SINA Kami stands poised with notes in her hands as she is about to take the podium to speak about the fight against cancer.
Just a few words into her speech, Sina just lost it all and broke down, her emotions getting the better of her. After all, she is a mother.
A mother who has made the greatest sacrifice she could have made given that her eldest child — the late Tae Kami — was riddled with cancer.
After Tae was diagnosed with the disease in late 2004, Sina quit her job some months later as cancer took its toll on her, her husband and family.
“I was a teacher at the Tupou Tertiary Institute in Tonga where I was teaching marketing and management. I had to resign in 2005 as I was always accompanying Tae for her treatments in New Zealand,” Sina says.
This was going to be the start of a journey that she continues to take despite losing her first-born to cancer later in 2008.
“It all started while Tae was still sick — I got together with nurses and doctors while she was still alive and that has become a part of me.
“Together with my husband, we would visit people living with cancer along with Tae,” Sina says.
And her daughter Tae confirmed this when at her deathbed she asked her parents to work towards setting up a hospital for cancer patients, start a scholarship fund for poor children and establish a resource centre for children living with cancer.
“At the time you have to say yes because it’s your child and she was dying. We both told her that it might take years but it will happen.
“She told us, ‘have faith mum and dad. I have left behind the tools’,” Sina says. Her sacrifice to abruptly end her career has seen Sina become a full-time cancer advocate at the gentle encouragement of her daughter.
Sina’s views and principles are now largely focused on children and not on cancer alone; her perceptions are formed around the little ones. In fact it is single-minded.
It was that wisdom and the close relationship the mother and daughter shared in their last years together that laid the foundation for the Walk On Walk Strong campaigns in Fiji and Tonga. It has also seen the Kami family help to establish the Tonga Cancer Foundation and work closely together with the Fiji Cancer Society.
Cancer resource centres have already been set up in both Tonga and Fiji which is aimed at providing the best facilities for children living with cancer and their families.
Funds have been set up to ensure the operation of these facilities and also to help support cancer patients in any way they can.
Now Sina has plans to expand the WOWS campaign to Vanuatu, Samoa and New Zealand which will see this as one of the largest cancer advocate campaigns ever launched in the South Pacific.
“We hope to spread this message to whatever place that we will go to,” Sina says.
With every single effort, idea and cent gained in the effort to raise more awareness about cancer has only served to be Sina’s motivation to continue in her extraordinary journey.
“We have just received a wish list from the Colonial War Memorial Hospital and Lautoka paediatric hospitals’ oncology wards and just looking at it reminds me of what my daughter went through because many of the requests were the medicines and medical procedures that she went through or used,” Sina says.
After four successful years of helping raise awareness and much needed funds for present and future cancer patients in Fiji and Tonga, Sina has finally found closure.
She is completing her masters degree and hopes to pick up from where she left off seven years ago.