Why the long break?

Leadership Summit and Lobby Day 2013
Lillian V. (left), Latina & Mary Helen (center) Sheila Jackson Lee Staff (right). September 2013.

Sometimes life happens and at some point you feel guilty and you try get back on track.  Since 2014, I’ve contributed still to volunteering with the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACSCAN).  As I look back the one memory that I have of  someone, sweet Lillian Villarreal was an amazing woman who fought till the end of her life. The pain and anger has held me back from sharing so much.  She’s no longer with us God has called her home to be our Angel from heaven.  It was hard for all us but, we knew what could happen and what was going to happen.  Once the C-word comes around it most likely finds a way back again and again until it steals a life away from us.

The pain keeps you awake at night, worrying about your loved ones, and facing your own fear inside yourself of what if I’m next to be diagnosed a second time.  Emotions are high and anger is real, but you don’t give up. I won’t give up.  I here to fight another day.  At some point enough is enough and we need a cure and most of all need support from lawmakers to keep cancer priorities number one and not cut funding and programs which takes us too many steps backwards.

2014 Lobby Day

This year it seemed as though I was better prepared for the 2014 ACS CAN Leadership Summit & Lobby Day.  Over 600 volunteers from districts and states attended more this year than ever before.  Leading up to Lobby Day I had the opportunity to share my story and what I’d hoped to accomplish while in DC with my local newspaper.  Survivor Makes Voice Heard in Washington

Tears were shed because I had just learned of an old friend passing due to cancer.  She was only 34 years old with three young children.  One day she’s in the hospital having survey and chemotherapy.  A few short months later she had passed away.  So young and to die from colon cancer this just doesn’t seem real.  Doing this volunteer work each year many of us are faced with our own cancer challenges.  Several ACS CAN volunteers were being remembered for their hard work and dedication.  The room filled with sadness because they were no longer with us.  There are many moments of heart aches that comes along with dealing with cancer.  I continue to push myself in memory of all those we have lost.

My nerves get to me right before meeting with the Senators and Representatives from my district, but the training that we receive I feel much more confident to face them.  The Lights of Hope ceremony is just breath taking. Spiritually you sense the spirits of those who lost their battle with cancer present.  We all remain hopeful that one day soon this disease will no longer exist.  The ACS CAN Opener is the fun part, because we know that we can’t get though this 3-day event without reflecting on the good times that we’ve had.  Gillian Anderson once said, “Be of service. Whether you make yourself available to a friend or co-worker, or you make time every month to do volunteer work, there is nothing that harvests more of a feeling of empowerment than being of service to someone in need.”


In memory of Sherri, Charley, and Shannon, because of them and their fight I will do every step and action to be a great volunteer.


My Staff Partner and Team
My Staff Partner and Team

Meeting w_Al Green staff

Exercising while in breast cancer treatments

Pinnacle Mountain, Little Rock, AR
Pinnacle Mountain, Little Rock, AR

Physical activity during breast cancer treatment is recommended. According to a study at University of North Carolina only one in three women living with breast cancer are meeting the guidelines per week. I can remember during treatments there were days where I felt like there was no way I could muster up enough energy to do anything. But on my good days I made sure I would go on walks. Soon after I felt more energized. I could remember I would take my son out on walks in his stroller and he loved it! It’s been five years since I was in treatment and I have a current exercise workout that I stick to. I jog or run three times a week for 30 minutes. I stick to cardio because it’s what works for me. Occasionally I’ll add a Zumba class. However after reading the University of North Carolina study, I need to add two more days to my workout to meet the guidelines of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity per week. Treatments can really be rough on your body. If your days are better than others, then take advantage of that and try to take an easy walk. Your body and health will thank you later.

Making Life Easier for Moms


Being a mother is one of the most rewarding and most difficult jobs there is. So imagine being a mom who is also battling cancer. When I was 29 and diagnosed with Stage III breast cancer, my first thoughts were how am I going to get through this and reassure my kids I would get better? While on active duty in the US Navy, I signed up to fight for my country, but never did I think I would be fighting for my own life.

This Mother’s Day, as we thanked our moms for all they do, I’d like to make life a little easier for the moms and others dealing with cancer. Fortunately, Congressman Kevin Brady can help by co-sponsoring federal legislation to increase access to palliative care.

Palliative care is specialized medical care that applies a team-based approach to the coordination of care and the treatment of a patient’s pain and other symptoms. The goal of palliative care is to improve the quality of life for both the patient and their family.

This year in Texas, 115,730 will hear the words “you have cancer” for the first time. Some of them will be moms, and others will be their loved ones. I strongly urge Congressman Brady to support legislation to help bring quality of life and care together for the millions of families facing cancer.

