Current Fighters

Kosianjra

Kosianjra is 18 years old and was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia in May 2023 as she was nearing completion of her senior year at Kamehameha Schools on Maui. Kosianjra was living with her mother, Tamara, and younger brother at the time. Shortly after that, the cost of rent was increased significantly by the family’s landlord forcing the family to move out and stay with friends temporarily until they could afford another place. During this time, Kosianjra began her cancer treatment at Kapiolani Medical Center for Women and Children on O’ahu while her mom stayed at Ronald McDonald House and her brother was housed with other relatives on Maui. There is no pediatric cancer care available on Maui so Kosianjra must travel to O’ahu for all of her appointments, tests and treatments, which adds a significant amount of cost and physical/mental exhaustion to managing an already difficult situation.

In the August fires, the temporary housing where Kosianjra and her mom could stay when they were back on Maui in between treatments on O’ahu was burned, so they were placed at the Hyatt. Limited housing inventory has made it impossible to find rental housing on Maui that is affordable for a family of three on a single income – especially while Kosianjra and Tamara must regularly travel and spend extended, unknown amounts of time on O’ahu for her treatment regimen.

Many Maui Fire Relief programs have very narrowly defined qualification criteria, which has hindered Tamara’s ability to obtain housing and financial resources to support them during this challenging time. UVSC’s financial assistance has helped Kosianjra and Tamara relocate to O’ahu and obtain stable housing during Kosianjra’s ongoing treatment for the next six months.

Tamara has continued to maintain her employment by flying back and forth from O’ahu to Maui every few days, often working full day shifts and returning without sleep to be back at Kosianjra’s side while she bravely fights cancer. Recently, Tamara shared her story with American Cancer Society’s national leadership team to bring greater awareness to the experiences, issues, and challenges faced by the Asian American and Pacific Islander communities in Hawai’i that are facing cancer in the aftermath of the Maui fires. The strength, love, determination and resiliency of this family is nothing short of astonishing and UVSC is proud to support them.

February 2024 Update: Kosianjra is now receiving outpatient services and is looking forward to her graduation ceremony soon!

Madoka Franklin

My name is Madoka Franklin. I am a wife and mother of two beautiful children and live in Lanai. I love my family very much and a “beach day” with them is my favorite thing to do.

My family went through medical issues in 2022 and I was their care giver. After my family members had recovered, I was diagnosed with Stage 2 breast cancer when I had my annual mammogram in March 2023.

When I heard the news, my heart was broken because my kids are still young. Also, I was the main provider for our family and I didn’t know what to do with our finances.  I was scared and hopeless. I couldn’t eat or drink anything for couple of weeks, but I had to stand up and get ready to do whatever needed to be done for myself and family.

I had right breast mastectomy in May and chemotherapy in July. When I had chemotherapy, I had to stay on Oahu for three whole months. It was really hard for me being away from the family. I missed their first day of the school, my son’s birthday, basketball game and so on. Thankfully for technology, I was able to maintain my emotional health with daily video calls with them.

My next step is reconstruction surgery and hormonal therapy. I am slowly going back to a regular routine after this surgery, but I will do it a little bit different this time. I will slow down and take care of myself more and enjoy the present moment, especially time with family.

I am really thankful for UVSC with their assistance and also the people on Lanai’s loving support.

Iluminada Sinogo

Iluminada’s name means “illuminated” or “enlightenment” and she has been her family’s guiding light since day one. At the current age of 78, Iluminada is a mother to four children, a grandmother to nine grandchildren, and a great grandmother to a great grand-daughter. Affectionately known as “Mama,” she was diagnosed with thyroid cancer in 2007 and has endured several treatments including thyroid removal surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy and drug therapy. In 2019, her cancer developed into Metastatic thyroid cancer, also known as stage 4 thyroid cancer, which meant that it had spread from the thyroid gland to other areas of her body. As a result, Iluminada had to have a laryngectomy, which is a surgery to remove one’s voice box. This gave her a greater chance at extending her life, but it also meant that she would no longer have her natural voice.

For those who knew Iluminada prior to 2019, you knew that she was always the life of the party! To this day, she loves hosting parties and cooking various Filipino dishes. She enjoys spending time with friends and family and she doesn’t let her inability to speak naturally, or her cancer, get in the way of her daily activities. She attends church most everyday, unless she’s feeling a bit run down.

As residents of Lahaina, Maui, Iluminada and her family were recently impacted by the devastating wildfires in August 2023, which led to loss of their vehicle and employment. In addition, the medication required to treat Iluminada’s cancer has extremely high co-pays due to its limited availability and lack of generic options.

Although hour-long commutes to the doctor’s office in Wailuku can be a bit tiresome for her, she never complains one bit. Iluminada’s daughter, Merilou, shared, “I am a firm believer that her faith in God, as well as the medical treatment she’s getting, has kept her with us for the past 16 years! Our entire family is grateful to UVSC for providing the assistance our mom needs to continue fighting this disease. With your support, you are keeping the light within Iluminada alive.”

