The Day – Kindness in Real Life: Annual breast cancer walk is personal for local jewelry store owner

If breast cancer is the enemy, Susette Tibus is ready to do battle. As a

If breast cancer is the enemy, Susette Tibus is ready to do battle. As a breast cancer survivor, she sees herself as a platoon leader, urging her troops to battle cancer, push forward and fight for a cure.

“I believe there is a cure out there and we’re getting close,” said Tibus, who is the 2020 honorary walk chair for the 15th annual walking marathon fundraiser for the Terri Brodeur Breast Cancer Foundation.

Tibus, who owns Simply Majestic Jewelers in Mystic with her husband Chuck Sneddon, will give the opening remarks on Oct. 3 when the foundation kicks off its “Virtual Miles to Cure Breast Cancer.” Tibus and others will be part of a virtual opening ceremony for the virtual walk. Participants can choose to walk on Oct. 3 or at a time convenient for them.

Tibus, a petite bundle of energy, is well known in the community not only for her unique jewelry store but also for her tireless dedication and volunteer work. She gives and gives and gives. But each organization she supports — whether it’s the Mystic Aquarium, the non-profit Always Home, which works to prevent family homelessness, or the Brodeur Foundation — has to be a cause she believes in and one that is personal.

After her mother died in 1994 following a second breast cancer diagnosis, Tibus knew she had to get involved with raising awareness and money to find a cure for breast cancer. While her mother was going through cancer treatment, Tibus said she realized she was being called to help lead the charge to find a cure.

“My mother’s journey opened my mind to the struggles and the fight,” she said. “I knew I had to be talking about this and I knew I could be a leader. It was a gift she gave me. Her journey was my gift.”

Her mother’s struggles gave her a mission. She decided to use her seemingly boundless energy to work with the Brodeur Foundation because it gives 100 percent of its fundraising dollars directly to researchers. In 2009, she was master of ceremonies for the annual walk and continued to advocate for the foundation.

Then in 2014, on her birthday, March 5, she was diagnosed with breast cancer and her personal journey began. She had a bilateral mastectomy. It wasn’t easy, but she got through it and realized she had to continue the “gift” that her mother had bestowed on her more than 20 years ago. The war against breast cancer still raged on, and she needed to gather together her troops and continue to battle.

“I knew I had to fight to be the best leader,” she said. “I knew I could talk about this and help people understand and want to fight with me.”

She created a line of specialty jewelry with cancer survivors in mind to help them find their confidence and their power. She’s sold pink pearl earrings and donated a portion of the sales to the Brodeur Foundation, and this fall she held a raffle to give away a strand of pink pearls. She continues to use her multiple community contacts to support the foundation.

“Ladies — and gentlemen — have to make personal choices when they are diagnosed. You have to decide: if you want to live, you have to fight. But you need people to help you with that fight,” she said.

She doesn’t call herself a general, but people seem to listen when she speaks. And she is adamant about leading the charge to raise money, raise awareness and defeat cancer.

This year, although the walk is virtual and there will be no gathering at the finish line as in previous years, Tibus is excited to speak remotely to all those who are participating.

“We charge on,” she said. “We keep in step, and we charge on with each other.”

Kindness in Real Life is a regular feature in The Times. To contribute, email [email protected].

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