RICHARD WALKER / RWALKER@STARBULLETIN.COM
Tammy Rosen, seated lower right, prepares to go jet-skiing with Xtreme Parasail at Kewalo Basin. The family -- Rosen's sister Michelle Luporini, right, daughter Jessica Carlyle and sons Justen Carlyle and Nate Rosen -- listens to Capt. Chris Allen before boarding.
Strangers, friends help fulfill a dream
Tammy Rosen, battling terminal cancer, wished for one last family vacation
Suffering from terminal cancer, Tammy Rosen of California wanted one last hurrah in Hawaii with her children before she died.
Thanks to an old friend and the aloha spirit, the California family is enjoying the sun and surf of Oahu this week. The friend contacted Gov. Linda Lingle's office, which got the ball rolling. Noelani Schilling-Wheeler, senior director of sales and marketing for the Oahu Visitors Bureau, arranged for complimentary or discounted fees from:
» Embassy Suites Waikiki, hotel suite for five; tickets to "Altar Boyz."
» Makani Kai Helicopter Tours.
» Waikiki Beach Services, surf lessons/canoe ride.
» Xtreme Parasail, jet- skiing.
» Polynesian Cultural Center.
» Paradise Cove Luau.
» Arizona Memorial with Discover Hidden Hawaii.
» Atlantis Sunset Dinner Cruise.
Thanks to an old friend and strangers in the Aloha State, she and her children have been putting her illness on hold since Thursday and enjoying a free vacation with all the bells and whistles.
The vacation in Hawaii, where Rosen was born, was arranged by Catharine Anderson of Fairfield, Calif., the friend who wrote Gov. Linda Lingle asking for help to make Rosen's dream possible.
Lingle started the wheels of aloha turning via the Oahu Visitors Bureau. "We would never have been able to do this (otherwise)," Rosen said.
She, her three children and her sister and caregiver, Michelle Luporine, will stay until Wednesday.
Several companies donated complimentary or discounted services, including a hotel suite, luau, helicopter ride, canoe ride and shows. Hopefully the family will gather enough "good memories that could last them the rest of their lives ... to hold them through the rough stuff" ahead, said Anderson.
"All she wanted was to visit her homeland and have a week with her children to be awesome," Anderson said from California. "I wanted her to feel like a princess, and all the people there (in Hawaii) are doing that. It's incredible what people have done."
Rosen, 43, is in constant pain from what originated as inflammatory breast cancer, detected in 2002. This rare form of cancer "multiplies 100 times faster than traditional breast cancer cells and is almost always terminal. It's (spread) everywhere in my body," Rosen said.
It snapped her spine in 2003, leaving her with a large hump and limited ability to walk. She was supposed to live only 10 more months, but her doctor has called her "one stubborn cuss," Rosen said.
"I still want to live for the kids," she said. "I want to see them grow up."
Anderson said Rosen's plight touched her because Anderson survived leukemia, a double mastectomy and a fiance "who dumped me" when times got tough. Rosen's husband of 15 years left her in February because "he couldn't deal with the cancer any longer," according to Anderson. Rosen was left with four months' back mortgage due and a broken-down car, Anderson said.
Fundraisers in California helped pay for living expenses and airfare to Hawaii. Others have stepped forward to help, including Rosen's first husband, Jim Carlyle, the father of her children Justen, 19, and Jessica, 17. Her youngest child is Nathan Rosen, 12.
Coming from a military family, Rosen lived in Hawaii until she was 3 years old. She especially wanted her children to see the Arizona Memorial.
All of their Hawaii activities so far have been "just amazing ... fantastic!" she said.
Nathan Rosen said his mom was "smiling the whole time" during a thrilling but scary helicopter ride and in the outrigger canoe, where everyone was drenched by the waves.
Rosen usually is so tired, "but here she just wants to go. I haven't seen her with this much energy in a long time," Justen said.
Jessica said, "We all wish (the vacation) could keep on going, but it's not (realistic). ... I want her to stay (alive) as long as she can. But if she stays in pain just for us, I don't want it. She just says, 'Take it day by day.'"
They all know her life is nearing an end, but Nathan said, "We just hope it's not soon."