When Starla Hauser first found out that her family’s long-awaited dream vacation to Maui had become a reality, everyone was ecstatic.
However, the family soon realized that the trip to paradise came with a caveat.
Due to funding, the nonprofit Dream Foundation, which grants wishes to adults battling terminal illnesses, could only provide four round-trip tickets for the family of six.
The family envisioned the trip as a chance to escape the eight-year reality of the 42-year-old Gig Harbor resident’s cancer diagnosis for a short time.
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Hauser was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2009 at age 35. In 2012 the cancer metastasized, and Hauser is now dealing with two different kinds of breast cancer that has spread to her bones.
She was approached by her doctor to apply for the Dream Foundation.
“The Dream Foundation is basically Make a Wish for adults who have 12 months to live,” Hauser explained. “I have always wanted to go to Hawaii with my family. But with battling cancer since 2009, it’s hard to save money when you’re not working and paying for medical treatments.”
The foundation came through with her wish, but seeing her dream slip away again, Hauser’s friends stepped forward.
My friends and family and the community were like, ‘No, we’re going to make this happen.
“My friends and family and the community were like, ‘No, we’re going to make this happen,’” Hauser said.
A private fundraiser for close friends and family is organized and a YouCaring fundraiser raised more than $6K in its first week. The funds raised will cover the cost of two round-trip airplane tickets for Hauser’s oldest two sons, plus expenses for a hotel, entertainment and food for the family while on Maui.
Along with the need for relaxation and a family vacation, the trip will provide space and a serene environment for the family to start having difficult discussions surrounding Hauser’s diagnosis and the future.
“It time to start having some talks. Hawaii is going to be something where we can make memories and talk about the future,” Hauser said. “We can talk and cry, we can laugh and be on the beach and have those conversations.”
The support for her and her family from friends and the Gig Harbor community has been at times overwhelming, Hauser said. She added that learning to accept help has been difficult for her, because she is always looking to lend help to others and had rarely asked for it herself.
“Our community is so supportive and so amazing and so kind,” she said. “It’s been really hard for me to accept that service, because that’s who I am. Focusing on others than myself, because if I sit here and focus on myself I’ll get in a deep dark hole and never crawl out.”
Hauser has seen this community support through meal trains from friends and the outpouring of support her family received after her mother died last year, and the community, led by Gig Harbor Fire & Medic One, rallied to help her brother, Audie Graham, move in with Hauser’s family.
“I’m blessed. Cancer sucks but I’m blessed,” she said. “I have a wonderful family, wonderful community and awesome neighbors.”
With the support of family, friends and her community, Hauser focuses on hope and believes in miracles, encouraging her children to treat others with kindness.
“The biggest thing I get is that I don’t look sick,” she said. “I just want people to remember that we never know what people are going through. Just be kind to each other. Have patience with each other.”
To donate to Hauser’s Maui trip, visit youcaring.com/starlahauser-785529.