Erin – North Carolina

“There’s always hope. I know my time is limited but the utter joy I have in each day is wrapped in the future. I didn’t expect to be here three years later. I mean, who survives 50 tumors in your liver?”

Cancer has ravaged Erin Sipe of Hickory, North Carolina. On the day before Thanksgiving in 2010, she learned she had breast cancer and the mom of two daughters, Kara and Anna, ages 9 and 6 at the time, faced rounds of chemo and a bilateral mastectomy.  She powered through that with the support of her daughters and husband, Kevin, and was declared “free and clear.” She enjoyed several years of good health, running triathlons, raising her family, and actively teaching in her church. 

But, cancer returned in 2017. With a vengeance. With no symptoms other than an occasional catch in her side, Erin was stunned to learn she had 50 tumors in her liver. More treatment ensued. Recently, she learned she has 28 tumors in her brain. She began a clinical trial in Baltimore, MD early this year, but COVID-19 slammed the door on that. Erin returned to North Carolina, where she remains in treatment there.

Despite those challenges, Erin remains strong. “Don’t waste time living in fear. Live life,” she says. “I live every day with trust and thankfulness.” 

Erin writes about her cancer journey in a blog (ErinWSipe.com) and often shares stories and hope with friends, family, and other cancer patients. “You are not alone. You are not isolated, even in a pandemic. I have an army of amazing friends and survivors,” she says, adding, “The emotional toll is difficult in this pandemic. But, you can’t put cancer on ‘pause,’ you must keep hope alive.”

She keeps a whiteboard titled “Hope Chart” at home, filled with hopes and milestones for her family. Birthdays. Holidays. Graduations. Life. “I love checking those off and adding more wishes. I’m hopeful for so many more memories to be made.”

Her faith in God is strong and prayer sustains her. “Hope is everywhere, you just have to look,” says Erin. Hope helps us heal. I live and trust and am thankful. Always.”

“Life is a season,” she adds quietly. “I remain hopeful, whatever season I am in.” 

 

Help remind Erin and thousands more facing cancer that Hope Isn’t Canceled by sponsoring a Hope Scarf for $30/month as part of our Hope Isn’t Canceled Sustainability Campaign.  Our goal is to send 400 Hope Scarves each month – please join us!

 

 

 

Meghan – Michigan

I was diagnosed with Metastatic Breast Cancer 2 days after I turned 29. I’ve  been living with MBC for 9 years. My treatment has included a double mastectomy, reconstructive surgery, chemo, radiation, ovaries removed, and lots of other treatments along the way. In December of 2019 I started having some pain. The pain became severe in February of 2020, my March scans showed progression of the cancer. I got a biopsy that would qualify me for a new drug, but they didn’t get enough tissue. So, now all of my treatment is held up because of COVID. My treatment has been delayed by 6 weeks at this point.

It’s a difficult time for everyone, especially living with Stage 4 cancer where I feel such gratitude for being safe and home, and in awe of people who work on the front lines. At the same time there are a lot of heavy emotions too, it’s a double edge sword. It’s hard to live with the grief and uncertainty of what’s going on with my treatment and waiting an excessive amount of time for tests. I have had to go alone to scans and treatments for the first time in 9 years. It’s a real rollercoaster. So much is shut down, but we don’t get a break from living with Stage 4 cancer. I still need radiation, treatment, and doctors’ appointments. The fear and uncertainty of going into the treatment. It’s just an uncertain time. I got diagnosed with a recurrence in the middle of COVID and had to deal with biopsies and radiation and not being able to see my doctors like I normally would, layered on top of the fear and uncertainty everyone is feeling with this pandemic.

Upon being diagnosed, I was desperate to find someone young like me living with MBC and bringing awareness to people facing MBC. I was drawn to Hope Scarves mission to fund MBC research. That is something that I am extremely passionate about, there aren’t many organizations focusing on that. If we don’t fund research for MBC we won’t be able to find a cure for it. It directly impacts my life and ability to live as long as possible.  I have donated my personal scarves to Hope Scarves and I have sent a Hope Scarf to people.

