Finding Her Courage By TIFFANY WHITE Photos: MELISSA DONALD
Lara MacGregor’s biggest adversary has been fear. At age 30, Lara was diagnosed with breast cancer while pregnant with her second child, Bennett. She had seven surgeries, a double mastectomy, and 14 rounds of chemotherapy while caring for her newborn. While she was in treatment, Kelley Brewer, a cancer survivor, sent her a box of scarves with a note inside that read, “You can do this.” Lara wore the scarves throughout her time in treatment, but when she asked Kelley if she wanted the scarves back, she told her to find someone else who could use them. The experience inspired Lara to start Hope Scarves, a nonprofit organization that gives cancer patients and their families the mental arsenal and support they need to deal with the disease and its treatment. Lara’s organization collects scarves and stories from breast cancer survivors that are passed on to others. Each cancer patient receives a package that comes with a dry-cleaned scarf, a story, scarf-tying instructions, and information about Hope Scarves. “A cancer diagnosis can seem very isolating, so we are trying to help people see that they are not alone,” Lara says. Hope Scarves (hopescarves.org) has evolved into an exponentially growing powerhouse. Lara says, “It’s the ‘sisterhood of the traveling scarves,’ and it has grown from a little project in my spare bedroom to an international nonprofit organization with an office based in Louisville.” The organization has sent out more than 900 scarves to women in 48 states and eight countries.
practices Vinyasa yoga. “Being physically active helps me realize I am living,” she says. “I try to live my life and be true to myself because I have an amazing life, and I want to keep living it.” Staying engaged with her family and friends is equally important. “I take my kids to school and soccer practice,” she says. “I volunteer, go on date night with my husband, and I find joy in my life and being me.” Lara says she would encourage others in the same situation to use hope as their anchor. “I would tell them hope is stronger than fear, but to let yourself be scared and afraid and not feel like you can’t be, but not to stay in that place of darkness.” Lara is staying true to her own advice by continuing to stare down her fear — without flinching.
While the success of her organization is considered extraordinary, Lara says her biggest accomplishment has been to figure out how to live with hope in the face of despair. Lara’s cancer had been in remission, but earlier this year, the 37-year-old wife and mother developed stage 4 metastatic breast cancer that has spread to her bones. When she first learned of the diagnosis, Lara says the uncertainty of her future led to severe depression. “I had never experienced anything like that before. I had always been stable. I became detached from the world out of fear, panic, and disbelief that this was really happening.” But she isn’t letting the disease define her. “My diagnosis is terminal, but I don’t look at it that way. I am determined to face this recurrence with the same determination I did in 2007.” Coping with the fear of her illness is about living her life with the same vigor she did before the breast cancer diagnosis. She runs on the trails in Cherokee Park, rides her bike, and
Cover Makeup: LORIE KARNES, Z SALON & SPA Lara MacGregor is also pictured on the cover.
BREAST HEALTH SUPPLEMENT
What They Gained From Breast Cancer