Wayne Joseph’s Blog

Running with the Big Dog

Retired Waiakea High english teacher, Corliss Yamaki, is a cancer survivor

“Don’t put food in your mouth, if you have food in your mouth” are words that Corliss Yamaki tries to live by.

For years Yamaki has struggled with the ups and downs of weight and with it the battles of good and bad health.

Yamaki was born and raised in Hilo and is a 1961 graduate of Hilo High School

“We just celebrated our 50th class reunion last October,” she said.  “I’ll be turning 69 in July.”

In 1992 Yamaki noticed one of the warning signs of cancer and was given two biopsies before being diagnosed with bladder cancer.

“I was stunned because I didn’t fit the profile, which was white male, middle aged, overweight, heavy smoker and heavy drinker,” Yamaki said.

In fact, the only thing that matched Yamaki’s profile was being overweight.

At the time Yamaki was an English teacher and she waited until the end of the school year to schedule her surgery.

“My son was graduating that year from Waiakea High School so I waited until the end of June to go to Queens Hospital to have my surgery done,” she said.

Yamaki was one of the lucky ones as the post-op biopsies revealed no cancer cells anywhere in her lymphatic system.

“The doctor told me I was cured and I had no radiation, no chemo,” she said.  “I just had to have scans and sonograms every six months for the next 5 years.”

Yamaki was back in school the fall of ’92 and took with her a ‘souvenir ostomy’ as a results of her ordeal.

“It’s almost like having a prosthesis and it takes adjustment, mainly in attitude,” Yamaki said of her ostomy.

As a result of being a diabetic Yamaki found herself with numerous side effects, mostly infections.

“I’m not on insulin, but being diabetic just complicates things,” Yamaki said.

Following her surgery Yamaki began to gain more weight as she didn’t want to strain her body, especially her mid section.

With the weight gain also came an increase in her medications, not only for the diabetes, but also for hypertension and cholesterol.

What changed everything for Yamaki were regular exercise and an awareness of what she consumed.

“I joined Curves and worked out three times a week,” she said.  “In 2007 I joined Weight Watchers because HMSA offered a deal where it would pay for the initial fee and three sessions.”

Yamaki, with diet and exercise, began to see a change in her health and became encouraged in the progress she made.

“I found myself simply doing it and I was in control of how much and what went into my mouth,” she said.  “I ate lots of vegetables and fruits that I liked and minimized the carbs and meats.”

It was during these transition days that Yamaki became extra motivated with the upcoming wedding of her son.

“I decided I didn’t want to wear a tent to my son’s wedding, so I worked harder at losing weight,” Yamaki said.

“It was during this time that I also resumed hula at the Kamana Senior program,” she said.  “In all, I lost nearly 40 pounds.”

Yamaki is the first to admit that weight continues to be a struggle for her as she is on a ‘rollercoaster’ ride in the endless battle to stay healthy and fit.

“I wish I could say that I’ve reached my goal, but I still have another 30 pounds to go,” she said.

Yamaki has made other changes in her life, postponing hula while adding Golden Zumba to her weekly schedule.

“I work out less at Curves and have added Zumba twice a week which gives me a good workout each time,” Yamaki said. 

Due to her bad knees she has decided not to run/jog, but has added walking to her routine.

“All in all I feel pretty good,” she said of her weekly exercise routine.

Yamaki has also learned quite a bit about eating.

“It’s all about portion control and making good choice,” she said.  “Weight Watchers advocates no deprivation, just common sense.  If you can, use chopsticks when eating as you tend to eat smaller bites and portions are slower.”

Yamaki has decided to take control of her health and in the process has lost 40 pounds which has made a difference in her life.   She no longer needs many of the medications she was once on and has reduced the strength of other medications.

With age, other health issues have cropped up in her life and she is discovering that diet and exercise does make a difference in life.

“With age comes other health issues, so while my original medications have lessened or been discontinued, I’ve had others prescribed for different conditions,” Yamaki said.

Yamaki has made enormous strides in taking better care of herself, but none of this came overnight and she still has a way to go in accomplishing all her goals.

“If you don’t do what’s best for your body, you’re the one who comes up on the short end,” Julius Erving said.

And someday should you happen to see a tall, thin, nearly bald stranger jogger around the back streets of East Hawaii remember to smile, say “woof” and never shy away from “Running with the Big Dog.”


