paints 7-year-old Lindsay Taguadan’s nails, one of the many creative ways donations were collected for the American Cancer Society at the Relay for Life event. (NHN FILE PHOTO)</p>

At last year’s event, Kylee Stone paints 7-year-old Lindsay Taguadan’s nails, one of the many creative ways donations were collected for the American Cancer Society at the Relay for Life event. (NHN FILE PHOTO)

<p>Waimea Relay for Life participants take turns walking throughout the night last year. The event raises awareness and money for further cancer treatment research and public education. (NHN FILE PHOTO)</p>

Waimea Relay for Life participants take turns walking throughout the night last year. The event raises awareness and money for further cancer treatment research and public education. (NHN FILE PHOTO)

<p>In honor or in memory of those who have had cancer, luminaries were lit during the Relay for Life event in Waimea on April 28 last year. NHN FILE PHOTO</p>

In honor or in memory of those who have had cancer, luminaries were lit during the Relay for Life event in Waimea on April 28 last year. NHN FILE PHOTO

It was 10 years ago, when Waimea residents first got a Relay for Life in town – the American Cancer Society’s all-night, national fundraising event for cancer research and education.

Waimea resident Harry Edmondson was there. Now 88 years old, he has battled cancer five times – first breast cancer 47 years ago in 1965, then two bouts of lung cancer and bladder cancer twice.

Looking easily 10 years younger than his age, he attributes overcoming cancer to good doctors and a supportive family.

“I have been really lucky,” Edmondson said. “… They are making fantastic strides.”

“He is amazing. Talk about defying the odds,” said his daughter, Laurie Edmondson. “He is an inspiration to those who do get diagnosed. You can tell that I’m pretty proud of him.”

Laurie Edmondson, who helps with the Waimea Relay for Life survivor tea and dinner, said her father is in good spirits and is an “amazing” example, which is one of the reasons she volunteers.

“We have such champions that have survived such a terrible disease,” Laurie Edmondson said. “They have an important place in the community. It certainly makes you think twice when you have a bad day. You just think of one of these survivors.”

10th Annual Waimea Relay for Life is from 6 p.m., Saturday, April 27 to 6 a.m., Sunday, April 28, at Waimea Park. All are welcome to attend the “party.” There will be food booths, music and games. This year, the event will begin at 3 p.m. with a survivors’ gathering with dinner at 5 p.m. This year is also the 100th Anniversary for the American Cancer Society.

Bernie Kainoa, an imaging technologist at North Hawaii Community Hospital, first started volunteering with the American Cancer Society around 17 years ago, when a 35-year-old friend was diagnosed with breast cancer and died within a month.

“I didn’t want to see that happen to anyone else,” Kainoa said. “I wanted to do something, so I called the American Cancer Society and got pamphlets. Every October, I would set a table out with pamphlets for women to look at.”

She started to create other activities at NHCH, such as Girls Night Out, and panel discussions. She realized educating people on the importance of regular check ups for early diagnosis was key to changing mortality rates from cancer.

“Early detection is key,” Kainoa said.

After volunteering with the Relay for Life events in Kona and North Kohala, Kainoa decided her town needed their own Relay for Life event.

“It wasn’t to raise money at that time, it was to raise awareness and to educate the community,” Kainoa said. “We felt there was a lot of cancer here in Waimea, and we really needed to get the community involved in what was going on.”

Kainoa has had many battles with cancer. Both her husband and sister-in-law have both died from cancer. But Kainoa said that over the past 10 years, she has seen progress in the number of people who are able to survive cancer and go on to live healthy lives.

“When I first started with ACS, exercise and healthy eating wasn’t at the forefront,” Kainoa said. “Through the years, we learned that eating the right foods and exercising does make a difference with the diagnosis or prognosis.”

Kainoa said a key element of the Relay for Life is the Fight Back ceremony.

“At 11 p.m., everybody gets together, and they sign a pledge that they need to do something (for cancer prevention or education) all year round,” Kainoa said. “It’s not just to come to Relay one night a year, but to see how to live it out as a person – to say, ‘I want to work out more, I want to eat healthy vegetables, or take a friend to get a mammogram.’ … I think that, too, has made a difference.”

Kainoa said that having a Keiki Corner has also helped to educate the community on healthy living. The area is filled with educational activities for youth of all ages that are not only fun, but that also help educate the youth on healthy behaviors to decrease the odds of cancer.

The opening ceremony begins at 6 p.m. and includes the Survivors Lap, where all cancer survivors make the first trip around the field.

Cathy Hashimoto, community manager for income development for the American Cancer Society, said her favorite part of the night is watching the Survivor’s Lap.

“Many of them have struggled hard to be there and they are so encouraging,” Hashimoto said. “It is more than a fundraising event. It is an opportunity for the community to come out and support anyone and everyone who has experienced cancer.”

At 8 p.m. is the Luminaria Ceremony. Visitors can purchase a luminaria and decorate it in memory of a loved one who has died from cancer, or in support of someone who now has cancer. The luminarias are placed around the parameter of the field and light the path for walkers. The Fight Back Ceremony is at 11 p.m. where people make a commitment to yearlong actions to make a difference for themselves and for others in the fight against cancer.

Teams, survivors and sponsors are still welcome to participate. To enter a team, contact Raynee Fisher at 557-6146, or email waiaka74@yahoo.com. To participate in the survivors’ gathering, call Sandy Pang at 885-7418, or email esp905@hawaiiantel.net. To become a sponsor, call Cecile Burleson 258-4018 or email ceciliregardingsales.com. For general questions, contact Bernie Kainoa at 938-2762, or email Bernadette.kainoa@nhch.com.