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

Leaving Footprints at Keaau Elementary School – a Legacy to Jayson Correa

It is said that some people come into our lives and quickly go while some stay for awhile and leave footprints on our hearts.

This past Wednesday, at Keaau Elementary School, students and teachers alike were introduced to how footprints can be so powerful that they change our lives forever.

At the start of 2012 the faculty, staff and students of KES lost their longtime SASA, Jayson Correa, to cancer.

“Mr. Correa was at the school for about 20 years,” Teacher Maile Bellosi said.  “He struggled with his disease privately and painfully for the last several years.”

His death was devastating for the staff members of the school, many of whom had worked with him for over 15 years.

“As our SASA (school administrative services assistant) he was an integral part of our school’s functionality,” Bellosi said.  “He was the guy we had to rely on for everything important.”

To commemorate Jayson Correa’s legacy at Keaau Elementary the faculty, students and staff were collecting donations for the American Cancer Society through a variety of activities such as Relay Recess and other on campus activities.

Correa’s parents and other relatives were in attendance and his nephew; Nathanuel Chow-Guzman, a 4th grader, single handedly raised the most money for the Cancer Society.

“I collected $331 in Uncle’s memory,” Chow-Guzman said.  “I was very sad when uncle died and today we are doing different things to remember him.  I did a one mile run and thought about him the entire way.”

Everywhere on the KES campus that I looked, on every classroom door, there were cut out footprints with names on them.

“The students, staff and families were all given footprint cutouts on which a name of a loved one who is battling, has beaten, or has succumbed to cancer, is written,” Bellosi explained.  “These feet were put up on all the bulletin boards around campus to help students understand that cancer is an ‘equalizer,’ something we all have dealt/deal with in our families.

The day that I was on campus was the culmination of health and wellness lessons that went from March 19 to April 10 in which teachers provided a large set of health and wellness lessons with the idea of conveying a message that lifestyle choices can help lessen the likelihood of cancer and other diseases afflicting them.

The last day of the lesson was called ‘Kukini no ke Ola’ or Run for Life/Messengers for Life.

“We know we can reach our families and the extended community through the education of their children,” Bellosi said.

Through collaborative effort students from Kamehameha and Keaau High along with community organizations from Hilo Medical Center, Bay Clinic and the American Red Cross a health fair was organized with a variety of learning activities.

“Students rotated through the health fair over a 45 minute period,” Bellosi said.  “We want them to see the value of a healthy, drug free lifestyle and hopefully leave a footprint in their lives by doing so.”

After the Health Fair Bellosi and her colleagues lead the students on a one mile run around campus.

“The run is free,” Bellosi said.  “I got Road ID to donate 900 running numbers and we borrowed a timing clock from the Athletic Department at Kamehameha Schools.

Bellosi measured out a course in three rounds for all kids, pre-kindergarten, through 5th grade plus all the staff.

The cafeteria staff provided fresh fruit at the conclusion and a DJ was on hand, donating his time and expertise, to pump up the participants on the course and around the finish line area.

“My mom has a rare cancer and needed surgery three times,” said 5th grader Maya Rosof.

Rosof didn’t know the name of her mother’s cancer but pointed to the location which is in the neck under her right ear.

“It was definitely scary and I was freaking out when I heard the news.” she said.  “My mom had to go to a hospital in San Francisco and I was really afraid.”

Rosof also spoke of all the things she was learning that day which included trying to stay healthy and fit by running or walking and eating the right foods.

“I am worried about cancer and how it might affect me someday,” Rosof said.  “But I want to learn more and be able to help others with cancer someday.”

I was impressed with the more than 800 students in red shirts and nearly 100 staff members that participated in the one mile run/walk event.

Everyone connected to the KES family was out and moving in a variety of activities from Zumba,  to soccer drills, balancing games and more, much, much, more.

“Everything we have used today was donated by community groups or individuals,” Bellosi said.  “Our donations came from the public and from friends and family as well as from our coordinating staff made up of Iwalani Harris, Elaine Lu, Keone Farias and myself.”

On a bulletin board outside of Bellosi’s office was a footprint with the name of her sister.

“I watched my sister battle through Stage 4 kidney cancer and she has run the Honolulu Marathon twice since,” Bellosi said.  “God Bless all those battling cancer.”

And someday should you happen to see a slow moving jogger refusing to stop exercising while     battling cancer remember to smile, say “woof” and never shy away from “Running with the Big Dog.”

