Lara MacGregor undergoes chemotherapy while pregnant with son Bennett.
Lara MacGregor wears a scarf while undergoing chemotherapy.
Lara MacGregor and family promote Hope Scarves.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Lara MacGregor is on a mission to make fighting cancer a little less scary and a little more beautiful. Her journey began with her own fight at a young age.
"When I was 30 years old and seven months pregnant with our second son, I was diagnosed with breast cancer," MacGregor says. She was certain the lump in her breast was just a symptom of pregnancy. She was with her then two-year-old son Wills when she got the news.
"Wills and I ended up in the bathroom of this hair salon. I was sobbing, and Wills looked down at me and said, 'Do you have a boo boo, Mama?' And, I remember looking up at him and thinking, 'This cannot be happening.'" MacGregor says she made up her mind to fight, and that fight included four rounds of chemotherapy which made her lose her hair. She took charge by shaving her head first.
"Shortly after I was diagnosed," MacGregor says, "a friend of a friend sent me a box of scarves with a note that said, 'You can do this.'" MacGregor chose to wear the scarves instead of wearing a wig because the scarves were more comfortable. She adds, "I didn't want to cover it up; I wanted to be proud of the journey I was on and the fight I was embarking upon, so the scarf was kind of my signature for that year."
MacGregor's journey resulted in a healthy baby boy, a double mastectomy, and almost a year of treatment.
"When I finished my treatment," Lara says, "I asked Kelly if I could send the scarves back to her, and she said, 'Find somebody else who can use them.'"
So, the scarves were then passed along to a woman named Roberta and later to a woman named Brooke, who MacGregor met when she moved to Louisville. MacGregor remembers showing Brooke how to tie the scarf and crying with her about losing her hair.
"When I left Brooke's house that night," MacGregor recalls, "I felt like I wanted to do something more than just pass along these scarves, personally, but create an organization that would help women share their scarves and their stories." That's when MacGregor and husband Jay sat down to write a business plan for the non-profit organization Hope Scarves which sends a scarf, tying instructions, and a story from a cancer survivor to women battling many types of cancer.
"The notes are so beautiful," says MacGregor. "The stories are about strength and courage and love. They talk about their families, weddings, their hopes and dreams and encouragement to someone else to have hope."
In just two years' time, the organization has sent 600 scarves to 47 states and five foreign countries. Hope Scarves was really taking off, as MacGregor celebrated six wonderful years cancer-free. In January, MacGregor was doing a lot of trail running and experienced pain in her back. She went to the doctor and learned the pain was from breast cancer that had spread to her bones.
"We're back at it again," she says. "We thought we had beat it, and our family was so happy and everything was going great for us."
The new development means her cancer is Stage Four. No cure exists, just treatment options to try to slow the cancer and minimize any pain.
Husband Jay MacGregor says, "We look at our lives day to day now. We always talk about that, but we actually live every day and try to maximize the day. If we wake up and it's a good day, we do all that we can. If we wake up and it's a tough day, we roll up our sleeves and fight our way through."
MacGregor's new fight has not slowed her enthusiasm and work for Hope Scarves. She is frequently in the office with two other part-time staffers, making plans and packing and sending out about 30 scarves a week. Her family is working, too.
"I know a bunch of people that give scarves," says six-year-old son Bennett. "Everybody in my class gives scarves and money to Hope Scarves."
Bennett and nine-year-old son Wills have, on many occasions, packed scarves and taken them to the post office for mailing. Some of the scarves now carry with them four or five survivor stories.
MacGregor says she will rewrite her story. She knows it will be difficult, but it's essential for a woman who is still fighting with great hope.
"I don't know what the future holds," MacGregor says, "but I have a lot of living left to do. I feel great right now. My family is wonderful, my husband and my two boys give me a reason every day to fight and to enjoy every moment."
Wills adds, "She's beat cancer once, and now she's gonna do it again."
Women can request a scarf themselves, or you can send a scarf to a friend battling cancer. The organization always needs scarves, preferably 30x30, and survivor stories. And, the scarves not used for head covers are made into bracelets for women battling cancer without losing their hair.