Face of Hope, November 2014 – Danielle (Oak Park, IL)

1. How did you become connected with Hope Scarves?

I was introduced to Hope Scarves by Teresa, one of my closest friends. She was brave enough to walk into my life during my cancer treatment and support me through years of up’s and down’s.

2. If you shared a scarf with a loved one please share this experience and what it meant to you.

When I was going through my cancer treatment in high school a lady from the next town over sent me a hat she wore during her cancer battle. I wore that hat often and even once to a formal dance to cover my bald head. I felt her strength when I wore that hat and giving a scarf to Hope Scarves was an opportunity for me to give back.

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

I found strength from my family, I am blessed, but I had come to expect that love and support. I also found strength from friends of friends, neighbors, and even strangers. Seeing people that did know me rally around me was overwhelming-something I did not expect. Some people wrote me letters, others prayed for me. I especially used that strength to battle cancer the second time when I was so very tired and wanted to give up.

4. Tell us about your cancer journey.

In my sophomore year in high school I was diagnosed with AML leukemia. I was 15 and at that time I did not know anyone with cancer. Mine had a 30% survival rate. I went through a year of chemotherapy and became very sick. I dropped out of school and spent my days on the pediatric floor of Rush Hospital in Chicago. I lost my hair and my old way of life. My mom stayed with me at the hospital eating the food trays I could not and sleeping in a chair next to my hospital bed. One year later I went into remission and returned to school, catching up with classes and friends. Gaining energy, growing hair and dating, I wanted to return to “normal”.

Unfortunately one year later I relapsed. The cancer had returned and I needed a bone marrow transplant. My only sibling was not a match, so we tried an experimental path of treating and using my own cells. During my treatment it was the little things that kept us going, a home cooked meal, a gift from a friend, or something funny that made us laugh. I have a strong family and community that supported us emotionally and financially. We are extremely grateful. That was 25 years ago. Today, I work for American Cancer Society assisting others going through their cancer journeys and raising much needed funds for cancer research.

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

I want others to know you can truly impact the life of another person with one dollar, one act of kindness, or one scarf.

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

Each scarf is more than a piece of fabric. The gift of a Hope Scarf sends a message that someone is thinking of you and cheering for you when you need it most. I personally know what that kind of gift can mean to someone going through treatment and that is why I am honored to be able to help Lara give back to others through Hope Scarves.

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

In the future I plan to open my own bed and breakfast.

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

Life is mostly froth and bubble, two things stand like stone, kindness in another’s trouble, courage through your own.

I also find solace in the lyrics of my favorite songs like: these are days you’ll remember, never before and never since, I promise, will the whole world be warm as this, and as you feel it, you’ll know it’s true, that you are blessed and lucky…

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

Strong and Passionate

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

I learned you must be your own advocate for your health care and equally important your emotional well-being.

There are many random acts of kindness that go un-noticed every day. Notice them, spread happiness when you can.

I am grateful to be alive, there are no promises for the future, don’t waste time.


Seven years of laughter, love and adventure

Seven years ago today we heard five small words that changed the course of our life forever.  I sat in the barber chair with a bouncing blonde two year old on my lap getting his curls trimmed, 7  months pregnant and thinking about cabinet finishes for the home renovation project we were in the middle of.  I was full of joy on a sunny November morning. My phone rang and the doctor said, “Lara, you have breast cancer.”

54610b22cb16b4263e9f059bBennett doesn’t know me before cancer and really Wills doesn’t either (he was the two year old).  But, I am so happy to know that the years following my first breast cancer diagnosis I was an even better version of myself. I reflect on the those 6 years with such a big smile on my face.  Cancer changed my life story dramatically, but we made the very best of the scary new chapter.  I gradually healed from my surgeries and chemotherapy.  We got our life back on track and I was a more confident, strong, exuberant version of myself.   Our family was tested and so much stronger for having faced such a scary time together.  Cancer has always been a part of our life as a family, but it hasn’t been our way of life.

Since cancer I have ran marathons and triathlons, climbed mountains and repelled down waterfalls.  I kayaked into deep dark caves and slept under the stars.  I have taught the boys to ride two wheelers, tie their shoes and express their feelings with words instead of fists (use your words, use your words…)   We’ve snuggled tighter and laughed louder.

But, this year as I “celebrate” my cancerversary it is tainted with a new date.  The date the cancer came back.  The second phone call, January 9 2014.  This time so much more devastating because after six years in the cancer world we know so much about cancer.  This time the conversations were not nearly as reassuring, the plan not as clear…

The strong, better version of myself was broken and lost.  But, as I look back on the fact that I have been54610af4ca16b4bb6d106fad facing cancer for my children’s entire life and I think about how they still have me.  Half of the time Jay and I have been married he has been my caregiver as well as my husband.  But I am still their wife and mommy despite fears and sadness and pain.  I know I am determined to continue to be able to say this. Even in the face of this new diagnosis.  My story isn’t complete.  This new chapter was not expected or easily navigated.  But, each day or week I look back at the things we did together as a family, the laughter and adventures we have together reassures me that we have more living to do together.  Lots more!

I am so very lucky that for now my cancer is responding to treatments.  My body is regaining its strength, my laugher is getting louder again.   We are writing this new chapter each day and defining what this new, new normal is for Team Mac.    The past seven years have been filled with much more happiness than sorrow, laughter than tears and hugs instead of tugs.  Seven amazing years I am so incredibly thankful for.

I have cancer.  Cancer doesn’t have me.