Brave mother leaves legacy of hope
Sharnell Onaga / Leukemia Fighter
Leukemia did not keep Sharnell Onaga from having her third child Dec. 4, but she lost her fight to the disease Tuesday.
The 38-year-old Onaga was diagnosed in June with myeloid leukemia during a blood test when she was nine weeks pregnant.
Doctors advised her to end her pregnancy to begin treatment against the aggressive cancer, but she would not do it.
"Miraculously, the leukemia was relatively dormant until Sarah was born," family spokeswoman Cissy Boyer said.
Friends and family signed up more than 1,000 new potential bone marrow donors in a vigorous campaign, but a match was not found for Onaga, who had been on the Bone Marrow Donor Registry for three years.
In October the registry gave her unexpected news: She was a match for someone else.
"I'm so bummed I couldn't help," she told the Star-Bulletin at the time. "It's like winning the lottery, they say."
After her baby was born, Onaga had chemotherapy at the Queen's Medical Center, then went to the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center for a cord blood transplant.
The transplant was delayed by an infection, and "the leukemia returned full force," Boyer said. "Her wish was to come home at that point when they said there's nothing more."
She returned last Thursday and spent several days at her Kapolei home with family and friends before she was admitted to Queen's on Saturday night.
Her family includes her husband, Clifton, a vice president of family-owned Amazon Construction, and their daughters Kaila, 13, Rachel, 2, and Sarah, 4 months.
Boyer said Onaga is "enjoying a well-deserved rest not only from the rigors of the past year, but for her lifetime of selfless giving and service as a wonderful wife, great mother and fabulous friend."
"Sharnell's message was one of hope," Boyer said. "She never lost her joy or that inner beauty that comes from trusting in God."
Funeral services are pending.
Tax-deductible donations are being accepted for the Onaga children's education fund through Soroptimist International of Honolulu, a tax-exempt nonprofit organization.
They may be made payable to SI Honolulu -- FFSO and mailed to Friends for Sharnell Onaga, P.O. Box 700814, Kapolei, HI 96709.