Sponsored by:

Comment, blog & share photos

Log in | Become a member
The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, July 8, 2002

Husband's support helps cancer survivor hit her stride

By Rod Ohira
Advertiser Staff Writer

Knowing that she wasn't expecting anything more than a Mother's Day dinner with family at Buca di Beppo, Harold Johnston of Papakolea surprised his wife of 39 years with a special gift at the restaurant.

With tears in her eyes, 60-year-old Lana Johnston read a letter accompanying the registration packet for this weekend's 60-mile, three-day Avon Breast Cancer Walk from San Jose to San Francisco's Golden Gate Park.

To his wife, Johnston wrote: "Because your life is dedicated to all of us and you have little time for yourself, because you deserve to have some of what you wish for come true, because I am proud of your strength and how you focus and get things done, and because I love you —

"The enclosed surprise is for you alone, with all my love and the support of your family. Go Gettum!"

Lana Johnston had given up hope of participating in the event. Three months earlier, she had torn up the registration form for the walk, fearing that it was unaffordable with her husband starting a new consulting engineering telecommunications business.

Harold Johnston helps his wife, Lana, train for this weekend's Avon Breast Cancer Walk in California. The three-day event is a 60-mile walk from San Jose to San Francisco's Golden Gate Park.

Deborah Booker • The Honolulu Advertiser

"She had started walking for exercise and I knew she wanted to do this," Harold said. "Two weeks before Mother's Day, I registered her. I wanted to surprise her."

The recommended training period for the event is 38 weeks. Lana is doing it with nine weeks of training and a lot of heart.

Over a recent nine-day training period, she walked 20 miles on a Saturday from Lanikai through Waimanalo to Hawai'i Kai Towne Center. After taking Sunday and Monday off, Lana did three miles Tuesday at Ala Moana Park, followed by another day off. It was four miles on Thursday, a day off Friday, 20 miles Saturday and 12 miles on Sunday.

"I can get exercise here but this is for the cause," said Lana, who is celebrating her 20th year as a breast cancer survivor.

Through it all, Harold has always been there for his wife.

"He's my No. 1 fan and supporter — my backbone," Lana Johnston said.

When an oncologist recommended mastectomy, for example, she recalled that her husband spent days at a medical library researching questions to ask the doctor. It helped her opt for lumpectomy, a surgical excision of a breast tumor with the removal of only a minimal amount to surrounding tissue.

And during six months of chemotherapy treatment, Lana was never alone.

"Harold used to travel a lot for business but he would always make sure to be back so he could hold my hand when I went for chemo," she said. "He pampered the hell out of me — he's my best everything."

Sometimes, he lent support by just being there and keeping quiet.

When the couple lived in Belmont, Calif., they would often walk to a nearby all-night coffee shop. "We'd be down there at 3 a.m.," Lana recalled. "If I wanted to just sit there and look out the window, he'd quietly sit with me even though he had to go to work that day."

Today, healthier than she's ever been before, Lana has a deep appreciation for the support of her partner in life.

"If you're fortunate enough to have the total support of a husband or family members, that's a big part of recovery," she said. "Harold's support gave me confidence. Emotionally, he reassured me. He reassured our three sons. To our eldest son, he said many times that your mom's going to be around when you graduate and when you have children."

Lana plans to wear a hula skirt and haku lei on the final day of the Bay Area walk. She'll be carrying bookmarkers with the names of her supporters, who pledged nearly $2,000 for breast cancer research. Daughter-in-law Emilia, wife of son Chad, will be her walking partner for the final 20 miles.

Harold a U.S. Naval Academy graduate and Marine captain who served in Vietnam, and Lana's cousin Ed Auld will be at the finish line. "I told her, when you're done, I'll be there to meet you," said Harold, a Kaimuki native and Kamehameha graduate.

Recognizing that this walk was important to his wife — "20 miles per day signifies my 20th year of survival and 60 is my age so it all comes together," she said — Harold Johnston was determined to make it happen. "We're partners," he said. "Lana has always been there for me when I've had difficulties in business."

The former Lana Shaw, who grew up in Mo'ili'ili and attended McKinley High, and her husband have three sons and five grandchildren. More importantly, they have the best support system of all — love for one another.