My mother had breast cancer 45 years ago. Back then there was no cure. I am dismayed that as we approach 2019, the mystery of how to eradicate breast cancer is yet to be solved. It is still jarring for me every time a loved one, friend or colleague is diagnosed. A wave of dread washes over me as I try not to overlap my sorrow and ugly memories with their current fears.
Intentionally, I say yes to most every opportunity to cheer and support those resilient souls leading the charge in battling breast cancer. So, it is no accident that I arrived in Maui, Hawaii recently just in time to participate in the 5th annual Paddle for a Cure at the Hyatt Regency Maui Resort and Spa.
Maui Paddle for a Cure is just the perfect blend of lovefest, fun, and non-competitive paddling event in support of Susan G. Komen Hawaii. Stand-up paddlers head out along the beautiful shoreline of Ka’anapali Beach donning their bright pink Aloha shirts to match their smiles. The crowd was a mix of locals and mainlanders coming to support a cause that too often has hit very close to home. I found everyone was like me, personally touched by breast cancer in their family if not a survivor themselves. Women spoke openly about the need for support and community and how important it is for people to come together to celebrate survival and honor the memory of those we lost.
With the help of the Maui community and the participants and sponsors, Paddle for a Cure has raised more than $115,000 for primarily local Hawaii based cancer treatment facilities, education and prevention programs. It felt good to be a part of something so meaningful.
I met so many incredible women that day but two young women in particular touched my heart and soul. Paige More and Bianca Muniz are best friends that met on Instagram through The Breasties, a nonprofit organization that Paige founded to support women affected by breast or ovarian cancer through community and friendship. Paige opted to have a preventative double mastectomy after discovering she had the BRCA 1 genetic mutation and felt very alone throughout the entire process. She started sharing her story on Instagram and found so many other women just like her. Bianca, a two time cancer survivor, celebrated her 24th birthday with all of us. As a singer, songwriter and cancer advocate, Bianca is spreading inspiration, support and hope where ever she shows up. These two New Yorkers flew in to participate in the event and spread their light and love.
After the actual paddle, everyone gathered back at the resort. The Hyatt Regency Maui Resort and Spa is set in a true tropical paradise with walking paths of trickling streams, swans, flamingos, geese and even penguins! The hotel is full of flowers and gardens and beautiful sculptures too. Buddhas, Goddesses and other Eastern art line the indoor/outdoor spaces.
The morning of togetherness included a marketplace of Maui supporters and a knockout musical performance by Anuhea, Maui’s own beautiful singer/songwriter who wowed the crowd with her openhearted music.
Coming to Maui and staying in any season is always wonderful but this autumn felt really special. Being part of an event like this makes everyone feel just a little more hopeful for a brighter future.