The week after her 15th birthday, Rachel Starmer was sitting in a doctor’s office, waiting for a diagnosis that would alter her life permanently. What would usually be a time of celebration in the peak adolescent years, Starmer was diagnosed with Langerhans Cell Histiocytosis, a rare form of cancer.

“It was the scariest thing ever, being told you could have cancer, and then… it really being cancer, and being the most rare one there is.” Starmer said. According to the Histiocytosis Association, Langerhans Cell Histiocytosis only affects 1 out of 200,000 children and 1 out of a million adults each year. Since the disease is not common and every case varies greatly, treatment can be difficult to find.

For the next three years, Starmer went through chemotherapy treatments, up until she entered adulthood.

Now a bubbly and lively 24-year-old, Starmer is standing on the square in downtown Mount Vernon, getting ready to walk with her fiancé, Seth Gilmore, for the Relay for Life of Knox County.

“I am eight years cancer free, so I’m feeling pretty great,” Starmer said.

As the survivors were about to begin their first lap wearing pink boas and bright purple survivor’s shirts, Starmer grabbed the hand of another survivor who was there as a team of one, and shouted, “Let’s do this together!” as they boarded the carriage that would lead them around the square to mark the beginning of the relay.

“I do this as a way to give back because they helped my family when I was going through chemo, so this is my way of giving back to them,” Starmer said. Starmer credits her success in beating the disease to her positive attitude and not letting the negative thoughts win. She recommends those who are currently fighting to do the same.

“You can do it. No matter what you think, you can do it,” Starmer said.

Betty Mullin brushed away tears as she waved to the crowd of supporters that lined the street as she made her away around the square in downtown Mount Vernon for the survivor’s first lap of Relay for Life of Knox County. Mullin participated in the event as a team of one, as this year is the first she doesn’t have her best friend, Irene Swaim, walking with her.

“I’ve always done this walk with a certain person, but she passed away in March of this year. I promised her that I’d be here, and I’m here. I wasn’t going to be, but she asked me to so I did. She was cancer free for a little over 10 years and it came back last year, and nothing worked for her,” Mullin said.

“I’m wearing the ring she got me that I promised I would wear, she got me that on my birthday almost two years ago, and I’ve got it, so she’s with me,” Mullin said.

Mullin said a large portion of the people in her life have been affected by cancer, including her sister, ex-husband, and numerous friends. Mullin is a survivor herself, and said that if it wasn’t for her friends and family who encouraged her to get a bump on her nose looked at, she wouldn’t have caught it in time.

“If it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t have gone to my family doctor for a bump on my nose,” Mullin said. Mullin mentioned that after the initial appointment, she met with a dermatologist and eventually an oncologist.

“I had cancerous tumors on my nose, and I got a new nose,” Mullin said, gesturing to her face with a laugh. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, more people are diagnosed with skin cancer each year than all other cancers combined, and one in five Americans will develop skin cancer by the age of 70.

Mullin said one of the most important factors in the fight against cancer is early detection, and says to not delay getting tested. She said the road has been rough, but as of last month she is still cancer free.

Image Gallery
  • Joshua Morrison/News In addition to a pink boa at Relay For Life, cancer survivor Betty Mullin wore a ring given to her by a friend who lost the battle with cancer in March.
  • Joshua Morrison/News Jonathen Kinney, of Columbus Airbrush was hard at work throughout the night at Relay for Life, personalizing tote bags.
  • Joshua Morrison/News The annual Survivor Lap was done a little differently this year, as cancer survivors were able to ride on trailers while wearing pink boas.
  • Joshua Morrison/News Willow Kuntz, 6, was able to jump on the furniture during the Relay For Life on the Public Square on Friday night.
  • Joshua Morrison/News Rachel Starmer, left, and Seth Gilmore enjoy the Relay for Life  festivities on Public Square Friday night.
  • Joshua Morrison/News Steven Grubaugh was honored during Relay for Life with the Don Summerhayes Award. For the past nine years, Grubaugh has been a tireless advocate and instrumental in supporting, developing and grow the Relay for Life program.

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Lily Nickel: 740-397-5333 or and on Twitter, @