In 2007 when I was diagnosed with breast cancer I received a box of scarves from a friend of a friend named Kelly. Each time I wore those scarves I felt her love and support. When I finished treatment she told me to pass them on. So, I took them to a conference in 2009 where I met this spunky young mom named Roberta. She and her best friend Jen were there together. I was drawn to their genuine friendship and laughter. Roberta was just starting treatment and scratching at her annoying wig. So, I gave her the scarves in the lobby of the hotel. We laughed through out tears about facing cancer as a young mom. I showed her how to wear the brown scarf with maroon flowers and gave her a couple others too. We hugged each other tightly.
Those scarves helped me when I was first diagnosed. A practical resource to wear, inspiration from another person who had faced cancer reminding me I could too. And, it moved me deeply to pass them on. To share MY new found strength with someone else. When I reflected on my trauma I started to heal. I saw Roberta’s face light up as I gave her the scarves. I passed along the same message that I clung to when I received them, you can do this. We hugged, perched on the wall beside the hotel plants – clinging to each other for love and support.
This exchange and new friendship was the inspiration for Hope Scarves. From this personal experience of both receiving the scarves and passing them on – I created this non-profit organization to help other people experience this same connection and support.
Today, over 12,000 Hope Scarves circle the globe. Each Hope Scarf contains a scarf, survivor story & scarf tying instructions – traveling to people facing all types of cancer in every state & 24 countries. The oldest recipient is 97 and the youngest, 2.
When Roberta finished treatment she sent these 2 scarves back to me and wrote her story to pass along with the scarves for the next recipient. The closing line of her story is:
I am sending gentle hugs and courage to you in this journey. You are not alone!
Roberta and I would cross paths annually at the Young Survival Conference – each time connecting with a loud squeal and hug. She and Jen worked the Hope Scarves booth – sharing the story of Hope Scarves and collecting scarves and stories from conference attendees. We went out on the town, sharing stories of our families and and celebrating our grateful lives together. Especially following the birth of her twin girls – she couldn’t stop smiling when telling me about how her family was complete with these two miracle babes.
Roberta spoke at our signature event, Colors of Courage in 2013 along with Kelly & Brooke, the first three Hope Scarf recipients. It was so fun to all be together – connected by this brown scarf with maroon flowers and shared hope to live life over cancer.
In 2014 cancer returned to my world when I was diagnosed with stage iv metastatic breast cancer. Roberta was one of the first people to reach out and support me thanks to the connection of social media. She sent me cards and reminded me how strong I was.
Then, in 2016 Roberta also experienced the dreaded diagnosis of stage iv metastatic breast cancer. I was one of the first people she called to talk through treatment options and cry. She said, watching me live with the disease made her less scared. Once again, our stories connected us. I told her, “You can do this.”
Unfortunately, her disease progressed much quicker than mine. Running through treatment after treatment with no response. She endured toxic chemotherapy, radiation, scans, broken bones, fatigue & the agonizing reality that she was running out of options… and time. She marched on Washington, raised money and pleaded for more focus on MBC research.
On September 22, 2019 she died. Leaving a loving husband, 12 year old son and twin 6 year old daughters without their dynamic, funny, driven mom. Their world would never be the same.
As tears stream down my face thinking about how agonizing it is that there weren’t more treatment options to keep Berta with her sweet family – I am driven to action. Driven to turn this heartbreak into hope because that’s what she would do.
In honor of Roberta and the influence she had in the creation of Hope Scarves we are starting a Hope Scarves Partnership Program at Hillman Cancer Center, where she was treated. It is our goal to raise $3,000 to sponsor 100 scarves ($30/scarf). We will launch the program in early December with her friends and family.
AND, because Hope Scarves recognizes scarves & stories are practical and inspiring but not going to save anyone’s life. We promise to match every dollar raised to start this program at Hillman Cancer Center with a donation to our MBC Research Fund in Roberta’s honor.
If you would like to help us celebrate Roberta & the friendship that lead to the Sisterhood of the Traveling Scarves – please sponsor a scarf. (Or, 2. Or, 50.) Every donation helps another person facing cancer remember they are not alone.
Go to www.hopescarves.org/donate. Please note in the tribute section that your gift is in honor of Roberta.
Our stories connect us. Roberta’s story is intricately intertwined with the Hope Scarves story. Encouraging us, rallying with us to bring more funding to MBC research, finding peace in the brutal and beautiful reality of advanced disease. It is our honor to continue to share her words of support with other’s newly diagnosed. In doing so her words of love and perseverance live on forever.
“I am sending gentle hugs and courage.”
With peace & hope,