Dad reports on daughter’s battle with Leukemia

“To coincide with Vatau’s Hope Drive this week, I felt now to be a good time to report to the wonderful people of American Samoa, an update of my daughter’s battle with Leukemia,” articulated the greying, goateed father, Banner Fanene.  His daughter is blood cancer stricken Sharring Fa’amalo Fanene Aoelua Niusulu. 

Vatau’s Hope Drive is a week of cancer awareness activities on six local High School campuses culminating in a CarWash fundraiser this Saturday 7am-3pm at Samoana High School. The event organizer is Sharring’s young cousin Vatauomalotetele “Vatau” Fanene.  Vatau is in her senior year at Nu’uuli Vocational Technical High School and a member of her School’s National Honor Society. Through Vatau’s efforts, the National Honor Societies of Faga’itua, Samoana, Tafuna, Leone, Fa’asao/Marist, and Nu’uuli Voc-Tech will lead their respective school’s cancer awareness activities this week.

Near Death- “We almost lost her the middle of last year,” explained Mr. Fanene.“She was going through her 8th chemo-cycle as an inpatient and it was very difficult for her…it was difficult for all of us...” In Sharring’s case, one chemo-cycle or Chemical Therapy treatment lasts three to six weeks. During a chemo cycle, Sharring is literally pumped full of poisonous chemicals to try and kill the cancer in her.

An ironic side effect of this type of treatment is that the same powerful chemicals pumped into her to kill the cancer, could also kill her. “There are men that I know of who have in the same situation, chosen to be taken off Chemo to die shortly thereafter, because the physical and emotional pain & discomfort of the chemo therapy was too much for them to bear.”

Daddy Daughter Relationship- Though it is rare to find any good that can come of a family going through cancer, Sharring stated that one of the positives that have come out of her having Leukemia, is that it has brought her back to have a relationship with her dad.  Prior to the cancer, Sharring had cut her dad out of her life.

To that, a pained faced Mr. Fanene has a somewhat different take on this and responded that, “I would rather go back to having no relationship with my daughter Sharring, if it meant that her cancer was gone.  I never stopped loving Sharring when she wasn’t talking to me during those lost years… I will always love her and love all of my children no matter what.”

Immunosuppressed- While Sharring’s condition has stabilized, “She still has a few more battles to go through before she wins this war” explained Mr. Fanene.  Sharring has won her first two battles or completed phases 1 & 2 of treatment.  She is currently undergoing phase 3 treatment of 2 years of maintenance outpatient chemo which has her immunosuppressed.  Immunosuppressed means that her immune system is extremely weak and unable to fight viral, fungal and bacterial infections…”which means even a simple cold could end her life,” explained her worried father.

Bone Marrow Transplant - According to Sharring’s doctors, her best chance for survival is a medical procedure called a bone marrow transplant.  Before she can have the transplant, a perfect or near perfect bone marrow match must be found. A bone marrow match has not yet been found for Sharring.

A family non-profit organization “Caring for Sharring” with co-sponsors were able to conduct a bone marrow registration drive last February in American Samoa.  The successful drive registered nearly 900 potential donors.  While a match for Sharring was not found from that drive, Sharring and her family are very grateful for those that registered as donors, because some of those 900 may have already saved someone’s life or will save someone’s life.

War Chest- Mr. Fanene identified that, “When I first learned of Sharring’s Leukemia, I did an estimate of what it could cost for Sharring to beat her cancer. At that time I projected a 3 year budget of $200,000.” Some of those expenses identified are:  A bone marrow transplant $50,000.  A one night hospital stay of chemo $1,500 x 8 chemo cycles. Loss of 3 years of Sharring’s employment income $130,000.  One Sprycel pill $281 x 365 days per year x 3 years.

While the family has nowhere near the kind of money needed for Sharring’s full recovery, Sharring fortunately had a decent medical employee plan at the time.  But her medical plan now only covers 20% of her costs as she is no longer physically able to return to work.

Caring for Sharring- This non-profit organization was established as the fundraising arm to assist Sharring with her growing expenses associated with her Leukemia.  Combined debt for Sharring & her husband Jonathan is currently nearing $100,000.

Its other purposes are to create cancer Leukemia awareness and to serve the community.  For more information regarding “Caring for Sharring”, contact Vice Chair Faleula Aoelua Sappa [Sharring’s mother] at 684-731-2584 or visit websites or or email

God, Family, & Friends- “Thank you friends & family in American Samoa and around the planet who have donated towards Sharring’s care. While we welcome financial assistance, we are more grateful for your love & prayers. Because of your prayers, God has granted us the past 22 months with her, and we pray for many more months and years ahead,” expressed the very grateful Dad.

Vatau’s Hope Drive - Its fitting motto is “Supporting the Fighters, Admiring the Survivors, Honoring the Taken, and Never Ever giving up Hope!”  Vatau encourages everyone to “Be a part of a winning team for Hope.”  Money raised from the CarWash will go to the “Caring for Sharring” non-profit to assist cousin Sharring with her medical and associated bills.  For additional information, telephone Vatau at 733-1532 or email

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