Related link:  https://waynejoseph.wordpress.com/2012/04/14/keaau-el-learns-by-doing-physical-activities/

April 17, 2012 Posted by | Running on the Big Island | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Torres Making a Come Back from Injury

One of the most difficult things to deal with in sports is that unexpected injury that can set training back several days, weeks or even months.

The variety of injuries that athletes endure may be from motion control issues and the results are disappointment and frustration.

A pain in the butt injury for me and a number of other running friends has been an off and on battle with the sciatic nerve.

Sciatica is not exclusively reserved to the muscle in the buttocks and can also stem from areas in the hip or spine.

For Hilo’s Dee Torres her sciatic discomfort comes from her pelvic area.

“About six months ago I developed sciatica in my left hip,” Torres said. 

Torres, an avid canoe paddler, believes that her injury may be a result of sitting in a one man canoe for too long.

“I believe my injury comes from the improper rigging on my one-man canoe for too long,” she said. “Hence, I’ve corrected the rigging and my condition is improving.”

Like most athletes Torres went through a variety of possible remedies before discovering what worked for her.

“I’ve tried Chiropractic care, physical therapy, and deep tissue massages, but nothing seemed to work,” Torres said.

Torres then went to see an acupuncturist and was pleased with the results.

“The best results came after I had several acupuncture treatments,” she said.  “I’m not really sure as it might have been a combination of things, but I seemed to have started to get better after those treatments.”

Torres, who grew up on Oahu, was active in a variety of sports from an early age.

“In grade school I played softball, basketball and ran track,” she said.  “At McKinley High School and Pacific Preparatory I played on the basketball, volleyball and track & field teams.”

Today, at age 53, Torres works for the County of Hawaii as a Council Services Assistant.

Dee Torres

“My job can be stressful at times,” Torres said.  “When current legislation is approved by the Council it becomes time sensitive and needs to be processed and published according to set deadlines in accordance with State and County laws.”

Often times sciatica can flare up with the tightness of muscles when athletes are under pressure and fail to take adequate time to relax and stretch those areas of the body that are under stress.

Torres had been a regular at the Honolulu Marathon and the Big Island International Half Marathon races, but her injury had set her back from doing those long, strenuous workouts in preparation for the challenging running events.

“I also like the shorter runs and have always tried to make the EMS 5K,” she said.  “I truly miss doing the Volcano Wilderness 10-mile runs (which were cancelled by the National Park two years ago).”

“I plan on training for the 2012 Hilo Half Marathon,” Torres said.  “My injury should be completely healed by then and I’ll be ready to take on that challenge.”

Despite her current injury Torres still manages to do each of the following activities twice per week: run, paddle with her six woman crew, paddle her one-person canoe, and do Zumba.

“I wish I was more of a morning person, as most runners train in the morning,” she said.  “I usually run in the early evening hours, so my training is too short sometimes when it gets dark too early.”

Torres also stays in great shape by taking care of her nutritional needs.

“I drink lots of water and will follow my daily regimen of vitamins and nutritional supplements,” she said.

She will also consume lots of green leafy vegetables and will have a fresh salad for dinner on regular bases.

“I believe in the old adage that an apple a day……” she said.   “Protein is also a must after a workout as I keep red meat and fried foods to a minimum.”

Despite Torres injury setbacks the healthy and fit woman hopes to one day be on center stage leading a Zumba class.

“I am a certified Zumba instructor and I love that form of exercise activity,” she said.  “I am currently doing Zumba and as my condition improves I hope to return to my preferred intensity level and eventually teach classes.”

So take the lead from Dee Torres and don’t let a nagging injury discourage you from reaching your fitness goals.

Seek proper treatment and look for alternate ways to stay in shape as not to aggravate your current condition.

Sciatica can be a pain in the butt and with proper treatment you can be on the road to recovery.  Or better still, reduce stress and stretch those areas properly.  I have been sciatic pain free for almost a year since following a regimen to stretch that area before going out for my daily morning run.

And someday should you happen to see an injury free jogger come passing through the streets of East Hawaii remember to smile, say ‘woof’ and never shy away from “Running with the Big Dog.”

July 25, 2011 Posted by | Profiles | , , , , | 1 Comment

After 5 pregnancies Swanson is still going strong

HPP resident, Suzanne Swanson

Finding the time and the motivation to start an exercise program can be difficult.  The number one reason that most people give for not exercising is that they can’t find the time.