June 4, 2012 Posted by | Former Waiakea High Teacher | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Hilo Weight Watchers Diana Kahler going stong and keeping fit

Recently I was on the Keaau High School track instructing middle school athletes how to read passing zone markings so that they could understand the rules for a successful relay team.

During the two hours that I was helping I noticed a woman walking laps on the grassy infield, wearing a Big Island Marathon 5K finisher’s tee shirt.

On the second week of my tutorial the same woman appeared again walking laps on the infield but this time I decided to strike up a conversation.

The woman turned out to be 73 years young, Diana Kahler.

“I’m actually 73 and a half,” Kahler said with a wide grin.  “I walk everyday no matter where I’m at and since I had to drop off my great granddaughter for track practice I thought I’d do a few laps.”

Kahler is a mother of 6, a grandmother of 11 and a great grandmother of 11.

Born and raised in Marquette, Michigan Kahler grew up playing a lot of different sports.

“My childhood home was a half block from the shores of Lake Superior and summer vacations were spent swimming, playing sandlot baseball and kickball,” Kahler said.  “Television was not invented yet and in the winter I would go downhill skiing and sledding, but ice skating was my favorite activity.”

Kahler had chilling memories, no pun intended, of outdoor skating rinks and fire fed warming shacks.

Walking had always been a part of her life, so doing laps around the track for two hours was a piece of cake for her.

“I walked eight blocks to and from school four times a day during the school months,” Kahler said.  “Sometimes there were snowdrifts five feet tall and that never stopped me from walking to school.”

Kahler started walking to school in the first grade and it continued through high school.

“I believe those walks to and from school is where I got my love for walking which continues now,” she said.

It was during high school that Kahler joined the Girls Athletic Association and played volleyball, basketball and softball for all four years.

“I received the school letter in athletics in my junior year,” Kahler said.

While growing up Kahler listened to the radio and one of her favorite programs was ‘Hawaii Calls.’

“While listening to Hawaii Calls I would dream of living someplace where the skies were often blue and the weather always warm,” she said.  “When the opportunity presented itself 35 years ago I took it.”

Once here Kahler took advantage of our beautiful weather and began walking everyday without the snow drifts.

“I found walking to be a marvelous method of managing my stress as I was working fulltime and completing my degree at the University of Hawaii,” Kahler said.

Her enthusiasm with fitness and tropical weather saw her complete her first half marathon on Oahu I 1999 and six weeks later she became a finisher in the Honolulu Marathon.

“I participated in the Great Aloha Run in 2000 and then began walking less,” she said.  “In 2001

I rarely exercised and became overly absorbed in work and volunteering. I began eating as a method of managing my stress.”

The following three years following Kahler’s decision to stop walking was a disaster as she gained 40 pounds, developed aching joints and saw her cholesterol and blood pressure shoot up.

Motivated by two of her friends who had joined Weight Watchers and lost 100 pounds Kahler joined the Hilo group and lost those 40 pounds within a six month period.

“I returned to walking regularly and eating healthy, with the help of Weight Watchers I remain at my goal weight to this day,” Kahler said.

Retired from a lifetime of work, primarily in the Early Childhood Field, Kahler works a few hours a week in Hilo helping others take better care of themselves and keep their weight off.

“I find retirement a bit stressful due to the reduced social interaction,” she said.  “But now I have more time to be involved with my Hawaii family and I find it a delightful benefit.”

Today Kahler walks three miles, six days a week, either at the Hilo High Track or around her neighborhood in Naauao.

“I plan to increase my mileage to four while adding in some hills and to increase the intensity in February,” Kahler said. 

To maintain her upper body strength Kahler will work with hand weights and resistance cords daily.

“My goal is to stay healthy and injury free and mitigate some of the disabilities that so frequently impact the independence of the elderly,” she said.

Kahler’s infectious enthusiasm for walking has spread to family and friends.

“Walking is a great family event and it is free, you can do it almost anytime and anyplace,” she said. 

Kahler has gotten her great granddaughter, Tawnee Respicio and her grandson Treysin Brugman to participate in the New Years Day Resolution Run/Walk. All three walked and finished the 5K of the Big Island International Marathon on March 18, 2012.

“Several members of Weight Watchers came out to do the Resolution Walk with us,” Kahler said.  

Kahler continues on her healthy diet which includes a daily intake of five servings each of fruits and vegetables, power foods, non fat dairy and whole grains.

