Grandma Betty: Fighting Cancer with Instagram


It’s unlikely that Betty Jo Simpson ever imagined she would become an Internet star. The 80-year-old Jeffersonville, Indiana native raised three adopted kids, worked 12-hour days, and when her grandkids had their first baby, Zach, retired so that she could help raise him while his parents held down jobs.

After losing a husband and daughter to cancer, Simpson, aka Grandma Betty, was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. That’s when Zach, now 18, decided to set up an account for her on the photo-sharing site Instagram. “He wanted to give her something that would make her happy and fight until there was no fight left,” Zach’s mother, Hope Belden, told

Zach posts to the account; Grandma Betty keeps track of her ever-growing number of followers, celebrating each milestone. A week ago, Grandma Betty celebrated reaching the 500,000 follower milestone on Instagram.

By the time you read this, she will almost definitely have more than 586,000 people following her; she’s headed for a million.

The Instagram posts started with “Sunday Selfies”; they became more frequent as more people followed – now they include short videos of Grandma Betty doing what she likes to do best: dance.

Well-wishers from around the world comment on her photos, ask her questions and express their admiration for her outlook – on photo days, at least, a blithely impish attitude in the face of increasing pain. Her great-grandson credits her Instagram experience with keeping her spirits high.

Grandma Betty’s family have also set up an Indiegogo campaign on the crowdfunding site to raise $25,000. Her wish list: medical bills, funeral expenses, new gowns and tops, a new hearing aid, new dentures and a lifetime supply of 7-Up.

Follow Grandma Betty on Instagram

Visit Grandma Betty’s Indiegogo campaign


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