The key to finding time and staying with a fitness program is to find something fun and the incentive to keep doing it.

For Hawaiian Paradise Park resident, Suzanne Swanson, the motivation came from giving birth to her third child and the trouble associated with losing the weight.

“I didn’t start exercising seriously until I had trouble losing the weight after my third pregnancy,” Swanson said.  “I began by taking aerobics, but after my fourth child was born I joined a gym.”

The stay at home mom also decided to home school all of her children which resulted in her having trouble making it to the gym on a regular basis.

“I could only get to the gym twice per week and I knew I needed an additional workout, so I began running on the weekends,” she said. 

The decision to supplement her workouts with running was made 13 years ago and Swanson is now a regular fixture jogging around Hilo Bay or close to her home in HPP.

Swanson grew up 90 miles north of New York City in the town of Kingston and moved to Oregon at age 19 where she met her husband.  The couple then decided to come to Hilo in 1993 to raise a family.

“I didn’t play any sports while in high school, instead I was a band person” Swanson said. 

With age and a total of five pregnancies Swanson realized that she needed to find the time to do regular exercise in order to maintain a healthy weight and lower her risk of a variety of ailments.

“I stayed at home for 18 years to raise and home school my children, and then last September I went back to work as a full time receptionist/bookkeeper for Ohana Counseling Services in Hilo,” she said.

Since that time Swanson has participated in a variety of community runs and can now boast of breaking 30 minutes for a 5K (3.1-mile) race.  In January she participated in the Hilo to Volcano relay race (31-miles) with two other women and the team crossed the finish line under six hours.

“I have to do what works for my schedule, which changes periodically,” she said.  “When the kids were on the swim team I would swim laps three days a week.  I went through a biking phase before and I did the bike portion of the sprint triathlon in Honolulu two years ago.”

Through all the changes to Swanson’s busy life she has consistently used running as a ‘fall back’ activity as she finds that it works well with her ever changing schedule.

“Running isn’t the ideal full body workout, but it is better than nothing,” she said.  “Running keeps me sane and allows me to eat what I want.”

Swanson will run three times per week with distances varying from 2.5 miles to 4 miles, depending on where and how she feels. She will also watch what she eats to maintain a healthy, well balanced diet.

“I love to eat which became a huge motivator for me to run,” she said.  “But running also helps me watch what I eat.  When I run in the afternoons I will stop eating by 2 p.m. so that I won’t cramp up, which leads me to stop snacking late into the day.”

The Swanson family will rarely eat out and they try to stay away from processed foods.  “My four kids all help with the cooking so we tend to eat a lot of basic, old fashioned meals,” she said.

This busy mother, with a full time job, has also raised the bar in her goal setting as she looks for a variety of ways to stay healthy and fit.

“I’d like to try Zumba, if I could find the time,” she said.  “I’d love to do the entire Sprint Triathlon in Honolulu sometime before I’m 50, (within the next 5 years) and I’d like to run in some races beyond the 5K distance.”

Swanson continues to make the most of her situation and continues to challenge herself in the battle of gaining age related weight.  Her goals are simple and obtainable and her biggest competitor is herself.

“I have no desire to compete in a race and I don’t ever want to run in a marathon (26.2-miles)” she said.  “But I would like to build up to 5-miles, then 6 and eventually 7 miles without stopping.”

Swanson is a good example of an average, everyday person, who sets her first priority on her family while looking for ways to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

“I feel better after I run,” she said.  “I used to not go (running) if it was raining, but then decided that it is better to be wet than grouchy.  Besides, after I run I can eat whatever I want without feeling guilty.”

August 31, 2010 Posted by | Health and Fitness, Profiles | , , , | Leave a comment

Zumba: Spicy, Sexy and a great Workout

Zumba participants enjoy the fun workout

   Turn up the Latin music, add nonstop rhythmic dance and you have one of the latest fitness inspired regimes that continues to sweep the world.
   Hilo, along with the rest of the planet, has been getting its hearts pumping to Zumba which mixes fast Latino beats with resistance training to spice up an hour’s worth of aerobic exercise.
Zumba classes are springing up all over the Big Island as people, both young and old, are motivated by the high energy music which brings together various dance styles from Salsa, to the Mambo, Calypso, Maringue and even the Cha-cha.
   “I love the music and I love to dance,” Zumba student Claire Shigeoka said. “The workout involves a bit of belly dancing with some great music and it makes me feel sexy when I’m doing it.”

