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The Walking Dead's Sonequa Martin-Green Reveals How Her Mother's Battle Against Cancer Inspires Her

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Theo Wargo/Getty

Sonequa Martin-Green has a very personal reason for wanting to take take part in the Stand Up to Cancer telecast this year.

“I’m someone who’s been really affected by this evil disease – it runs rampant in my family,” the star of The Walking Dead tells PEOPLE.

It’s a cause that hits close to home for the actress in tragic ways: Martin-Green’s mother is a three-time cancer survivor and her sister survived breast cancer while several aunts, uncles and grandparents have died fighting it.

But the proximity of the disease to her life has showed her how strong people – and especially her mother – can be.

Speaking of her mother, Martin-Green says, “She’s displayed so much power and so much grace going through this, it’s so inspiring. If I can do anything, if I can give her anything, I would. I feel like my support for this organization is what I do for her and for everyone else who’s been affected by this.”

Martin-Green, 31, will take part in the fifth biennial telecast that will also include stars like Bradley Cooper, Ben Affleck, Matthew McConaughey, Emma Stone, Anna Kendrick and many more.

The broadcast will also include performances by Celine Dion, Dierks Bentley, Keith Urban and Little Big Town. It will be an especially poignant appearance for Dion after losing her beloved husband, René Angélil, and brother to cancer within days of each other earlier this year.

Cases like Dion and Martin-Green’s own family are the reason the actress is glad to be taking part in a telecast that will bring more awareness to the disease that affects a large number of the population.

“I think that we should all stick together and understand that this is an epidemic that affects pretty much all of us,” says Martin-Green. “It’s so important for us to support this organization because it’s doing some tremendous things. The research and innovation is truly changing the landscape of this disease and how it affects us.”

Stand Up to Cancer will be simulcast Friday on more than 60 broadcast and cable networks as well as streaming channels, and The Walking Dead returns to AMC on Oct. 23.