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Health > WorkoutWinter 2009 IS Magazine

Walking the Talk

In everything she does, the UH chancellor survives and thrives.

By Craig DeSilva

Virginia Hinshaw owes a lot to Tina Turner for helping her get through tough times.

“I’m a huge fan,” says the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa chancellor of the Grammy award-winning singer. “She’s one of my role models. She’s talented, self-educated, has a sense of self, overcame great odds, and is still dynamic in her mature years.”

So when Hinshaw went for radiation treatments after being diagnosed with breast cancer 12 years ago, she visualized her Hollywood idol in the movie Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, directing great white sharks to seek out cancer cells and eat them. “It’s actually very helpful in lots of situations,” she says.

Hinshaw, who was a vice chancellor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison at the time, underwent a lumpectomy, the most common form of breast cancer surgery. She credits a strong support network of family and friends for helping her deal with the cancer. She says keeping a sense of humor and having a career she loves also help her stay positive.

Hinshaw is not afraid to talk about her cancer and often speaks publicly at cancer support groups. “I’m a breast cancer survivor and thriver,” she says proudly. “Cancer is a genetic mistake and can happen to anybody. Unfortunately, it’s very common. Most people think it won’t happen to them, but we know statistically a number of us will be impacted.”

Hinshaw, 64, says she feels better than ever, and leads an active life to stay healthy. She’s often seen on campus riding on a Segway, but it’s not because she doesn’t want to walk. She’s fascinated by technological gadgets and has owned the mobile vehicle ever since it came out. Instead, Hinshaw gets her exercise by walking three miles on her treadmill when she gets home at night. She pops in a DVD during her walk – one of her greatest pleasures, since it’s the only time she gets to watch movies.

When she has time to go outdoors, Hinshaw participates in Relay for Life walking events for cancer survivors. And she relishes long walks on the beach. “My family calls it ‘mother’s death march’ because I go out for so long, they don’t know if I’m going to return,” she laughs. “There are times when I need to refresh my soul. So I’ll enjoy the beauty and music of the ocean.”

The Tennessee native took up tennis as a child and spent summers swimming in the neighborhood pool. In her adult years, she’s taken up golf, snow skiing, horseback riding, snorkeling, kayaking and fishing.

She admits she doesn’t always make the grade when it comes to her eating habits. She often skips breakfast to rush out the door and frequently succumbs to sweets. But she tries to eat a healthy sandwich and yogurt during the day and a salad for dinner. Type 2 diabetes runs in Hinshaw’s family; both her parents had it. So she’s careful not to eat too many carbohydrates and desserts.

Hinshaw moved to Hawai‘i more than a year ago to take the UH Manoa chancellor position. She’s since made a to-do list of outdoor activities, including hiking the Makapu‘u Lighthouse Trail and paddling a canoe. With Hinshaw’s love for the outdoors, you can bet that list will keep growing.

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