We can all learn from this healthy 73 and a half year old!

March 26, 2012 Posted by | Health and Fitness | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Running a Marathon in 50 states while battling Cancer – Don Wright

Don Wright

The Human Factor profiles survivors who have overcome the odds in confronting life’s obstacles.  People who have overcome injury, illness or other hardships in their lives.  People who have tapped into their inner strength and found resilience that they never realized they possessed.

The following are excerpts from the Human Factor which highlights Don Wright who developed a deep passion for running marathons, later in his life, before being diagnosed with cancer.  His goal is to run and finish 50 marathons in 50 states.

“I’ve made an appointment with an oncologist for you.” “These are words that no one wants to hear from their doctor, ever. It was multiple myeloma, an incurable blood cancer with a median survival of about five years after diagnosis,” Wright said.

“I had lost weight at Weight Watchers’, then started running, and had just run my first marathon. Myeloma attacks the bones, and a broken bone would stop my running, so I was determined to run the Boston Marathon before I lost the ability to do so. I qualified for Boston and then ran it, then a few more marathons here and there. I had no reasonable expectation of finishing all 50 states,” he said.

“That was eight years ago. I’m now 70 years old and since the diagnosis I have run 60 marathons in 41 different states, including the Seattle Marathon several Sunday’s ago. After some treatments that didn’t stop it, the cancer has been stable for three and a half years on a novel investigational drug called pomalidomide, just a pill that I take once a day. I’m a beneficiary of modern innovation and research” Wright said.

According to Don Wright, he has this incurable cancer, and his most pressing health problem is runners’ knee!

“My doctors are uniformly enthusiastic about the running as a way to strengthen my immune system and my bones, Wright said. “We’re not sure why it works, but keep doing what you’re doing.”

“We can’t know how long this treatment will continue to keep the cancer from growing, but for now, my family and I are relishing the extra time that I have been given, by traveling and doing these marathons together. They are a celebration of life!,” he said

“I stand at the starting line and get choked up, thinking of the people I know who haven’t survived myeloma, and how lucky I am to be alive and able to run a marathon. I can’t wait to start the race. Even on a cold, rainy day in Seattle, I enjoyed every moment. As I run, I sometimes imagine that I’m just floating along, drifting past the scenery. I feel wonderful, and we’re going for all 50 states,” Don Wright said.

Big Dog’s Hero of the month, Mr. Don Wright!

December 7, 2011 Posted by | Marathon Running | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Weight Watchers Walk-It Day begins today

Weight Watchers Teams with the Road Runners Club of America to Promote 5K Walks in 16 Cities Nationwide

Weight Watchers has created the first Walk-It Day scheduled for June 6 to encourage people to get active and walk a 5K.  This nationwide initiative is part of the Weight Watchers Walk-It Challenge that kicked off earlier this spring, emphasizing the importance of physical activity.  Throughout the Challenge, those who have visited www.weightwatchers.com/walkit have had access to motivational tips; encouragement from fellow walkers; and tools to find a walking team in their area.  Weight Watchers meetings members and Weight Watchers Online subscribers have had additional access to a six-week training plan to help them reach their goal of walking a 5K on Walk-It Day.

For the first-annual Walk-It Day, Weight Watchers has teamed up with the RRCA. In collaboration with RRCA, Weight Watchers will be sponsoring 5K walks in 16 cities nationwide, including Sacramento, Tampa, and Austin areas, to promote healthy living.  Additionally, Weight Watchers and RRCA encourage people to form their own walking groups and will help participants map out their own 5Ks for those who are not near one of the 16 sponsored 5K walks.

“The Weight Watchers Walk-It Challenge provides tools and resources to help people incorporate walking into their lives as part of their weight-loss goals, “says Theresa DiMasi, Editor-in-Chief of WeightWatchers.com.  “Walking is a great way to get moving, tone muscles and burn calories.”

“At RRCA, we strive to provide our community with educational information and programs that will keep them safe, healthy, and informed,” says Jean Knaack, RRCA Executive Director.  “Our partnership with Weight Watchers aligns with our core values, emphasizing the importance of physical activity and our passion for working with walkers and runners at all fitness levels.”

To learn more about Weight Watchers Walk-It Day, or to find a 5K walking event close to you, visit www.weightwatchers.com/walkit

June 6, 2010 Posted by | Health and Fitness | , , | Leave a comment