I think now more than ever, people need to feel supported and seen and loved and we can’t do that in person- so we need to find ways to do that by actions like hope scarves. By donating and allowing scarves to be sent to women in need. It’s such a perfect way to support each other in a time when we can’t physically be with each other. So many people express feelings of not knowing how they can help and feeling helpless, this is a way you can really truly make a difference in someone’s life. Giving a scarf a tangible object or a donation that helps fund MBC research. It’s an easy way to help support during times of helplessness.

 

Help remind Meghan and thousands more facing cancer that Hope Isn’t Canceled by sponsoring a Hope Scarf for $30/month as part of our Hope Isn’t Canceled Sustainability Campaign.  Our goal is to send 400 Hope Scarves each month – please join us!

 

 

Rhonda – Michigan

Having Metastatic Breast Cancer has kind of prepared me for COVID, in a weird way.  The uncertainty of it all.  What has changed for me now is I’m more dependent on other people than ever before. 

Having cancer innately makes you more aware of your health anyway.  I work from home and am used to a lower-key lifestyle. But COVID has brought on a new set of challenges. I am no longer able to go to the grocery, so I have to ask for help or have items delivered. My finances have also been impacted too. I think the financial impact could last me the better part of a year. Luckily, I’m still able to receive treatment, although I’m hyper aware of taking all precautions when going to treatment.  Any testing and scans I have to do alone. The isolation is tough, it’s just me and my daughter here – I don’t have any adults to chat with at the end of the day.

I was diagnosed with Metastatic Breast Cancer 3 years ago. I had been getting regular checkups and thought I was doing all the right things. My doctor mentioned that I had dense breast tissue, but never mentioned that dense breast tissue may make it more difficult to identify any issues.  Once she did identify there was an issue the cancer had spread. It was such a whirlwind. You have to look at all your treatment options, talk to lots of doctors, and all of that. But you also have to come to terms that plans you have made as a parent, very likely won’t happen.  Graduations? Weddings? I probably won’t meet my grandkids.

Someone referred me to Lara from Hope Scarves and I was excited to see an example of someone living with Metastatic Cancer. Everything with this diagnosis was so new for me and I didn’t know what it was going to mean for me, and seeing Lara living a very full and vibrant life with MBC gave me hope. The thing about women with MBC is that we are in it for life, there’s no finish line for us.

I’ve sent Hope Scarves to other people upon a new diagnosis. It’s a tangible thing I can do. Hope Scarves has created a community of connection that helps me know she’s not the only one going through this.

I get out of bed for my kids, but I definitely find more hope in the little things. A good conversation, the sunshine, the birds singing. I find a lot of hope in the little moments. My biggest hope for the future is that my treatments keep working and I can be here for as long as I can.

 

Help remind Rhonda and thousands more facing cancer that Hope Isn’t Canceled by sponsoring a Hope Scarf for $30/month as part of our Hope Isn’t Canceled Sustainability Campaign.  Our goal is to send 400 Hope Scarves each month – please join us!

 

 

Tarah – Kentucky

I was only 34 years old when I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer. Last year I found a lump in my breast on vacation, but I didn’t want to deal with it. A mixture of fear, not believing it was possible, and having no known family history of cancer made a diagnosis feel impossible. Motivated by my 3-year-old, I decided I needed to get tested. I was diagnosed with Stage 2 Breast Cancer and tested positive for the BRCA gene. As it turns out, cancer did run in my family, just a part of my family I wasn’t well acquainted with. I have had 2 rounds of chemo and a double mastectomy. I am still doing chemo and then will have a round of radiation. The next steps are reconstructive surgery and a full hysterectomy, both have been delayed due to COVID. 

Hope Scarves is such a wonderful community, but it’s more than a scarf, it’s a sense of hope and support. A co-worker sent me a Hope Scarf. I was shocked and surprised and thankful. It made me feel special and supported. Having this community has been so uplifting. Knowing I’m not going through this alone and having light at the end of the tunnel has been so encouraging. The scarf made me feel special and pretty, and like I could face the world. I have since sent others Hope Scarves. When you send someone a scarf it just lets them know they are not alone. Every time they wear it they can remember all the people who love them. They are in a club with these other strong women.

