Thanks and giving.
I was ready to put cancer away for Thanksgiving (which also happens to be my 42nd birthday). It’s just been a lot lately, but as I woke up this morning at our farm I realized first I needed to get out some feelings… and process the past couple weeks. It’s quiet… the boys are sleeping, Jay is hunting. So, it’s just you and me.
The MBC community lost two young, passionate advocates this week. (Actually, we lose 113 people each day… each and every day… according to statistics. These are just two of them.) Caitlin and Laura were constant voices in the conversation around living life to the fullest and demanding more money for MBC research. For all the annoying aspects of social media (said by a mom of a 13-year-old) it is a powerful tool of connection for our community, especially young women facing MBC because you might not know someone in your own city. In my case the women I was close with in Louisville have died so I keep up with friends living with this disease online. Hundreds of them. Many I haven’t met in person. Caitlin was a friend to thousands with her candid storytelling and beautiful smile. She was 34 years old when she died.
Laura and I only met in person once, but it was significant. As many of you know (a little backstory) …
I received a box of scarves from Kelly when I was first diagnosed. I wore her scarves throughout my treatment. Both as a practical resource and inspirational gesture, these scarves carried special meaning for me. When I finished treatment, I asked for her address to send them back and she said “just find someone who can use them.” So, I took them to a YSC conference where I met Roberta. I gave her several of the scarves. I realized how much these scarves meant to me when I received them, but also how empowering it was to pass them on and share my story. (This was my inspiration to start Hope Scarves.) One of my favorite scarves was a brown scarf with rich merlot and gold flowers. Roberta wore these scarves and then passed them on to her friend Laura. In 2015 Laura brought this scarf back to Hope Scarves and added her story. You can watch our silly exchange in this short video. I was so giddy.
All three of us progressed to metastatic breast cancer. And, I tucked this scarf away feeling it was too special to send out without knowing if we’d get it back. I also thought, I’d like to have it when I needed it…
This past week Laura died. While we hadn’t seen each other for years we had a constant online conversation- commenting on each other’s activities, growing kiddos and travels. I will miss checking in with her. Her family was her life. I know how much they are hurting and pray for peace and acceptance.
Recently, Roberta got the news that she has to start toxic chemo treatments again after the cancer progressed on all the other options she tried. This is devastating because many MBC patients were on chemo as early stage patients and know how hard it is… however, the reality is now the duration is more uncertain. Having to attend her dear friend Laura’s funeral while carrying the burden of treatment changes is just too much. Roberta has three children – a son about Bennett’s age and adorable little twin girls. She has a witty humor and quick laugh. I know her heart is heavy this holiday season with all she is carrying.
All this as I carry my own uncertainty as to whether my October radiation treatments were enough to hold off my own cancer. My next scan is December 20th…
I had to turn all this heartbreak into action.
I knew it was time for our favorite scarf to head back out. I wrapped it up on Tuesday with four beautiful stories of the women who wore it- Kelly, Lara, Roberta & Laura. Now heading back to Roberta. I hope reading our encouragement and her own words will bring her strength.
But, that didn’t seem like enough. Many of you know, when I developed metastatic breast cancer we started a MBC Research Fund recognizing that scarves and stories are practical and inspiring but they weren’t going to save anyone’s life. It we truly wanted to live out our vision, Change the way people experience cancer, we had to invest in research. 100% of the money we raise for MBC research goes to research. 100%. In addition, our board designates an additional amount raised in our general fund to research. Our final amount for 2018 will be announced in December. We founded the MBC Collective with two other organizations and leveraged a 1:1 match so when donors give to Hope Scarves they know their research investment is matched dollar to dollar.
So, to truly honor Laura, Roberta and the shared story of our scarf, research had to be included in our actions.
Laura was an active supporter of Metavivor, another important nonprofit organization that raises money for MBC research. So, in honor of Laura, Roberta and our shared story – we made a challenge- each dollar raised in memory of Laura will be matched by Hope Scarves up to $25,000. So that together we can fund a $50,000 young investigator grant that scored excellent in Metavivor’s peer review process but fell outside their current funding capacity. I am excited to work together with Metavivor to make this $25,000 donation to honor Laura and our shared story.
We are the authors of our lives. We can’t change the fact that cancer invaded our bodies, or that it is killing our friends and tearing apart families. While the tears are still fresh, we can choose what we do next. We turn our heartbreak into action.
Seems there is a lot of heartbreak right now – in the horrifying wildfires, in victims of gun violence, hate crimes and addiction. Perhaps more than ever we need to stoke the power of love. Lend a hand, do your part to bring love to the world. As you gather with friends and family, give thanks and turn this gratitude into action. What can you give?
There is healing power in helping others.
Following this post – I received several inquires with how to donate to MBC research. Thank you! Click below:
Hope Scarves MBC Research Fund
Metavivor – please note Laura Williams memorial fund