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,”
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.