Cancer Disguised as Blessings

“In high school and all throughout my childhood, becoming a doctor was an aspiration I chose purely based on my interest in human physiology and biology. However, towards graduation, the battle against cancer became personal.”

In her own words:

Kash Manawis, college student, cancer survivor

Though it seems cliché, I’ve wanted to be a doctor since I was very young. This career choice made the most sense to me, as I have loved human physiology ever since the fifth grade, when I volunteered to stay after school to make a diagram that my teacher would use to introduce my classmates to the respiratory, cardiovascular and digestive systems (I was very proud).

Additionally, service work and volunteering is a joy of mine, and I have always thought that service to others is important to a well-rounded life, because it teaches selflessness and love. During high school I continued to volunteer regularly through various clubs, and to do well in science. Therefore, as I grew up, this kind of career made more sense to me. Though I am young, I have already made the pivotal decision in my life to become a pediatric oncologist.

However, towards high school graduation, the battle against cancer became personal.

I was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia on September 24th, 2013 when I was 17 years old. Though this situation brought much despair, I also saw my diagnosis as an opportunity to learn about human physiology with my own body as a specimen.


I needed eight months of chemotherapy to treat my cancer. In my case, I was required to stay in a room with a special air filter, and many people and things such as real flowers were not allowed to come inside because I was so fragile. I could only go home for three days at a time, and was bed-ridden for treatment a month at a time. If I were to have left the hospital because I was stubborn (feeling as though I was strong enough), I was told I would not last ten minutes outside of the hospital’s doors without needing to go to the ER.  It’s sad, I know, but this experience taught me determination and the power of a positive mind.

Despite my illness, I was extremely positive throughout my whole experience with cancer because I dreamt of becoming a doctor. Because of my aspirations, I found that the opportunity to observe hospital work helped me to overcome the grief of my situation. My doctors considered my enthusiasm for their work, and I was allowed into the hospital’s laboratory to see a sample of my bone marrow from my biopsies, and the myeloid blasts that seized my normal teenager life. Amused, yet spiteful, I became determined after seeing my body’s opponents.

During chemotherapy, I learned to calculate my absolute-neutrophil count, to determine the strength of my immune system. I told my doctors not to hesitate with terminology, and this way, I kept the gears in my brain working even though I could not go to school. My passion for learning, and keen sense of compassionate care, inspired student nurses who assessed me. I believe that I became inspirational when I became passionate.

My community rallied around me during my illness. I received so much love during my battle with cancer, and my struggle inspired many friends and family. My high school family organized a “Zumba-thon” to fundraise for my medical expenses, and this event was broadcast on the radio. A childhood friend dedicated an event for cancer awareness to me. Some friends even shaved their heads!

The potential that my situation had to bring people together and influence them to value their health made me proud of the adversity that I faced.

I made friends with many of the children at Kapiolani Hospital, who became the source of my passions. I was one of the oldest patients that regularly lived in the hospital’s Wilcox unit due to treatment, where I worked to recover and faced life-threatening blood infections which prolonged my hospital stays. As I got closer to the staff, doctors and children, I was introduced to the patients who shared the same diagnosis as me. Sadly, I met mostly babies. I played regularly with these children, and witnessed them play, in pain, and ultimately pass away. I have heard more prayers within the hospital’s walls than in my church. Despite the sadness, there is still a love for life in the eyes of all the heroic children I’ve met and played with. Because they smiled brightly, they left me with no reason to be sad for myself. I want to help them fight for that love for life.

But before I could help anyone, I knew I needed to complete undergraduate college.

I had enough of the necessary credits to graduate by the end of my junior year due to accelerated classes. However, being diagnosed with cancer truly inconvenienced me, as I was hospitalized for cancer during the most crucial time to apply for college (the fall portion of the school year in September and November).

Every time I was well enough, I got up to write my college essays. I had a list of about 15 colleges to which I wanted to apply, and I knew everything they needed from me.  My high school’s college counselor was nice enough to fill all of the basic information for my applications, but I was responsible for writing all of my personal statements. I put all the questions in a document, answered them all, organized them, and sent them back to my high school counselor. It was difficult because I was constantly too fatigued to focus on a large amount of writing in a small amount of time, and my mind was often cloudy.  However, I remained mentally strong for myself, and my future, which I believed in with all my heart.

Knowing that one day I am going to die, coming to terms with my mortality, eliminated my ability to believe I have something to lose. Because I don’t have a lot that I can lose and everything is precious to me. To love, hope, and dream as you please is a luxury. It is a luxury you can afford with good health, and time. My disguised blessing from cancer was learning this wisdom. Cancer also taught me to be unafraid to set my heart out in continuing to do all the things I love and to be with people who I loved, to love my life, to have hope, and most importantly, to have a dream.

These memories, and disguised blessings from my cancer, confirmed my future path in medicine by giving my career goals passion. During my battle I have acquired knowledge, courage, character and a dream.

I plan to return to Hawaii one day to raise my future family, and take care of my grandparents. More specifically, I want to return to Kapiolani Hospital as a pediatric oncologist in their Wilcox unit, where I fought my own battle with cancer, to help the children who are suffering the same way I suffered.

Kashannah-Bee Bautsita Manawis (Kash) is an incoming sophomore at the University of San Diego, where she is studying pre-medIn addition to her rigorous studies, Kash keeps busy on campus as president of the Pacific Islander’s club, recruiter for the Filipino Ugnayan Student Organization, and in her church. Her lemonade stand fundraiser at USD’s annual Changemaker festival was a success last year, and she plans to host it again this fall. Kash received a perpetual (4 year) scholarship in 2014 from Cancer for College.

We thank you, Kash, for sharing your story here, and we commend you for your perseverance through cancer and your passion to achieve your goals. We can’t wait to see you in your doctor’s coat one day!