Keeping Score: How Hope Won Against Breast Cancer

Not many would choose a headscarf as their weapon when entering a battle. But each day when my grandma tied the ends of her headscarf into the most perfect bow behind her neck, she chose to be a warrior preparing to face bullets during life’s game of Cancer Roulette. Bald and beautiful, my grandma first battled breast cancer when I was just five-years-old. This is where our story begins as we honor Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Her Headscarf

“Why is a scarf on grandma’s head?” is what I asked family one day after I had watched my grandma prepare for battle. At that age, I didn’t fully understand what having cancer meant. And since at five I hadn’t yet developed certain body parts, to me those things called breasts just seemed like unnecessary weight added to the human shape.

“Would you like to wear a scarf like that?” is what family had awkwardly asked me in return.

I remember shrugging my shoulders. How do you expect a five-year-old to answer that kind of question? But as time passed, my grandma was able to fold up that tired headscarf and let it rest at the bottom of her bedroom closet.

Grandma: 1. Cancer: 0.

Her Red Hat

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In 2016, my grandma hadn’t planned on using a red hat as a weapon when entering battle. But as her eyes grew tired of seeing her sun-kissed skin fade to white, my grandma chose the color red to battle her cancer blues. Bold and brave, she fought breast cancer for the second time when I was a grown woman with childish prayers.

“Would you like to wear a red hat like that?” I remember being asked.

“I don’t know,” was my reluctant response. As time passed, my grandma returned home healthy, still wearing that red hat and a smile across her pale face.

Grandma: 2.

Her Family

According to the American Cancer Society research, in 2017, nearly 2 million people in the U.S. had to choose a weapon when entering battle. For nearly 700,000 of those warriors, their weapons were just too weak to win against cancer, and they passed away as honorary heroes.

Tested and tired, my grandma had chosen her family as a weapon when entering battle against a brain tumor, which had developed from the breast cancer. This part of the story is sadly simple. My grandma’s weapon couldn’t fight fate. She had died a hero in early December 2017.

“Why?” I remember asking everyone. Silence.

Cancer: 1. Hope: 0.

Her Crocheted Scarf

Untitled design (16).pngThe morning of my grandma’s funeral service, I had pulled on my blue dress like I was suiting up for battle, then twisted the ends of the crocheted scarf grandma made for me into the most perfect bow across my chest. Scared but strong, I had survived one more day without my grandma.

As the funeral home filled with stories of my grandma’s life, I was reminded of a tale I had forgotten. Just three years before my grandma’s first diagnosis, my great-grandma had passed away from breast cancer on my birthday. I had just turned three-years-old.

That was when I quickly set off in search of him. Cute and surprisingly calm, my three-year-old nephew was curled up on a couch next to my brother and my sister-in-law.

“Would you like to wear a scarf like this?” I had asked him. “Yeah!” was his excited response.

So, I had twisted the ends of the scarf into the most perfect bow across my three-year-old nephew’s chest. I then grabbed his hand and he joined me in saying goodbye to our hero.

Hope: 1.


At the Laureate Group, we recognize every family's journey with a loved one is unique. To continue the discussion, we invite you to head on over to our corporate or each community Facebook page and share your own personal Breast Cancer journey, whether it be words of wisdom, words of woe, or words of prayer.