HOUSTON - Latina Starling knew she wanted to dedicate her life to serving her country, and to being a good wife and mother of two children.
At the age of 29, Starling was a petty officer stationed in the Pacific Northwest with her family doing clerical work for the U.S. Navy.
During a routine physical test, Starling noticed something odd.
“I was doing pushups one day and I noticed the pain on the right side," she said.
The pain eventually led Starling to notice swelling in her chest -- a symptom that sent her straight to her doctor to demand he run further tests.
Her doctor offered medication for the swelling and told Starling not to worry, but she was adamant about having a mammogram and eventually a biopsy.
Her persistence led her down a surprising and terrifying road.
"The nurse she came in and was like 'Here's a box of tissues.' And I'm looking at the tissues like OK, if I accept this I'm gonna be no good for my husband and my boys. So it was like I had to be strong,” Starling said.
Starling was diagnosed with stage 3 invasive ductal carcinoma, a form of breast cancer common in women much older than Starling.
About two-thirds of women diagnosed with invasive breast cancer are 55 and older, according to the American Cancer Society.
Starling hadn’t even reached her 30th birthday.
The next step was what Starling’s doctor’s described as “aggressive” treatment. She underwent chemotherapy, surgery and radiation within a period of about six months.
Starling was barely on her way to recovery when she decided she didn’t want to waste any time — she wanted to become an advocate for others with cancer.
"I signed myself up to do my very first Making Strides against Breast Cancer Walk in Tacoma, Washington. It was with my two best friends, Starling said. "At first I was tired, but them being by my side -- I pushed through."
Starling has been actively involved with the American Cancer Society ever since, and will be participating in the 2018 Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk in Houston, an event that raises money for critical research, prevention and support for cancer patients and survivors.
KPRC Channel 2 News is a proud sponsor of the event.
"Some of us lose the battle but some of us are still here to fight. So use your voice, come out and just you know be a voice for others who are not here,” Starling said.
This year’s walk is Saturday, June 2, at Discovery Green in downtown Houston. Registration opens at 7 a.m. and the walk begins at 8 a.m.
To register, click here.
To learn more about Making Strides Against Breast Cancer, click here.
To donate, click here.
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