No one is ever prepared to hear the words: “You have cancer.” Apart from coping with the physical, mental and emotional impact of a diagnosis, patients and their families must navigate the logistical and financial aspects of cancer care.

That’s where the Pacific Cancer Foundation steps in to help.

Founded in 2005 by a group of health care professionals and cancer survivors, the Pacific Cancer Foundation provides a variety of services to cancer patients and their families, including transportation assistance to and from treatments; weekly support groups; wellness programs; a nutritional support program; and trained and certified patient navigators who give individualized support and guidance to patients and their families. The nonprofit also sponsors visiting specialists, including a high-risk breast cancer specialist and a gynecological oncologist (specialties that are currently unavailable on Maui).

And all of these services are provided free of charge.

Alysha Nichols-Sparkman of Equity One Real Estate joined the Pacific Cancer Foundation’s board of directors three years ago. “The Pacific Cancer Foundation is a cause near and dear to my heart because of the many loved ones I’ve lost and/or witnessed battle the Big Nasty C,” she said. “It is always a difficult journey, so I am thankful for all of the organizations that reach out to help those going through it. Pacific Cancer Foundation does just that, but graciously fills in the pukas not addressed by other, larger or national organizations—that may focus on cures rather than actual care—and they do it locally for Maui Nui.”

In addition to serving on the nonprofit’s board, Nichols-Sparkman has participated in the annual Paddle for Life: Voyage to Lanai for the past four years. During the two-day event, hundreds of cancer patients, survivors and supporters will paddle six-person outrigger canoes in shifts across the ‘Au‘au Channel from Lahaina to Lanai (a 34-mile roundtrip journey) to raise money for the Pacific Cancer Foundation and honor those whose lives have been touched by cancer. “It is a journey that takes emotional, physical and spiritual strength, much like the cancer journey, and it is something we can all do together to support those we love thick in the battle or as survivors,” she said.

Last year’s Paddle for Life event raised more than $245,000, and Nichols-Sparkman’s team, SGS Honu, raised more $35,000. Her family’s business, SGS Hawaii Landscape Management, Inc., recently purchased a six-man outrigger canoe to be used by the Pacific Cancer and Kimokeo Foundations for patients, clinics and fundraising. “The ocean is therapeutic and the canoe connects us to the water, so this seemed like a wonderful investment in the community we love so much,” she said. “The canoe is currently being finished on Oahu and is estimated to arrive on Maui early this year ready for use.”

Throughout the year, the Pacific Cancer Foundation coordinates workshops for cancer patients and survivors. Upcoming workshops include “Thrive and Survive” from Feb. 4 to March 10. The free six-week workshop was developed at Stanford University and explores topics like fatigue, depression, living with uncertainty, physiological changes, and treatment side effects. On Wednesday, Feb. 5, the Pacific Cancer Foundation will team up with Walgreens to host the “Feel More Like You” workshop, which features pharmacists and beauty consultants who are specially trained to help people better manage internal and visible side effects from cancer treatment. The second half of a four-part plant-based diet nutrition series will take place on Wednesday, Feb. 5 and 12; attendees will receive the information, tools and support they need to modify their current patterns of eating to include more plant foods. And a six-week neuropathy class (which uses the practices of Taiji and Qi Gong to increase flexibility and dexterity in the hands and feet) will begin on Wednesday, Feb. 19 at UH-Maui College.

2020 marks the Pacific Cancer Foundation’s 15th anniversary. “It is a great time to celebrate everything they have done for our Maui Nui ohana,” Nichols-Sparkman said. “Remember that all of their programs and services are provided free of charge and all donations stay right here in Maui County to support our ohana battling cancer. Live here, love here and give here!”

For more information about the upcoming workshops or to learn more about the Pacific Cancer Foundation and its services, visit www.pacificcancerfoundation.org, email info@pacificcancerfoundation.org or call 242-7661. And mark your calendars: The 2020 Paddle for Life: Voyage to Lanai will take place on Oct. 10 and 11. To inquire about sponsorship or donor opportunities, visit www.pacificcancerfoundation.org or call 242-7661.

Photo courtesy: Alysha-Nichols Sparkman

The Maui News – February 3, 2020

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