We need hope now, more than ever! I find hope every day in my young son. Seeing the world through his eyes. Every day he is so full of joy and love and adventure. He is so resilient- he shows me so much happiness in the world. My greatest hope for the future is to live to dance at my son’s wedding and live a long healthy life with my family. 

 

Help remind Tarah and thousands more facing cancer that Hope Isn’t Canceled by sponsoring a Hope Scarf for $30/month as part of our Hope Isn’t Canceled Sustainability Campaign.  Our goal is to send 400 Hope Scarves each month – please join us!

 

 

Maggie- Ohio

This year, we will begin featuring stories from our collection as our monthly Faces of Hope. These stories show the common experience shared by people facing cancer, but they also illustrate the highly personal nature of storytelling, reflecting the unique thoughts, feelings, and language of their authors. By sharing these stories here, we hope their words will be an additional source of strength for our scarf recipients, help friends and supporters better understand what it’s like to hear, “you have cancer,” and be a source of inspiration for all who read them.

If you would like to see your story featured as a Face of Hope, please submit it here.

Maggie- Ohio

Maggie was diagnosed with Breast Cancer at age 33, and even though we recently received her story, it has been attached to 5 Hope Scarves. Maggie’s treatment occurred while pregnant and completing her dissertation for a doctoral degree in microbiology. Thank you for sharing your story, strength, and hope with others, Maggie!

Tell us a little about your diagnosis and what brought you hope during your treatment.

My husband and I had struggled to get pregnant for several years and finally, through fertility treatments, we conceived. We were thrilled. However, early on in the pregnancy I found a lump in my breast and brought it to the notice of the reproductive specialists, as I hadn’t yet been released to an OBGYN. They noted this in my file, but reassured me that breast changes are common during pregnancy and that I should follow-up with the OBGYN. I did so after a few weeks of waiting for an appointment. The OBGYN then referred me to breast imaging for an ultrasound (they didn’t want to expose my unborn child to radiation from the mammogram.) I knew something was wrong when the tech left the room and brought the doctor in to talk to me. This was followed by another appointment and a biopsy. I was reassured because of my age and fact that breast tissue changes when pregnant. This made me all the more devastated to receive the details over the phone (in the car) that it was cancerous. I was 17-weeks pregnant!

While being diagnosed with cancer while pregnant is devastating, and complicated due to fears and worries about your unborn child, it also gave me hope to think about my baby. I focused most of my energy on taking care of myself and doing what was best for both myself, as well as the baby. I took comfort in knowing that people before me had undergone surgeries and chemotherapy and went on to have healthy babies. I was also found hope in the support from others that I often received, sometimes from mere acquaintances, or awkward, but touching moments with strangers. The support was sometimes overwhelming, at least during my active treatment that I felt I could never give back enough to others what was given to me.

What was the hardest part of your cancer journey?

There are a few “hardest parts” of my cancer journey. For one, I was making decisions that affected by me and my unborn child, at least initially. I suppose this is still true today, but the feelings are less sharp and raw now that I have a birthed a healthy child. I also think some of the hardest moments have occurred after active treatment.  I was seeing my oncologist less and adjusting to my new life as a “cancer survivor” and all that this entails. During active treatment everyone was aware of my situation. But as time passed and treatment ends, people forget the trauma that I and others like me have endured. So it has been difficult to cope with all of the extra precaution and worries about my health that is part of the post-active treatment. I had to shift from experiencing an outpouring of assistance and care, to a more normal life, even though I still have many literal and figurative scars from the experience and must remain watchful for recurrence.

Please share any thoughts of words of encouragement for another woman going through treatment.

I found it easiest to take one step at a time and to try to focus on some of the more positive aspects of my life. Just because you have cancer doesn’t mean that you can’t have a happy and meaningful life. In some ways, cancer helped me re-frame some of my stressors and burdens into something more positive and meaningful. I think my worldview has also changed.. to some extent for the better. I am more empathetic with others and kinder to myself and I appreciated what I do have more than I did pre-diagnosis. Please know that there are others out there who have gone through pregnancy and cancer treatments and are currently thriving. If you are pregnant and dealing with a cancer diagnosis, you might consider reach out to some additional resources that I wish I had known about (https://www.hopefortwo.org/).