Eva Longoria uses her fame for good. In between acting roles, she fights for equal opportunities for the Latino community and women, climate change and food production awareness, and exploited children. Still, there’s one issue that really struck a chord with her on deeply personal level.

For years, Eva kept quiet about a major wound inflicted on her family, feeling this particular topic was too raw to discuss in sound-bytes. But one day, she noticed a viral internet campaign, and scrolling through the posts, Eva realized that opening up about her private life could help more people than keeping the secret.

Before Desperate Housewives fame, actress and humanitarian Eva Longoria was the youngest of four daughters. Growing up, she learned many valuable lessons from her oldest sister Liza, whom she credits for inspiring many of her recent passion projects.

Eva Longoria / Instagram

Liza, who was born with special needs, has always been admired by her little sister Eva. In many interviews, she’s named her big sis as her hero, sharing one particular anecdote from Liza’s past that speaks volumes of her character.

Eva Longoria / Instagram

Back when Liza was in high school, someone stole her coat. Fuming, Eva wanted to hunt down the thief. But when she asked Liza what kind of person would do such a thing, she gave a concise thoughtful response, “Somebody who must have been cold.”

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No matter the challenges Liza faced, whether it was doctors listing off things she’d never be able to accomplish, or the ignorance of others, Liza leads with compassion. With the support of her family, she proved all the doubters wrong.

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In fact, Liza crushed many milestones that her own doctors told her family she’d probably never be capable of reaching. She mastered speech, grew up to adulthood, got a job that she continues to maintain, and even takes public transportation independently.

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It was Liza’s influence that motivated Eva to found a charitable organization devoted to enriching the lives of children with developmental disabilities. Eva’s Heroes launched in 2006, with the entire Longoria family taking part in the initiatives. But in the midst of this altruistic chapter, the family received an unanticipated blow.

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After a series of tests, Liza’s doctors said the word that every family dreads — cancer. Liza’s mammogram raised red flags, and they concluded that she had stage I breast cancer. Naturally, the entire family was concerned about Liza’s chances of recovery.

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In Liza’s case, they were fortunate enough to catch the cancer early on and eliminated the disease in its entirety. She was privileged to have quality health coverage, and a supportive family during her medical scare. Many women, let alone those with intellectual disabilities, aren’t as lucky.

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For a person in the public eye, Eva shares a lot about her personal life, but Liza’s breast cancer hit too close to home. She made the choice to keep the details private. That is, until she learned about a campaign that challenged everything she thought she knew about the disease.

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“Kiss This 4 MBC” started as a social media campaign to raise awareness and money to fund research for metastatic breast cancer. When Eva came across the hashtag, she had no idea what differentiated this form of the disease from the kind that Liza had beaten.

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So, Eva did some research, and what she learned about the diagnosis compelled her to get more involved. Metastatic breast cancer also goes by another name, stage IV breast cancer. Statistics show that 6-10% of breast cancer diagnoses are metastatic, a terminal diagnosis.

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To be considered metastatic, the cancer has to travel from the breast to other organs, commonly the lungs, bones, brain, and liver. Treatment options vary from hormones to chemotherapy and targeted radiation, all to prevent the disease spreading and to ensure symptom-free prolonged lives.

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Eva had the opportunity to meet metastatic breast cancer survivors, and their vulnerability made a lasting impact. She remembered, “These women know there’s a ticking clock on their life, and to just listen to the emotional toll it’s taking — not only on them, but their families — was heartbreaking.”

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One major lesson she learned from these interactions was the value of support from a community of friends and family. It’s guaranteed the person with terminal cancer is ten times more awkward, uncertain, and emotionally charged dealing with the reality off their illness than their caught-off-guard loved ones.

Eva Longoria / Twitter

When your loved one is facing a terminal diagnosis, finding the right words might feel impossible. That’s why Eva encourages people to ask the person with metastatic breast cancer one simple question.

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“How do you want me to act?” Rather than guess you way through, Eva believes the best way is to ask the person with the illness what they need. She reasoned that every person is different, and they way they want to frame their diagnosis will be individualized.

Latin Times

Eva went on to say that women need to be proactive about advocating for their own health. So many women put themselves last on their priority list, particularly when it comes to health. Women need to push for additional tests or services, and ultimately trust their instincts.

