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Chris Pablo, advocate for cancer patients, dies at age 59


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POSTED: Thursday, December 10, 2009

Christopher “;Chris”; Pablo, Hawaii's most prominent role model and advocate for people with cancer, died yesterday at Saint Francis Hospice in Nuuanu. He was 59.

Throughout a 14-year battle with cancer, Pablo maintained a positive outlook and remained active with many community, professional and business organizations.

He joined Goodsill Anderson Quinn & Stifel in 2007 as a partner focusing on areas of government relations and health policy law after 15 years as Kaiser Permanente's director of public affairs.

Before joining Kaiser, he was government affairs director for the Hawaii Medical Services Association and a special assistant to U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye.

Pablo gave hope to countless others with cancer, telling them they can survive and be productive.

A cut on his tongue didn't stop bleeding when he bit it accidentally during dinner one night in May 1995. He was diagnosed with myelogenic leukemia, cancer of the blood.

In a story entitled “;True Grit”; in Filipinas Magazine in 1997 by Rachelle Q. Ayuyang, he said after the diagnosis he “;felt a sense of serenity because you know what you've got and then you can move on.”;

He said he didn't ask, “;Why me?”; but “;What's going to happen to my wife and kids.”;

Doctors said the only cure would be a bone marrow transplant and his family organized many organ donor drives because of a shortage of Asian and Pacific Islander donors.

Pablo also urged people to register for Alana Dung, who died Oct. 14, 1997, at age 3 after an 18-month struggle with a rare form of leukemia.

“;I feel like I lost my partner,”; he said at her funeral. “;But she's right there with me as we continue in her spirit to educate the public (about bone marrow donation.)”;

Pablo had a transplant in more than a year after his cancer diagnosis after The City of Hope National Medical Center in Duarte, Calif., notified him a donor was found. He survived the transplant although several fellow leukemia patients died before he left the hospital.

Pablo was free of leukemia, but suffered another form of cancer recently, according to Kevin Walsh, former Honolulu television reporter.

In a report on kevinwalshtv.com last month, Walsh said Pablo “;is the life and soul”; behind a book he wrote, “;The Marrow in Me.”;  He said he wouldn't have become a bone marrow donor or written a book without Pablo.

He said he received a note from Pablo last month that he was in the hospital and having a bad time. “;Sensing that he might be failing I e-mailed him the pdf file of my book because there are some things that I had written about him that I wanted him to see before it was too late.”;

He said he got an e-mail and a call from Pablo the next day saying, “;You made me cry and I was up all night reading what you sent me. Thank you for saying such nice things about my family Kevin.”;

Walsh said he sent the first bound copy just off the presses to Pablo and received an e-mail from Pablo's wife, Sandy, that it arrived and though he was “;kind of out of it”; with the illness and medicine, “;he knew what it was.”;

Pablo was a familiar sight at the State Capitol, working on legislation to concerning a Patient's Rights and Responsibilities Act, indoor smoking, anatomical gifts and funding of breast and cervical cancer treatment for uninsured women.

He helped develop legislation to create a managed care workers' compensation system, known as “;coordinated care organizations.”;

He earned a law degree from Santa Clara University and worked in the U.S. District Court in Hawaii and state courts in Hawaii and Pennsylvania.

He was a volunteer for the American Cancer Society and immediate past chairman of the board of the Cancer Society in Hawaii. He was a volunteer of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and served on the steering committee of the Hawaii Department of Health Comprehensive Cancer Control coalition.

He has been an advisor to the director of the National Cancer Institute as a member of the director's consumer liaison group and was co-chair of the Governor's Blue Ribbon Panel on Cancer Care in Hawaii.