All we are is what we do

This summer has been amazing. Amazing in a totally normal macgegor Michigan adventure kind of way. We are doing all the things we love to do each summer. Play in Lake Michigan, fish, laugh with Michigan friends and family, bonfires on the beach, sailing, etc…

This last February I never would have thought this possible. Our life was a crumbled heap of broken dreams – all I could think about was how much I loved my life and didn’t want it to end. How I just wanted to be a mom to our kids and laugh and live… But it was so hard. I was crushed with the news of my cancer spreading to my bones. I was paralyzed with the idea that I could live a happy life with a disease that has an average life expectancy of around 2- 3 years.

Yet- here I sit. Warm sun on my face. Life is different. I am not the same carefree person here last summer. How could I be- I am facing an inexplicable demon and I have no clear finish line or path ahead. I watch close friends die from cancer-leaving behind families and friends. It happens. It can happen to me. Chances are it will.

But, in the meantime I have a lot of living to do.

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As you know, Hope Scarves is the organization I founded to share scarves and stories of hope with women facing cancer. This donation would mean so much to our grassroots efforts. Click on link below.

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Pure Michigan

I was reminded by a picture from a couple months after my mastectomy in 2008, when my hair was just growing into a very butch looking buzz cut- we traveled to Michigan for our annual summer adventure. I remember hiking, kayaking, laughing with our 6 month old new baby and my new “rack” feeling blessed beyond measure to have beaten cancer (minus a couple more reconstruction surgeries). It was a summer of celebration and reconnecting with friends and family to tell the story of my cancer fight. I had beaten it. I felt so strong and proud. My whole life was in front of me. A new baby, a little idea about an organization I might start, an amazing husband who stood by me through it all, friends and family and most of all HOPE for the future! Then the following 6 years of summer adventures – happiness, joy, physical accomplishment, delicious meals, family, friends! Days overflowing with laughter, bug bites, snuggles by the campfire and most of all HOPE for the future.

Now, this summer. I am so thankful to be here, in “MI Happy place.” We are having a great summer- like every year… Kayaking, climbing sand dunes, fishing, beach campfires, family reunions. So much is the same. Yet, everything is different.

53c34af4ab28b9dc1ebde68eI wish I could just enjoy the moments and laughter with the confidence that this is one summer in a long line of summers to come together. That jay and I will walk the beach holding hands 20 years from now and that I will see our boys as men. I know it’s not guaranteed for anyone, but it’s especially hard for me. I just can’t help but wonder when will this feeling good end, when will I face toxic treatments that keep me from doing the things I love and when will I run out of treatments… It’s all so surreal in the midst of the happiness I feel most of the day. Yet, it’s our reality now. This balance between just having fun and treasuring the moment because you don’t know how many more we will have together. It’s an odd way of living. But I’m figuring it out. Most of all- we are living life to the fullest. Squeezing every bit out of each sweet summer day in our yellow cottage on the shore of Lake Michigan. Life is good.

Life is so, so good.

Face of Hope, July 2014 – Meghan (Berkley, MI)

1. How did you become connected with Hope Scarves?

I first became connected with Hope Scarves when I met Lara at the Conference for Young Women with Breast Cancer in New Orleans in 2012. My husband and I stopped by her booth at the expo and I immediately felt a connection with Lara as a young survivor and was so moved by this incredible idea she had in creating Hope Scarves. I took home a stack of her marketing materials and distributed them throughout my cancer treatment center, wrote about her on my blog and told family and friends to check out this wonderful organization. We have stayed in touch through the last 2 years and now forged a great friendship!

2. If you donated a scarf please share what this experience meant to you or if you received a scarf and story please share how this impacted your healing journey?

I have shared scarves with many different people after becoming inspired by Hope Scarves. From my husband’s high school student battling lymphoma, my aunt dealing with ovarian cancer, and my dear friend dealing with a recurrence and having to lose her hair for the second time…passing along my scarves has been a way for me to show my love to others and let me know I am here to support them. To let them know I have been down that road and have come through the other side, and they will too. It might seem like a subtle gesture, but to those faced with losing their hair and a huge piece of their identity, it can mean so much.

3. What are the things that provided hope and strength to you throughout your battle?

My greatest sources of hope and strength have always been the love and support of my family, friends and other cancer survivors. Those closest to me, especially my incredible husband, provide me with strength during those most difficult times. The times when you just feel tired of dealing with it all. All of the amazingly brave women I have become friends with that deal with cancer as a chronic disease are the ones that give me hope that I can follow in their footsteps and live a joyful life despite this disease.

4. Where are you currently on your cancer journey? Tell us how you are living life over cancer.

I live with Stage IV metastatic breast cancer, for which there is no cure. I am currently doing very well and my disease remains stable with the help of oral medications and monthly injections. It has been a long road to get to here, but I can truly say I live my life over cancer in every possible way despite knowing this disease will also be a part of me. I work full time, run a small business, travel, exercise, donate my time to charities, and spend as much time with family and friends as possible.

5. What do you wish other people knew about Hope Scarves?

I would love for others to know what a huge gift you can provide by donating to Hope Scarves. It’s not just a scarf – it’s a symbol of support…a symbol of perseverance and a symbol of HOPE! You may never know what that truly means to someone facing this type of battle.

6. What would you tell someone who is thinking about sending a Hope Scarf to a friend battling cancer?

Exactly the same answer as #5 ☺

7. What is one of your dreams or goals for the future?

For a long time I didn’t think I could have hopes or dreams for the future. It felt as though I didn’t have a future at all and it would be foolish to make plans for one. But, I am so thankful to say that I now see a bright future filled with many incredible experiences. Above all else, my only goal is to be able to say that I have made a difference with my life. At the end of the day, that is all I truly want.

8. What is your favorite inspirational quote or words to live by?

“She stood in the storm & when the wind did not blow her away, she adjusted her sails.” –Elizabeth Edwards

9. If your friends or family had to describe you in two words, what would those be?

Hmmm…that is a toughie since I am pretty much my own worst critic. I would hope those who know me best would describe me as “strong” and “loyal”. Although I am not one to usually pat myself on the back, I am proud of all I have been through and overcome in my life…not just relating to cancer. Even before I was diagnosed, I had been through more hardships than the normal 20-something year old. I am grateful for the strength that was instilled in me while I being was raised by an incredible single mother. And I trust that my closest friends and family know how fiercely loyal I am. I would do anything for my friends and have tried my best to support them and stand by them, just as they have done for me.

10. Please share something you learned having gone through cancer – either as a survivor or as having a loved one with cancer.

I have learned soooo….much about myself and about life in general since my diagnosis. One of the greatest lessons I wish others could truly understand is that the old cliché is so true…Life is far too short, so make the most of it while you can. We never envision hearing the words, “You have cancer”, or “There is no cure for Stage IV disease”, or “The average life expectancy is 24 months”. And I certainly never dreamed I would hear these things before reaching 30 years old. But I have tried my best to live a life full of happiness, grace and gratitude despite the cards that have been dealt to me. I am not thankful for cancer but I am thankful that I have the perspective to really, truly understand how fragile and precious life really is. It is something that I don’t think you can appreciate until you realize how quickly it can be taken from you. Spend your days surrounded by the people and things that make you happiest and bring you joy because life is far too short to spend your precious time any other way!