James Clover Bitzer

James Clover Bitzer is a lively 3 year old and “smart as a whip” says his dad, Jason Bitzer, a 15-year Lifeguard veteran on Oahu. Jason and his wife, Roberta Bitzer, an environmental scientist who is also very active with non-profit organizations on Oahu, are now in the biggest rescue attempt to help their son. James was recently diagnosed with stage 4 neuroblastoma with an MIBG positive diagnosis. However there is hope at Sloan Kettering in New York, nearly 5,000 miles from Hawaii.

The family is currently at Sloan Kettering on the East Coast, as they cater to this specific disease. UVSC stands beside them to help provide that much needed strength and hope as they split their time between Hawaii and the East Coast and take on this daunting task and heavy costs.

Kawaihala’ilanamalie

In July 2022, our Kawaihala’ilanamalie, better known by her ‘ohana as Hala’i developed a lingering fever, stomach pains and began to limp. While traveling back and forth to O’ahu and undergoing numerous diagnostic tests, her parents, Lee Jon and Nalani never left her side.

On August 18, 2022, our sweet Hala’i was diagnosed with Neuroblastoma after a mass was detected between her right kidney and spine. Additional testing and biopsies have confirmed a stage 4 diagnosis as cancer has spread to her left thighbone and into her bone marrow.
Hala’i’s first round of chemotherapy was on September 13th at Kapiolani Medical Center for Women and Children. Her initial treatment plan was for 21 days, followed by stem cell transplants and additional rounds of chemotherapy. Despite all of the discomfort our Hala’i has endured in the last several months, she still lights up the room with her beautiful smile and joyful spirit.

Kahalau Au Hoon

Kahalau Au Hoon – a fun-loving, adorable three year old from Maui

I’m Kahalu’s mom, Rachel Ray Au Hoon. Our story is one about love and family! Duke, Kahalau’s dad, and I met in high school and were even prom sweethearts! Kahalau is our second child born in May, 2014 on our home island of Maui. We wanted to spend more time with our two children, Kahalau and Honi Honi, and thus decided to quit our jobs to open our own art business. We started in open air market venues but within a year I was able to get my artwork into 10 galleries and 4 restaurants and we now have a small gallery in Kahului, Maui called U’i Gallery.

Our family was living a happy life on Maui when in June 2017 we noticed something wasn’t right with Kahalau. One weekend during a family outing, Kahalau who had recently been unstable on her feet at times, couldn’t even stand up. Something obviously was not right but we had no idea what it could be. Why was our perfectly rambunctious little 3 year old seemingly deteriorating before our eyes? We had taken her to the doctor several times because she was unable to maintain balance and was very fussy at times. It was labeled as ataxia and lactose intolerance.

I decided that weekend that it was time to go to the emergency room and figure out why my child was so sick, why she was walking irregularly and suffering leg pain. Cancer didn’t even come to mind, we thought maybe it was vertigo or some type of infection.

A scan of her brain at Maui Memorial didn’t reveal anything. Since nothing was found, we were flown to Kaiser Moanalua to get more detailed imaging of her brain. An MRI, however, found nothing. They even did a spinal tap and still found nothing, so I asked for a CT and MRI of her abdomen because she had also been complaining about her stomach a little as well. Duke and Honi Honi flew over that week for the results.

As I held Kahalau in my arms recovering from sedation and feeling awful the doctor went over the CT scan results and showed us a very large mass that covered her entire abdomen across her stomach and kidneys. We cried in disbelief but had to be transferred to Kapiolani Hospital for a biopsy. Finally after two weeks of living in the hospital, Kahalau’s diagnosis was confirmed as Neuroblastoma Stage 3 High Risk. The next day she started her first round of chemotherapy on a clinical trial with frontline treatment in addition to targeted molecular medicine.

Kahalau was such a trooper every step of the way. After her first round of chemo, we were discharged and went to stay at the Ronald McDonald House. While there her count recovered and she walked more than she had in a month. She was starting to be a happy and active child again. After another round of chemotherapy, we saw more improvement in her walking and she began to eat more.

Kahalau is still undergoing chemotherapy treatment but remains active and is known to inspire other patients at the hospital. One Mom commented how her son did not want to walk for a few days and seeing Kahalau playing in the halls with her IV Pole made him walk more than he did in a while! She still has her tough days but she is so strong and pulls through even managing to display her silly personality, laughter and love of singing.

We are look forward to the day our daughter is no longer in the hospital fighting cancer and we are honored and excited to have UVSC at our side.

Tekaurinuiotekaupapawaka Kaʻuluku Hideo Tanaka

If you ask Tekauri what his favorite color is he will tell you, “all the colors are my favorite colors.” Tekauri sees the world through a unique and original lens that is beautifully and always positive.

