HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Many of U.S. Rep. Mark Takai's most impassioned political crusades were fought with personal experience.
In advocating for education reforms, he talked about his own time at Pearl City High School and the University of Hawaii.
He fought for veterans as a veteran himself, who had served in Iraq with the Hawaii Army National Guard.
And as a cancer patient, diagnosed in October, Takai sought to use his office to help shine a spotlight on the need for more cancer research and funding.
In a statement in February on the first World Cancer Day, Takai said getting the news that he had pancreatic cancer shook him to his core.
World Cancer Day, he added, "serves as a reminder that all people have the power to take various actions to reduce the impact that cancer has on individuals, families and communities."
Takai died Wednesday at his home, just two months after he announced he would not be seeking re-election because his cancer had spread. He was 49.
In recent months, Takai had gladly taken on the role of powerful advocate for cancer awareness – with a very personal story to tell.
He sat on the newly-created House Cancer Caucus and the House Deadliest Cancers Caucus.
And he called on his colleagues in Congress to live up to President Barack Obama's call for a "moonshot" initiative to seek new treatments and cures for cancer.
In a rare, unscripted moment at a Congressional conference in January, Vice President Joe Biden hugged U.S. Rep. Mark Takai after the two recounted the toll cancer had taken on their own lives.
At the time, Takai was seeking treatment for his cancer. Biden had just lost a son to cancer.
The exchange, which was written about in several national publications, helped bring new attention to Takai's fight for increased funding for cancer research.
In writing about the exchange on Facebook, Takai said he told Biden that he appreciated his leadership on the fight against cancer.
"On behalf of those fighting cancer right now and our families all over the country," he wrote, "I thank you for giving us hope."