Lara MacGregor was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2007 at the age of 30, 7 months pregnant with her second son. She received a package of scarves from a woman she never met, but with whom she shared a mutual friend. Worn during her cancer treatment she enclosed a note “You can do this.” Lara created Hope Scarves in 2012 as a way to capture these beautiful stories and encourage others.
After almost 7 years cancer free, Lara was diagnosed with Stage IV Metastatic Breast Cancer in January 2014. Lara started Hope Scarves to spread hope, which was even more meaningful.
In 2015 Lara established the Metastatic Breast Cancer Research Fund at Hope Scarves. A portion of each dollar donated to Hope Scarves goes toward translational research. Lara advocates passionately to understand the importance of supporting stage iv survivors and investing in metastatic research. It is her hope to transform our understanding of metastatic breast cancer to speed development of future therapies.
Lara, can you tell us about your cancer diagnosis, living life with cancer and how surprised you were because you followed an organic lifestyle and was very healthy and active?
I was diagnosed at age 30, 7 months pregnant. I have always lived a healthy lifestyle – exercising, eating a clean whole foods diet, etc…. I have no family history. I didn’t have any of the “ risk factors” associated with breast cancer. So, the cancer diagnosis was completely unexpected, but as I have lived in this world of cancer the past 10 years I have come to realize there are many, many people that have a similar story.
Please tell us how Hope Scarves started and how many scarves have been sent out globally?
When I was first diagnosed a friend of a friend sent me a box of scarves and a note that said, “you can do this.” I wore Kelly’s scarves throughout my treatment – they were practical and inspiring. When I finished treatment I asked her if I could send them back and she said find someone else who can use them. So, I gave them to my friend Roberta who was starting treatment. Then, I gave one to a friend named Brooke. Each time I shared the scarves and stories I was touched by how much this simple gesture inspired hope.
So, I started Hope Scarves as a way to help others do the same. We started in my spare bedroom with my 2 year old volunteer by my side and in 5 years have grown to an international nonprofit organization that has a staff of 4 and 100’s of volunteers. We have sent nearly 7,000 scarves to every state and 16 countries.
How do the stories in the Hope Scarves make a difference to other patients and survivors?
We get messages regularly from scarf recipients who share how much the scarf meant to them. These scarves connect us, help patients feel supported and find common ground with others who have faced similar challenges. Some quotes:
”I am wearing my Hope scarf today that was given to me in 2014 when I was first diagnosed. I was diagnosed Inflammatory Breast Cancer, Stage IV metastatic right from the gate because the cancer had already crept into my bones and lymph nodes. ….. I pulled out a scarf today, and the first one I found was the one you gave me….it’s lovely, and I wanted it as a reminder of when things aren’t so lovely. And since I’m Stage IV, ya know, “terminal,” I didn’t want to pass on any bad juju. Thank you for giving me hope and a feeling of beauty on days when I don’t feel it.” Stacey, Sterlng, VA
“When I received the Hope scarf and note, arranged by a very sweet friend of my son’s, I was touched and encouraged that people were rooting for me to get better. It was so uplifting!” Katherine, Princeton, NJ
“This . .. Hope Scarf was my power scarf. I wore it to meetings with my congressman about our legislative efforts. I wore it in a news interview I did about the bill. I wore it any time I needed to gather the collective hope and strength of the women who wore it before me.” – Suzanne, Louisville, KY
“Thank you for sending me a scarf. As I face this long battle ahead of me I will know I am not alone. It will give me strength and warmth not only externally but internally as well. Many thanks, Debby” – Debra, Bellefontaine, OH
Can you tell us about the goals of The Hope Scarves Metastatic Breast Cancer Research Fund and MBC Research Collective and how they’re making a difference?
Three years ago I was diagnosed with Metastatic breast cancer (MBC), seven years after my initial diagnosis. This experience led us to rethink our program. Sharing scarves and stories is nice, but it isn’t going to save anyone’s life. If we really want to bring hope to people – we have to be part of saving lives and so we created the MBC Research Fund.
In our first year we donated $50,000 to the University of Louisville James Graham Brown Cancer Center for a remarkable researcher there working on the effects of simultaneous suppression of estrogen signaling and a key metabolic enzyme known as PFKFB3 on sugar metabolism, growth and survival of metastatic breast cancer.
In our second year we are forming an MBC Research Collective to collaborate with other organizations around the country who want to get money in the hands of the best and brightest MBC researchers across the country. We are also looking at ways to get more patients involved in clinical trials. Lack of participation in MBC trials is a barrier to progress. We are focused on accelerating research for people living with MBC to find more treatment options, extend lives and save lives. It is a daunting goal – but its one we are committed to with our whole heart.
Your blog, My Hopeful Life, recently had an entry called “birthday and brokenness”. Can you share the emotions with this blog? It was an important time for you.
My son’s birthday is always an emotional day. I am so grateful to be healthy and able to raise him. Yet, living with MBC is a burden I will carry always. It’s not like early stage diagnosis where you are treated and then put the cancer behind you, getting back to life. It’s always there – always in treatment. Waiting to see if the cancer grows. Allowing yourself to be hopeful, despite knowing you are broken. I work really hard not to live in the perceived future – but rather stay firmly planted in today. Which right now, is beautiful!
We run for those who can’t.
For friends we have lost.
For sisters, moms, wives, friends, strangers.
We run to raise money for research and support those facing cancer.
Donate to our Outrunning Cancer Project if you’d like. Help us reach our $60,000 goal!
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