Healthline

Acting fast matters. Since 1 in 3 women diagnosed with a lower stage breast cancer develop into metastatic, a few months difference in detection could mean life or death. Regular mammograms are essential, but they aren’t foolproof, so it’s important to challenge your medical providers if you feel something’s wrong.

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Getting involved with the MBC campaign was a no-brainer for Eva. She welcomed the chance to raise money and awareness for such a widespread disease with no known cure. If she could help someone like Liza, then she’s achieved her goal.

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“Liza was a role model to get me ready for life in Hollywood,” Eva said. “You don’t take health for granted. You don’t take life for granted.” Eva’s familial experiences kept her grounded, and that’s key — a diagnosis can quickly shift priorities.

For instance, on Mother’s Day in 2014, Darla Rodgers and her husband, Tim, were having a mellow celebration in their home. While they were watching a movie in their living room, Darla was struck with severe pains in her abdomen.

As the pain worsened, Tim didn’t want to take any chances with Darla’s health, so he drove her to a nearby hospital. He wanted a doctor to examine her just in case the pain was something serious, like appendicitis.

Once at the hospital, doctors took a sample of blood from Darla and, after examining it, determined a short-notice CAT scan was warranted. This wasn’t at all what Darla and Tim were expecting. They prayed nothing serious would come of it.

After the CAT scan was complete, Darla and Tim waited anxiously in the hospital room for the results. After what seemed like hours, the doctor came back, and he had a grim look on his face…

He stared at the couple intently before pulling out the results of the CAT scan. He then spoke three words that made both Darla and Tim go numb with fear: “You have cancer.” Darla’s world instantly collapsed.

More specifically, the doctor told Darla she had stage-four colon cancer, and within six months, she would die. She checked herself into the Huntsman Cancer Hospital in Salt Lake City, Utah, to begin an intense chemotherapy regimen in hopes she could beat the odds.

Like nearly all patients who underwent chemo, she began to get sick from the constant radiation flooding her body. Finally, one doctor stepped in with a totally different plan…

His name was Dr. Glynn Gilcrease, and he was an Associate Professor of Oncology. He feared the approach Darla was taking would have detrimental effects on her liver, so he put her on a lower chemotherapy dose. However, he also wanted to get a second opinion on the matter.

Dr. Gilcrease consulted with a close colleague and section chief for Interventional Radiology, Ryan O’Hara. After an in-depth discussion about the safest option for Darla, both men agreed on a potential solution…

It was called radioembolization. The intricate process would launch millions of microscopic radioactive beads directly into Darla’s bloodstream, where they’d lodge themselves into her body and slowly destroy the tumor. It was a complicated procedure that didn’t always work.

The doctors also had access to SIR-spheres, minuscule spheres infused with a special radioactive isotope used for battling cancer. The level of radioactivity in SIR-spheres was much safer than most other cancer-fighting medications. With all these tools at hand, Darla’s operation began…

Dr. O’Hara and six of his colleagues spent hours operating on Darla. For eight days after the operation, she went through intense, and often painful, specialized treatments. However, on the ninth day, miraculously, she felt better than she had in months.

She didn’t want to get her hopes up, however. Cancer, as she knew, is ruthless, and it can creep up again at any moment. A few weeks after her invasive operation, doctors ran some tests and came back to her with news…

The tumors on her lungs and liver had disappeared! Her body took to the SIR-spheres, and for the first time in what felt like forever, she didn’t need chemotherapy. She also became very close with a woman who went through a similar experience.

Her name was Suzanne Lindley, and she was a 19-year cancer survivor. She was also the founder of a Texas-based cancer support group called Yes! Beat Liver Tumors. Suzanne, having lived through cancer herself, took Darla under her wing.

Not only did Suzanne shower Darla with emotional support, but she made Darla the poster child for her support group. Darla embraced the opportunity and involved herself in as many fundraisers and opportunities to help others as possible.

A lot of amazing opportunities came along because of Darla’s involvement with Suzanne’s group. She was invited to the Academy Awards one year, and she went to the People’s Choice Awards. But neither of those compared to one incredible event she took part in…

Darla walked down the runway for a special fashion show that featured cancer survivors! It was an incredible opportunity to spread a positive message for those who were braving a battle of their own. Of course, Darla couldn’t have done any of this without one particular person…

Her husband Tim showed a level of support and understanding matched by no one else in her life. He was by her side the entire time and always made sure to keep her mood up. Finally cancer free, Darla made it her mission to live every day to the fullest!