Latina Starling

Volunteer, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network

Spring, Texas

Lights of Hope now in full swing




I need your help in doing something really big by August 2014. My goal is have to 15 luminaries sold and decorated in honor of your loved ones or your friends loved ones. Loved ones who have been diagnosed with cancer or lost their lives due to cancer.

Every year at the Relay races and Lobby Day in Washington DC these decorated luminaries with pictures and favorite moments decorated by you are put on display. Last year I was able to witness in Washington DC the long line of people who have been affected by cancer. It was emotional and you could definitely feel their spirits with us. No one ever wants to be told you have cancer or see someone whom you love be taken away by it. The money raised goes toward cancer research with the American Cancer Society.

I’ve been a volunteer with the American Cancer Society for a year now and I love doing what I do sharing my story and helping in the fight against cancer.

​When you go online to donate make sure you mention my name “Latina Starling” as the person who asked you to purchase a lights of hope.​ Please share this post with your co-workers, family, and friends, thank you for reading.


Speak Up

I know that you are scared of bringing up those feelings when you were first diagnosed with breast cancer. As women of the military we are trained to be hard and withhold so much, but being afraid is a normal feeling after dealing with a traumatic event in your life.
Sharing your story maybe can help some who has served and are now dealing with breast cancer. Did you know that active-duty military have a higher risk of being exposed to cancer than the general population? So imagine the number of women who needs support. In 2009, it was reported that there were over 2,000 cases of breast cancer among active-duty people.
Department Of Defense and Veteran Affairs have been successful in determining that breast cancer is service-connected. Some will be satisfied with this decision and move on. The others may want more answers and how we can make new controls to continue to cut the alarming rates.
Whatever your choices don’t remain silent and not help your fellow veteran.

Facing Breast Cancer

My Bald headAs I recall that October in 2008, something was different about my breast.  I did what most women do, I ignored it, thinking it would just go away.  But the pain worsened, I only noticed it during morning PT (Physical Training).  I recently PCS’d from a stressful command, where I was too busy and always on the go to notice any body changes then.  However, at my new command it was a more relaxed environment and less work so I was able to breathe throughout my short period there.

That year I turned 29, my friends joked that I was soon approaching the B-I-G 30 next year!  I was ready for that milestone and promised that I would embrace it and go on.  After adjusting to my new command and getting comfortable with a couple of Drill Weekends under my belt, I started to worry more about that pain that wasn’t going away.  A few months have passed now its January 2009 and my push-ups during my workout was starting to bother me.  So now I  am persuaded to make my appointment at Madigan Medial Army Center, Ft. Lewis, Washington. This Army Base is huge and has everything.  I saw my Primary Care provider explained what was going on and I left with prescriptions for relieving pain and swelling.  Weeks go by and now I’m even more worried as I continue to feel my breast.  My Husband said, “Babe if it’s bothering you that bad, then go back to the doctor.”  I go back and this time I have to make sure this Doctor sees the desperation in my voice and on my face to get a Mammogram to rule out if there is anything for sure.  I spent a week going to different appointments and finally my biopsy revealed something that till this day I deal with.  I will never forget Nurse Jennie, she meant everything to me that day.  She was the one who told me I had breast cancer.  All I remember is her saying those words and her explaining to me on a piece of paper what type of cancer it was and how fast it was growing.  The room went silent as she continue to speak.  We both cried and she consoled me as much as she could.

I didn’t wear my uniform that day because they said wear loose fitting clothing after the biopsy was done.  For the next several months my uniform came off and I was fighting a different fight.  Fighting for my life in civilian clothes.  Cancer doesn’t care what uniform you are wearing, what matters is what will be on the inside of you as you fight the cancer battle.

I want to get to know other women who were diagnosed with breast cancer while on active duty.  Please email me at latina.starling@gmail.com, I would love to share your story on Veterans vs. Breast Cancer Blog.

Breast Cancer Screenings

While on active duty, most women with no family history or prior history of breast cancer will only receive a breast exam from their primary care provider. In between annual physical appointments its vital to listen to your body and perform self-breast exams monthly before and after your period to notice changes, if any.

Most women are busy with the day-to-day operations of completing the mission, standing duty, and being a wife and mom that we tend to forget about the well being of ourselves. Be your own best advocate when it comes to your healthcare.
After the military don’t be afraid of not knowing where to get care right away. Female veterans can receive breast cancer screenings at your local VA. Most VA Hospitals have a Women’s Health Clinic that provides services. Ask for the Manager of Women Veterans Program.


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