By Char Ravelo

Uri Lyne Martos. Contributed photo

When life presents the opportunity to lead, it often comes unexpectedly. For Uri Martos, the way back to optimal health brought forth a powerful leader who carries the torch for encouraging the heart.

Uri had not considered herself a leader until completing the Leadership Kauai course in 2016. However, her leadership journey actually began in 2014 at the age of 36, when she was diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer. After surgery, chemotherapy and radiation, she was considered cancer-free in the summer of 2015. As the saying goes, “you never know how strong you are until it is the only option you have.” Surviving cancer showed Uri she was much stronger than she thought. She signed up for the LK program just two months after completing her cancer treatments.

Unbeknownst to Uri, her cancer journey made her a better leader. There were many things to learn and decisions to make when faced with cancer. Who will be your doctor, what treatment will you choose, what kind of surgery is best for me, should I take the natural care route? While researching and advocating for herself, she challenged the process of what she was being told in creating the best treatment plan for comfort and confidence. It was not easy. She fought cancer with her all and beat it. She modeled the way for other survivors to know that they could also do it.

Contributed photo

About a year later, she began volunteering at the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACSCAN), the grassroots advocacy arm of the American Cancer Society. Soon, she was asked to be the State Lead Ambassador for Hawai‘i to advocate for efforts in our state as well as nationwide. In this role, she has the opportunity to enable others to act, work to implement policies to take care of survivors, and help reduce the incidents of cancer in Hawai‘i. She also works to inspire a shared vision of a world with better healthcare, supported survivors, and one day, a world without cancer.

In 2021, Uri was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer in her liver after being cancer free for 6 years. While this is just another bump in the road, she is digging back into the lessons learned the first time around for strength to keep fighting. Uri reflects, “I am nothing if I am not resilient.”

None of this could have been done without her incredible support team who encouraged her heart through it all. Their words and actions gave her comforted strength to get up each day.

Uri Lyne Martos. Contributed photo

“I was told over and over that the light others were shining on me was simply a reflection of all the light I had been shining on others throughout the years. I hope to continue to shine that light for myself now, and also shine on for others to know that they are not alone.”

When asked what inspires her to go for it during challenging times, Uri replied, “When my heart and mind are in alignment, I go for it! When the decision sparks excitement and joy, I go for it! When I know that the challenge will bring forth a better outcome for myself and others, I go for it!”

Along with volunteering for ACSCAN and LK, Uri is a Donor Relations Officer for the Hawai‘i Community Foundation since 2008. She is honored to work with donors, partners and organizations across the island to create positive change. Although this work can be difficult to see the great need within families, the environment, culture and in our community, she sees hope, collaboration and the potential to make great impact now and into the future. “We envision an equitable and vibrant Hawaii where all of our island communities thrive.”

Uri’s leadership philosophy is to lead with kindness and share gratitude often. Gratitude gets her up in the morning. Uri says with a big warm smile, “I am grateful for another day of life.”

  • Char Ravelo is the Executive Director of Leadership Kaua‘i, and can be contacted at or (808) 246-8727.


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