We regularly host days at area hospitals where we share Hope Scarves directly with patients there for treatment. Yesterday was one of those days. Amy, Director of Hope Scarves, and I spent the morning at Norton Cancer Institute. It was exhilarating and exhausting, sad and happy, frustrating and encouraging. We met 25 women – each with their own unique story. We laughed and cried together as we shared our common bond – the audacity of hope.
Let me share a couple with you… (names changed to protect their privacy).
Sara is 78 years old, wheeling herself in on her own in a wheelchair. Didn’t even want my help opening the door. As we spoke, she tugged on her green scarf and told me “this is one of those Hope Scarves. It’s my favorite.” I gave her another and a big hug.
A beautifully classy woman sat nervously strumming her bracelets as her family and grown children waited for her name to be called. I asked if I could sit with them and introduced myself and Hope Scarves. She told me that after 12 years she had just been diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer. In her 70’s she has a very high quality of life and was struggling with the idea of toxic treatments. We talked about living life over cancer one day at a time and doing things that bring you joy. I shared a Hope Scarf with her and hoped it would live up to her clearly high fashion taste. We hugged and I gave her and her family my email address to keep in touch if she had questions as they make treatment decisions. They gave me a $40 donation and asked what they could do to share the program in their community. When I saw her an hour later – she was beaming after a positive conversation with the doctor on treatment options and side effects. We hugged as she stepped into the elevator and I said a silent prayer that she may hold onto that joy.
I talked with a cancer survivor who is BRCA+ (the gene that triggers breast cancer) about sharing her story. As she sat nervously in the waiting room she explained that her 20-year-old daughter was with the doctor and had just found out she too is BRCA+. We talked for ½ an hour about living life one day at a time and grounding yourself in hope.
A nurse excitedly called me up to the desk to tell me one of their patients was there today to return her Hope Scarf. When I met Myrna she hugged me and thanked me for the scarf. Through her pancreatic cancer treatments one of the hardest parts was loosing her hair. She told me how much the Hope Scarf helped ease this sadness. In her story she writes, “I wore this scarf as a symbol of hope and my defiance against cancer.” I can’t wait to send it on to someone else who needs to hear Myrna’s story. This is Myrna – she was glad to share her name and this great picture when we met.
Denise’s body was weak from countless rounds of chemo for incurable kidney cancer, but her spirit shined in her smile. She told be she had two things yet to do: be a grandma and see her daughter get married. She showed me a picture of her new grandson and then shared the exciting news that her daughter just got engaged. We talked about the wedding and made plans for her to come in to Hope Scarves to pick out a wedding scarf once she had her mother of the bride dress. As her weary body rested in her wheelchair she and her husband talked about how strong their love has become through this experience. His eyes filled with tears. She held his hand.
I sat with Melissa for nearly an hour as she rested in the infusion chair. She told me about her diagnosis, a mis-diagnosis & her family. The sound of The Price is Right in the background. The last time I watched that show was in my own infusion chair in 2008. I closed my eyes and remembered what it was like to lay in that chair. And pushed back the fear of when I will be back there. I gave her a Hope Scarf. She didn’t really like it – too dull. So we tried again and found a bright yellow scarf that brought her to tears. She read its story, written by a woman from Grand Haven, MI out loud to me. I thought about all that has happened to bring me to this point. We hugged and I slipped out the door…
I don’t really want to spend one more minute in a doctor office than I have to. But, the people we meet through Hope Scarves are worth it. I am humbled by how much it means to each person when we give her a scarf. When she opens up her package and reads the story, magic happens. And I hope that they each feel the same love and support I did way back when as I wore Kelly’s scarves.
This is the audacity of hope. Each of these women are facing different challenges. A whole room full of patients on a beautiful spring day. Struggles, tears, fears seeping from the stuffy waiting room. So much sadness, so much joy.
And the sisterhood of the traveling scarves binding us together – lifting each other up, finding common ground and strength in our stories and our shared scarves.