In December of 2020, Tekauriʻs mom and dad noticed a lazy eye and took Tekauri to get glasses but that did not seem to help little Tekauri. They took Tekauri back to the doctor a few weeks later because he was now having trouble with his balance. While Tekauri was in the hospital in January of 2021, an MRI revealed a large tumor located in Tekauri’s brain stem. Tekauri and his mom were immediately transported via medivac to Kapiolani Hospital on Oahu where two days later Tekauri underwent surgery to remove the cancerous tumor.

Prior to the surgery, Tekauri was entertaining all the nurses and bragging about the cool things he could make in minecraft. After the surgery, however, Tekauri was unable to talk, swallow, or move his body. Mom and dad found out the fast growing tumor was a malignant and rare type of cancer. The fast growing nature of his type of tumor made it important that Tekauri begin treatment within 4 weeks to improve his chances for survival. Therefore, Tekauri statyed in the hospital where he turned 6 years old. The nurses made a special poster for him, family and friends sent gifts. Tekauri left Kapiolani to begin his six week treatment of Proton radiation and chemotherapy in Seattle where he had to have special support to help keep his head up as he was not able to hold his own head up, walk, or move his arms.

While in Seattle, Tekauri pushed through radiation and chemotherapy. As part of his proton radiation treatment he had to wear a special mask to keep his head still. The nurses decorated the mask into Tekauriʻs favorite cartoon character. Tekauri continues to heal and he no longer needs a neck brace and he has began moving more and can now walk slowly. Three weeks into treatment in Seattle his brother, Kalaeʻula, and sister, Kamani, came up to stay with him as well as his grandparents. Tekauriʻs health and overall well being improved by having his siblings and grandparents around, he was happier and more motivated to move and do things. Tekauri spent a lot of time sitting next to his grandpa on the couch watching basketball games or sitting along the edge of the lake. Unfortunately, grandpa passed away unexpectedly of a heart attack while in Seattle. On April 23, 2021 Tekauri and his family returned home to Hawaii after spending eight weeks away. They stayed beyond the six weeks in order for Tekauri to receive intensive physical, speech, and occupational therapy at Seattle Childrenʻs Hospital.

Tekauri has since begun his 11 month maintenance chemotherapy plan and is receiving treatment on Oahu at Kapiolani. He continues to progress and the family is confident that one day he will be walking and talking normally on his own. Mom, Kala Baybayan Tanaka, is a community teacher of Hawaiian voyaging and navigation, she is a navigator and crew member on voyaging canoes Hokuleʻa, Hikianalia, and Moʻokiha. Dad, Daniel Tanaka, works in the Mauna Kahalawai watershed (West Maui) as a conservationist, both parents have taken leave from their work to focus on Tekauri and their family.

Tekauriʻs mom believes that all children battling cancer are heroes and she continues to learn so much from her own son’s fight. She, along with her family and friends are inspired daily by Tekauri’s strength, love and resilience. UVSC, along with the entire Maui community, stands beside them to help provide that much needed strength and hope.

James Gonzalez-Wesley

James Gonzalez-Wesley is a sweet, affectionate 4 year old boy with a playful laugh and dimples that bring a smile and joy to everyone he meets. Little James loves to sing songs, go to the beach, pop water balloons and play with his family and friends.



James’ parents, Matias Gonzalez-Wesley and Malia Lonzaga, first noticed he wasn’t gaining weight, he looked pale and was less playful. He would not run around as usual and complained that his legs hurt. His parents took James in for a blood test and the results were alarming and indicative of possible cancer. James and his parents raced to Oahu where he was diagnosed via a bone marrow test with b-ALL Leukemia on 1/21/20. The following day little James began an intensive chemotherapy regimen that involves 5 chemo drugs (plus others to control side effects), multiple spinal taps and bone marrow tests, and the insertion of a central line i.v. “port” to deliver fluids and chemo directly into his heart.

His parents have not left his side. The family is experiencing the tremendous hardship of being away from the support of family and friends and they are unable to work. They are, however, determined to face this challenge with bravery and optimism and they will do everything they can to comfort and care for their child, while trusting that God has a plan for James.

James, although weak from treatment, still manages moments of humor and tender sweetness. The hospital nurses continuously comment on what a cooperative patient little James is, as he extends his arm out for yet another blood test.   Before becoming ill, James would play Doctor with his stuffed animals, carefully checking their vital signs with a pretend stethoscopes and thermometers. Now, during treatment, he has an intense curiosity and intently watches what the doctors and nurses are doing and his family can’t help but wonder if his future lies in the field of healing and helping others.

James’ family looks forward to the day that he will be home & back to playing doctor with his usual enthusiasm. Although this is not a journey the family would choose to take, they are so grateful that they do not have to walk it alone. With UVSC and the love and support of the community, the family hopes and plans for a bright future for little James.