5th Pink Out Color Run in Hilo supports breast cancer survivors and thrivers
October 31, 2022, 6:30 AM HST
In 1992, Renette “Uilani” Haili-Soares was in her 20s, teaching preschool and had just delivered her sixth and final child when she was given shocking news that would change her life. She had breast cancer.
Thinking it was a death sentence, Haili-Soares decided to clean out her and her husband’s bank account and move to the Bronx to die. Cancer already was making it impossible to breastfeed her newborn daughter.
“You know, when you’re young, you don’t realize that there’s a lot more to life than you,” said Haili-Soares, now 58 and living in Pāhoa.
With the strong support of family and friends, Haili-Soares stayed on the Big Island, where she was born and raised, and beat her cancer.
Although 30 years have passed since she got the diagnosis, tears streamed down her cheeks Saturday as she told her cancer story outside the Afook-Chinen Civic Auditorium in Hilo during the 5th annual Pink Out Color Run event.
She and about 200 other people were decked out in pink to show their support for breast cancer survivors and thrivers while raising awareness about the disease. The event — held during Breast Cancer Awareness Month and sponsored by KBIG-FM in partnership with the American Cancer Society — also is a fundraiser.
About $7,300 had been raised online before the run started. More proceeds were earned during the event. The funds are used for research and to promote advocacy, especially for access to care and health equity. The funds also support programs that help people facing breast cancer and educate people about how to reduce their risk.
Jill Taylor, KBIG promotions director and co-host of Morning Drive with Jill and Sasha, said the Pink Out “raises awareness for breast cancer in a really fun and positive way.”
It was the first color run hosted since the COVID-19 pandemic began. Organizers pulled out all the stops.
The event included the signature 5K and 1.5K fun run/walk, the Beautiful Bra Contest, a costume contest, a Zumbathon, a 360-degree photo booth and a mini health fair.
Seven organizations and agencies shared information about their services available for breast cancer patients. They included the Hawai’i Department of Health, ʻOhana Health Plan, Hui Mālama Ola Nā ʻŌiwi and the American Cancer Society.
“We needed to see each other,” said Shannon Burke of Hilo, who won the Beautiful Bra Contest and raised nearly $140. “We need to surround ourselves with each other and get back to normal life.”
The 41-year-old is a friend of Haili-Soares and has another friend from O‘ahu who is a breast cancer survivor of 10 years. She created her bra with a Hawaiian and Polynesian theme to help bring awareness to breast cancer’s effects on the Native Hawaiian community.
Vanessa Carlson, development manager for the American Cancer Society on the Big Island, said research shows that 1,430 people in Hawai’i will be newly diagnosed with breast cancer this year and 281 of them will lose the battle. She did not know the breakdown by islands.
“The Pink Out Color Run fundraising proceeds are restricted to breast cancer research and patient support,” Carlson said. “Specifically, breast cancer and only breast cancer.”
Early detection is key. Research shows that 27% of Asian American and Pacific Islander women didn’t get their mammograms last year as scheduled. Carlson said the sooner breast cancer is detected, the easier it is to treat and the more likely someone is to survive.
“Women, hold yourselves accountable,” she said. “Reach out to your mothers, your sisters, your female friends. Make it a thing to grab your girls. Make your mammogram appointment. Keep your mammogram appointment and then celebrate. Celebrate that you’re doing what you can to prevent cancer, which includes screening.”
The support survivors get from their families, friends and organizations and businesses such as the American Cancer Society and KBIG is also critical to the battle. The Pink Out Color Run is intended to show that support and celebrate breast cancer survivors.
“Every single one of us has been touched by cancer. We know that,” Carlson said. “To celebrate that (survivors) are continuing to thrive, it’s huge to do that.”
Haili-Soares said sometimes people don’t realize, unless they are survivors themselves, just how much that celebration does to help those who have been diagnosed with breast cancer to thrive. Supporting them throughout the process can even be something simple just to let them know they have people behind them.
“Sometimes it’s just the hugs,” she said.
For more information or to donate, click here.