Lara MacGregor was 30 years old and seven months pregnant when she was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2007. She received a package from a woman she had never met, but with whom she shared a mutual friend. Inside were beautiful scarves she had worn during cancer treatment and a note that read, “You can do this.”
After she finished treatment, MacGregor went to a Young Survival Coalition Conference, with several of her scarves in tow. There, she met a lady named Roberta, with whom she shared different ways to wear a scarf. When Roberta finished her treatment, she sent the scarves back to MacGregor.
The beautiful scarves next offered comfort to a friend of MacGregor’s who was just starting treatment. She marveled at the amazing journey they had been on, and an idea was born.
In 2012, MacGregor started Hope Scarves to share these stories and encourage others. In the beginning, she mailed out two or three scarves a week. Today, Hope Scarves is a bustling international nonprofit with an office of volunteers and staff that send more than 75 scarves each week all around the world.
Hope Scarves has sent over 20,000 scarves to every state and 26 countries to people facing over 90 different types of cancer. The oldest recipient is 97 and the youngest is just 10 months old, said Anna Laura Edwards, executive director of Hope Scarves. The organization has more than 1,500 scarf stories in its collection.
In January 2014, after nearly seven years in remission, MacGregor was diagnosed with Stage IV metastatic breast cancer. She continues to fight for her life, share her story and inspire others. In 2015, the Hope Scarves Metastatic Breast Cancer Research Fund was established in her honor. Hope Scarves designates a portion of each dollar for metastatic breast cancer research.
Since 2016, the nonprofit has raised $750,000 for metastatic breast cancer research, all matched by anonymous donors for a $1.5 million dollar impact, Edwards said.
Despite a decline in health, MacGregor remains involved in the organization she created.
“She continues to come to the office when she is feeling well enough and is working on her book, ‘A Hopeful Life.’ She is amazing and an inspiration to us all,” said Edwards, who joined Hope Scarves four years ago working 10 hours a week, assisting with data entry and donor communication. Her involvement gradually increased, and Edwards recently was named the first executive director of the Louisville nonprofit, which has eight employees.
Hope Scarves are shared in three ways: Anyone in active treatment can request a scarf for themselves; anyone can request a scarf for a friend or loved one in active treatment to be sent as a gift; and the scarves are located in hospitals and resource centers around the country and shared by doctors, nurses, social workers and others as part of patient care, Edwards said.
Hope Scarves relies heavily on volunteers to help package scarves, assist in fundraising efforts and promote the organization’s work in communities around the world. (Learn how to get involved at hopescarves.org.)
An extension of Hope Scarves, MacGregor’s A Hopeful Life website is located at laramacgregor.com. The initiative, rooted in her personal story, began with her widely followed blog and now includes a film, podcast, speaking engagements and the book she is currently writing.
In August 2021, MacGregor shared on her blog that her cancer is not responding to treatment. She knows her prognosis is bad, she said.
“Then, a little voice pipes up in my head … maybe this chemo will work?,” she wrote. “I know it will be hard. I recognize my days of running marathons are behind me, but could there still be days of renewed strength? Could I go on vacation with my family, check off a couple more items on our wonder list? Regain a little strength? Find myself again? Do I hope for this or let it go?”
And then, she concludes: “ALWAYS, HOPE. ALWAYS.”
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