One Woman’s Exceptional Spirit Creates a Lasting Legacy of Hope

Holly and Mark Stars
Holly and Mark Stars

In spring of 2018, Holly Hollis was happily planning a wedding, looking forward to the future she would share with her fiancé, Mark Stars. Just 34 years old, the attorney and Human Resource Director at MMR Group, was planning the wedding of her dreams when suddenly, everything changed.

During an annual appointment, her doctor felt a lump in her breast. Two weeks later, her doctor confirmed the worst—Holly had Stage IV, metastatic triple negative breast cancer. Statistically, the odds of survival were low.

Faced with a life-changing diagnosis and chemotherapy, Holly and Mark decided not to wait until their planned wedding in November. Instead, they married a week later with a small, intimate ceremony surrounded by close family and friends.

For the next four years, Holly fought tirelessly in her brave battle against cancer. Her journey—which she chronicled on her blog “The Stars Align“—touched the lives of thousands of people.

“She was unlike anyone I ever met,” Mark says. “Beautiful, strong-willed, kind-hearted. Every day, I am thankful she was a part of my life.”

Wendy Do, Holly Hollis Stars, Elizabeth Arkley Hammett
Wendy Do, Holly Hollis Stars, Elizabeth Arkley Hammett

Holly was not only a fierce fighter, but an inspiration to all who had the privilege of crossing her path. Friends and colleagues describe her as a person with an unquenchable zest for life, someone who became fast friends with those around her with ease, including her surgical oncologist, Mindy Bowie, M.D., who remained not only her doctor but her friend throughout her cancer journey.

Holly’s determination was also evident in her resolve to avoid losing her hair during her cancer treatments, which she received at the Woman’s Cancer Pavilion in partnership with Woman’s Hospital, Mary Bird Perkins and Our Lady of the Lake Cancer Institute. She employed cold cap treatments, a special type of therapy that uses a hat filled with a cooling agent to cool the scalp and reduce hair loss. “She just had a no quit, never give up, never surrender attitude,” says Jeramiah Blum, friend and vice president at MMR Group. “She did everything 100%. It was inspiring to be her colleague and most of all her friend.”

Her love of life was evident in every aspect of her life, from her devotion to her cat, named after the titular character from “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” to her fascination with all things Hollywood to her constant snapping of photos of friends and family.

Holly and her mom, Susan McFarLain
Holly and her mom, Susan McFarLain

Holly’s journey with cancer tragically ended in 2022, but her spirit lives on. To honor Holly’s memory, her friends and family established the Holly Hollis Stars Endowment Fund. This everlasting gift will create a permanent endowment within Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Foundation to support cancer prevention and education efforts in perpetuity for individuals throughout Louisiana and Southwest Mississippi.

MMR Group, a corporate partner of Mary Bird Perkins, is the anchor donor for the fund. “Holly was a part of our family,” says Amber Leach, a friend and coworker at MMR. “We want to help honor her life and her legacy.”

MMR has supported Mary Bird Perkins since 2018 by participating in the Prevention on the Go – Workplace Program and providing cancer screenings and education for their employees. The company also supports the Cancer Center philanthropically to help advance cancer care for our communities, efforts that were particularly near and dear to Holly’s heart.

“Holly, along with Dr. Bowie, traveled to different businesses to speak about the importance of a healthy lifestyle and the early detection of cancer. She loved speaking and sharing her experience with others,” says Mark.

In commemoration of Holly’s 40th heavenly birthday, her family invites the countless individuals whose lives were touched by Holly to come together and celebrate her life through this special initiative to honor and preserve her legacy, which has left an indelible imprint on our community.

Her legacy will live on through the generosity and support of those who knew and loved her and through her passion for helping educate others on the importance of early detection and prevention.

“When Mary Bird Perkins hosted mobile cancer screenings at MMR, Holly was the first in line and would encourage others to take advantage of life saving services,” Mark says. “She felt a responsibility to educate and share with others so that they wouldn’t have to go through what she was going through. It gave her a strong sense of purpose, fueled her faith, and helped her make sense of the diagnosis.”

Anyone interested in honoring Holly’s legacy by supporting her fund should visit the Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Foundation website. A direct link to her fund’s page can be found here.