Cheryl Cobile

   On this particular day the venue was Afook-Chinen Civic Auditorium — not the usual Aunty Sally’s Luau House which was being used for a different event. But the dance instructors were still the same, with the upbeat Cheryl Cobile and Dawnelle Forsythe.
   “We’ve been leading Zumba classes in Hilo since April 6 of this year,” Cobile said. “Previously we were at the Prince Kuhio Plaza, but it had a capacity of 80 and we were turning 20 to 30 people away at every class.”
   Cobile and Forsythe then connected with the County to use Aunty Sally’s or the Civic every  Monday through Thursday, and they’ve averaged 130 to 160 participants at each class. Ages range from 10 to 80, according to Forsythe.
   “We once had a free friends and family night, and more than 400 people showed up,” a smiling Cobile said.  
   Both women are certified Zumba instructors and charge $4 at the door for an hour long lesson with anxious participants lining up at the entrance anywhere from an hour to an hour and a half in advance.
   Cobile works at Office Max in Hilo while Forsythe is employed by the County’s Housing Department.
   “I have three kids and one day last year I saw a sign at the YWCA offering Zumba classes,” Cobile said. “Once I took my first class, I was hooked as this is such a fun way to do a workout.”

Dawnelle Forsythe

Forsythe’s motivation for trying Zumba took a different curve as she was looking for a distraction from depression as a result of her developing thyroid cancer four years ago.  
“I was feeling very down and Zumba gave me my life back,” she said. “Just doing that workout for an hour made me feel free and took all thoughts away from my personal problems. I’ve been in remission but would still feel down until I began doing Zumba. It’s been years since I felt like myself and it’s been a blessing (discovering Zumba) in disguise.”

Robin Hoopii

First-time participant Robin Hoopii gave the fitness class a try Tuesday night.
“My daughter told me you just gotta go ma, but you’re gonna die!” she said with a giggle. “I love to dance so I thought I’d give it a try so that I can build up some energy and take off some weight.”
   Thank goodness Hoopii survived — and she plans on returning again for another lesson. The 45-year-old mother of five looked like she was having lots of fun in her first attempt at Zumba.

Joanne Vierra

Zumba regular Joanne Vierra, 54, joins the class three times a week and enjoys the feeling she gets from regular physical exercise.
“I just love doing it,” she said. “It makes me feel good. It’s not like normal exercise — this is way more fun.”
   Cobile and Forsythe believe that during a single Zumba lesson participants can burn, on average, 1,000 calories.

Byron Matthews

Not many men participate, but there are a few and some are regular members, like Byron Matthews who does all four days during the week.
   “I’ve been coming since May because it’s a lot of fun and a better cardio workout than most other activities,” Matthews said. “Guys might think it’s a real female thing, but it isn’t and they should come and check it out.”
   Matthews follows every Zumba class with an hour of weights in the gym and has high praise for the Zumba instructors.
“Cheryl and Dawnelle make us feel like family and they provide a very comfortable atmosphere,” he said.
“It’s a fun way to exercise and lose weight,” Cobile said. “We incorporate a variety of dance moves that also include rock and roll, and it’s nonstop.”
At Aunty Sally’s Luau House, or at the Civic, doors close at 5:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday. Then the lights are turned off, laser lights are turned on, and the music is pumped up as more than a 100 happy participants jump, laugh, bend and stretch, all to a lively beat.
The Zumba interval cardiovascular training replaces swimming multiple laps in the pool, or running continuously around an oval track, under the guise of Latino style beats and fast-paced dance moves.
“I like to run but when I discovered Zumba about two years ago, I decided to cross-train using Zumba twice a week and running three times a week to maintain my fitness,” Shigeoka said. “Zumba is way more fun than running by myself and it keeps me motivated to keep coming back.”
Zumba got its start during the 1990s in Colombia, South America. Since that time, Zumba classes have sprung up around the world and the Big Island can now boast of having a Zumba class in just about every district of the Big Island.
   More than 7.5 million people worldwide participate in a Zumba class each week, according to www.zumba.com
Forsythe and Cobile will be holding a free “Zumba Friends and Family Night” during the third or fourth week of each month. They would like to encourage people to come and discover the benefits of the fitness dance.
   “We want to give back to the community and have decided to have a free class each month,” Forsythe said.
For more information, call Forsythe at 990-3995 or email me: forsythed001@hawaii.rr.com

July 25, 2010 Posted by | Health and Fitness | , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment