The beautiful Amoa resort in Savai’i was the backdrop to the big Islands' first Pinktober High Tea fundraiser, which saw hoteliers and small business owners along with community leaders come together in pink fashion to boost the morale of the community and raise funds to support families affected.
Three strangers on three very different paths joined forces to tell their stories of adversity and hope with the aim to inspire others to take early action and boost the morale of those fighting cancer.
Manamea Apelu Schwalger, Lagomauitumua Vena Laititi Ah-Hi and Bella Lemisio joined forces for the Pinktober High Tea fundraiser held last Saturday.
They spoke in heartfelt ways about how cancer affected their lives and sent a message to others that while the disease presented victims with a painful and uncertain future, it doesn’t have to be fatal.
Both main speakers, Bella Lemisio from Lotopa and Lagomauitumua of Auala presented stories from two opposite sides of the spectrum.
Mrs. Lemisio diligently went for a checkup after finding a lump in her breast which resulted in being diagnosed for stage one breast cancer that she was able beat.
One great thing came out of her brush with the threatening disease is that she made changes to her and her family’s lifestyle that will increase her chances of remaining in remission from breast cancer for years to come.
“As soon as I found out that I had cancer, I changed my diet and how I looked at food,” said Mrs. Lemisio.
“I no longer eat meat, fried fatty foods or sugar. I increased vegetables in my food and exercised more.
You will want to change your lifestyle if and when you find out that you have this disease. Around the time I was diagnosed I knew straight away that I had to change my diet and I knew what I had to eat.
“My family was shocked and sad when I was diagnosed but prayer and support from God gave us the strength we needed to get through it. God gave me a courageous heart and faith to fight this cancer.”
Lagomauitumua was not so fortunate and he spoke openly from his own experience about the attitudes among males that he believes is part of the problem in so many men being diagnosed too late, especially when it comes to prostate cancer.
“Cancer is a very scary word,” he said. “Everyone is worried and they don’t want to get a check up because they don’t want to find out if they have cancer.
Sometimes out of shame and this is particularly true for us men, we don’t want to talk about it or get checkups of our most intimate body parts but hopefully if we can get past that, the doctors can detect the cancer early enough to be able to treat it.
“Prostate cancer is painful. I am on painkillers right now; this disease has had a debilitating effect on my life especially for someone like me who in my younger days till diagnosis could never sit still.”
Early detection, lifestyle changes and a strong faith in God’s blueprint for each individual can get you through a relentless disease that does not discriminate against age or gender according to Lagomau.
He paid tribute to his late wife who passed away two years ago after a 12 year battle with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and credited his attitude towards cancer to his late wife’s example.
“We were devastated when my wife was diagnosed with cancer in 2003,” said Lagomauitumua.
“We were living in the United States at the time and treatments were available to her there, but one thing about her was she was very strong – spiritually, physically and mentally to fight.
“She used to say ‘lets forget about it’ she would go for treatments and after she had done that then she just goes about her normal daily routines, her work and look after our family.
“We were heartbroken when she passed away two years ago this November 25th.
But this is how I look at cancer, even if we have it - we must try our best not to let it take up too much mental space because we need mental strength to get through this - otherwise we will be adding more stress onto ourselves which only feeds this disease.”
The Pinktober High Tea event was a success for the Savai’i community with over $10,000 raised from donations, pledges and raffles and organisers are planning to hold many more of these events in the near future.
The Pinktober activities continued yesterday with a luncheon at Sheraton Samoa Aggie Grey’s Hotel. The Pinktober Benefit and Official Launch is scheduled tomorrow night at Orator Hotel. The evening is being organised by the Miss Samoa Alumni.