Teen Becomes Caretaker for Parents With Cancer

·2 min read

A Maui teen has become a caretaker for his parents, both of whom are fighting cancer.

A few months ago, 16-year-old Sekope Sharits' parents Siu Ako, 40, and Kenneth Sharits, 52, were diagnosed with breast cancer and lymphoma, respectively.

Sekope has assumed a head-of-house role, taking care of things with the help of his 11-year-old brother Mitieli. Sekope drives his parents to medical appointments from their home in Wailuku, Hawaii and makes sure they take their medication.

Siu Ako says she never wanted her sons to grow up so quickly. "It's hard to see your children going through this," she told TODAY Parents. "I want them to be free and be with their friends. I can't imagine what they're going through."

Sekope Sharits, 16, pictured with his parents Siu Ako and Kenneth Sharits, and his brother Mitieli, 11. (Courtesy Siu Ako Sharits)
Sekope Sharits, 16, pictured with his parents Siu Ako and Kenneth Sharits, and his brother Mitieli, 11. (Courtesy Siu Ako Sharits)

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In May, Siu Ako was diagnosed with stage three breast cancer. Since having chemotherapy, she hasn't been able to work her part-time jobs as a caregiver and at a Maui Food Bank.

A month later, Kenneth learned he had lymphoma, a cancer of the lymphatic system (which includes bone marrowa and spleen), which Siu Ako said has spread across his chest and stomach.

Kenneth is being treated at a hospital in Honolulu, about 100 miles away from home. He is currently not working any of his three part-time jobs as a hospital guard, a mortuary funeral director and at a security company.

A GoFundMe account started by a family friend is helping cover the family's bills.

Sekope and Mitieli have stepped up to cook for their parents and manage their medicine intake. They are also very careful to prevent their parents from falling. "When we walk up the stairs, one brother walks in front and the other behind," said Siu Ako.

The teen said caretaking is a "thank you" to the people who raised him.

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"It's a fraction of what a son can do for his parents," Sekope told TODAY Parents. "They raised me to be strong and now it's my turn to repay them."

He added, "My mom made me a kind man and my dad taught me to work hard for what I have today."

Sekope encourages his little brother to play outside so he gets a chance to be a kid. "It's hard for him to leave because he wants to stay home (with our parents)," he explained.

To Siu Ako, the boys' sacrifices prove their self-sufficiency when the time comes. Until then, she's concentrating on her health.

"I have two boys to take care of and I'll fight for them," she said. "That's all I can think about."