HONOLULU (KHON2) — Mark the calendar for Sept. 23 as the Hawaii Oral Cancer Foundation is hosting the 4th Annual Oral Cancer Foundation Fun Run/Walk to raise awareness and support research.  

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The Oral Cancer Foundation was founded by oral cancer survivor, Brian R. Hill. Click here to read his story.

According to the foundation, because oral cancer is not as common as other types of cancer, such as breast cancer and prostate cancer, they do not get as much support and recognition.

Oral cancer effects about 48,000 people a year according to OCF and a great amount of support they receive comes from the families effected by this cancer and the community, which is why they put together fundraisers.

The walk in September is coordinated by two oral cancer survivors, Joanne Ebesu and Shelby Watkins.

4th Annual Oral Cancer Foundation Fun Run/Walk:

  • Where: Sullivan Conference Center at the UH Cancer Center.
  • When: Sept. 23 at 8 a.m. (registration is at 7:30 a.m.)
  • Fees: $35 to pre-register, $40 the day of the event, $15 for ages six to 10, and children under five along with oral cancer survivors are free.

Runners/walkers will get a free t-shirt in the color maroon, which is the oral cancer color, and all proceeds go to research on oral cancer.

We’ll be having a free oral cancer screenings for the community to come out. And we’ll have guest speakers with two doctors who are notable in the oral cancer research realm to talk about some new research on oral cancer.”

Shelby Watkins, 4th Annual Oral Cancer Foundation Fun Run/Walk co-coordinator

KHON2 News spoke with Watkins about her oral cancer journey.

Watkins said she was a very healthy 19-year-old with no knowledge of oral cancer when she was diagnosed at stage 3.

“When I thought of oral cancer, I thought of like smokers and 65 year olds, that sort of thing. I ever thought I could be a 19-year-old just going about their life,” said Watkins.

She told KHON2 News she noticed a bothering small bump on her tongue which unfortunately got misdiagnosed for about a year and a half until she couldn’t eat without pain.

“Then I had some significant ear pain and that’s when I called,” said Watkins. “I got a second biopsy and then that’s when I was diagnosed, and the ear pain actually turned out to be a lymph node that was had cancer.”

Watkins then went through radiation and several surgeries including a 10-hour surgery that removed half her tongue and 32 lymph nodes.

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Ten years later, she said, as cliché as it sounds, she never takes a day for granted and lives life to the fullest without fear.