A retired WSMR employee will be finishing the honorary march she started in 2012 which she was unable to finish due to her concurrent battle with breast cancer. Retired WSMR Command Inspector General Marva Little only made it to the 10 mile mark of her 13.2 mile journey. She will now return at this year’s 25th annual Bataan Memorial Death March, cancer free, to finally cross that finish line that she was unable to cross only two years ago.
Little was diagnosed with Stage II Breast Cancer shortly upon arriving for her new role at WSMR in August 2011. Little underwent 33 treatments of radiation, a surgery to remove the tumor, and eight treatments of chemotherapy for three months. She still has to take a pill for three years but Little has been cancer free for two years now. Little describes her diagnosis as a test in her faith in God and said it as a spiritual journey with God. She said her favorite verse throughout her journey came from Psalms 27 which begins with, “The Lord is my light and my salvation whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life of whom shall I be afraid?”
“Anyone who knows my character has always used the term strength to describe me,” Little said. “Once my friends and family learned that I had Stage II Breast Cancer (they helped remind me of) my strength in past situations and of course my faith in God.”
Current WSMR IG employee, Linda Oliver worked with Little and describes her as a strong willed and powerful lady. Oliver said Little gave a new meaning to the term, “fight like a girl.” The entire office participated in the march with Little in 2012. Oliver said since then she has become a permanent volunteer. She said the exhausting trail was too much for her to handle and she can only imagine how difficult it must have been for Little, but she never showed it.
“Marva is a strong leader and demonstrated personal courage,” Oliver said. “She is a powerful lady and left a mark on many at WSMR and Las Cruces. As a leader and friend, she reminded me of the value of family, friends, and life.”
Little arrived at WSMR as a Major and requested a compassionate reassignment shortly after her diagnosis and after starting treatment. She retired from the Army last year after having served 23 years of active duty service and is currently enrolled in a massage school in her hometown. She said it was the strength her co-workers at WSMR provided her: Oliver, Charles Tucker, and Isabel Leydecker, that allowed her to gain a different outlook on the situation.
“They refused to allow me to fail during my sickness and because of their professionalism; we remain the best of friends today,” Little said.
Little said she gained 25 pounds during her treatment due to a bout of hunger attacks caused by the steroids she was given. Her family and co-workers supported her with cheesecakes, fruits, and luncheons. She even admits to almost finishing an entire homemade pecan pie because the hunger pains were far worse than not indulging. Since her recovery, Little has lost over 30 pounds and hopes to lose 20 more. She exercises frequently through activities like indoor spinning, lifting free weights, Pilates, and yoga. She said she is now prepared for the challenge of the march both mentally and physically.
“I am hard charging and I can do it,” Oliver said.
Little said she vows to return once more to complete the entire 26.2 mile march.
Marva’s tips on how to remain emotionally healthy when battling breast cancer:
-It is only a test in your faith, trust in God.
-Allow your friends and family to assist you.
-You might as well eat and pig out because there is not a thing you do once those hunger pains attack you from the steroids.
-Join a weight loss program as soon as you have finished your treatment. It has taken some time to get the pounds off.
-Don’t have too many pity parties. My husband, family, and my IG staff would not allow it.
-Shave your head and embrace the beautiful new you. I still wear scarves, I love them.
-Take your medicine.
-Exercise-walk, stretch, yoga, Pilates. It’s all good for the mind, body and soul.
-Keep a journal. I read mine and some of it is actually funny. Your body will experience so much change and you can only wonder how you were able to endure the pain, sickness, and challenges.
-Remove negativity from your life.
-Take pictures of your bald head. I was too ashamed of my appearance and I did not take photos.
-Learn as much as you can about cancer and ask the doctors a million questions. Don’t be afraid to ask for second opinion and remind your medical staff to wash their hands.
-Remove deodorant that contains aluminum. This is one of the leading causes of breast cancer. Switch to crystal deodorant. It is sold in most drug stores and online.