A woman is writing a story.
In this story, she is an entrepreneur. She meets and marries a craftsman. They embark in business together, and their work takes off.
Recognition follows success, and she is asked to do a lot of things in the community. To donate resources and expertise. She does it all. She works hard for good causes and good people.
As time passes, she does even more. Thank you cards and tokens of appreciation crowd the office where she tries to keep a clean desk. Customers become repeat customers. She greets each like a long-lost friend. She truly enjoys people, and her warmth draws them in. She seems inexhaustible. She doesn’t know where her energy comes from, but it is always there. This perpetual motion in her life, like the sun rising every day.
But one day, she gets sick. It’s breast cancer, the exact illness that took her beloved mother. She is diagnosed on her birthday, with the grey nothingness that is trying to swallow her sun.
She commits to aggressive treatment, which works.
After multiple surgeries and a long recovery, she is back in her life. She picks up her story again, with relief and gratitude. Time passes, she heals, and the specter of the illness recedes.
Something is missing. She knows this is her story- she sees her work and her dogs and her photographs and friends. She sees everyone and everything she loves. But something has shifted. Something essential has changed.
In arriving at this turning point, Susette Tibus is not alone. A life-threatening illness is a profound upheaval. To grow beyond it, she explains, requires reinvention.
“Everyone has something that will change their life, it will change the way they see things and they way the react,” she says. “The last five years, my ‘something’ has been breast cancer. That’s what I know about, that’s what I can share. But everyone has something.”
Tibus and her husband, Chuck Sneddon, own Simply Majestic, a fine jewelry mainstay in Mystic. For years their work has been central to the life cycles of the community. They’ve helped grandparents pick out graduation mementos, and smitten suitors shop for Valentine’s Day gifts. They’ve guided happy couples through wedding band selections and later, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and anniversary gifts. They’ve transformed unrecognizable heirlooms into pieces of art. In their nearly 30 years in business together, Chuck and Susette have prided themselves on meeting even over-the-top requests: from a setting scrawled on a napkin to a rush-order engagement ring from a (very forgetful) panicked young groom. They have stories.
“It’s best to say that we find a way to say yes to an infinitely diverse range of requests,” Chuck says. “And then we do a little extra.” They individually support a slew of organizations and events, including Mystic Aquarium, Sophia Sees Hope, the Pawcatuck Neighborhood Center, Greater Mystic Chamber of Commerce as well as various Stonington groups and committees. Though the couple deeply enjoys the personal and rhythmic nature of their work, the five-year marker of Susette’s recovery from breast cancer seemed to call for something unique, significant, and celebratory.
It also signaled the start of a new chapter of hope, as prognosis for continued remission radically improves after five years. To honor this milestone in a creative and compelling way, Susette and Chuck are proudly announcing a new jewelry line: Simply Majestic by Susette.
Each item can be entirely personalized, and pieces will be available along a range of price points. “Looking and feeling beautiful builds confidence and empowers us,” Susette says. “I wanted to offer a line that lets us (women and men) express our personal journeys while creating something modern, classic and affordable.”
This is jewelry that does more than compliment an outfit, or commemorate a life event. It is meant to be a true and real ornament to the person wearing it; to speak to the things that matter.
“When I was undergoing treatment, I received many personal blessings from friends, family, and complete strangers,” Susette says. “I will never forget. Being positive and encouraged is a very personal daily struggle.”
In light of her illness, Simply Majestic’s person-first philosophy took on new meaning and life. “Again, everybody has a story. It’s important to remember this because sometimes a simple word can make a big difference. I try every day to create an atmosphere full of joy, encouragement, hope and grace around me,” she explains. Chuck nods in agreement. “The person, then the product,” he says. “Simply Majestic doesn’t just describe what we offer, it’s the way we want people to feel about their experience here.”
Taking risks and presenting fashion forward items is not only how Susette and Chuck challenge themselves professionally, but also how they show respect and appreciation to their customer base.
“Something fun, new and intriguing should greet our clients each time they come to see us,” Chuck adds.
The new venture is also a way for Susette to channel her experiences and encourage others in self-compassion and understanding. Beyond the physical toll, Susette says the illness brought into sharp relief questions she had been avoiding.
“With more time on my hands than I ever wanted to have and being unable to be active and busy, I realized that much of that self-created rushing was an unconscious effort to avoid looking in the mirror and deciding if I even liked who I really was,” she reflects. “I’ll not bore you with the arguments I had - with myself -” she says. “But, it’s enough to know that now, today, after a long and arduous journey, I can say, ‘yes, I like - even love - the woman I have become.’”
The experience also offered gifts which didn’t seem like gifts at the time. Now, when someone warns that a particular project might be challenging or arduous, she stacks it up against the more extreme aspects of cancer treatment. One of her go-to memories involves the presence of an enormous needle and the absence of literally any type of anesthesia. “I smile and laugh to myself and I think - yeah, I got this,” she says.
Ultimately, she realized a reservoir of clarity and joy. “I could not be this lady I’ve learned to love without my five-year journey,” she says. “In a strange way that I can’t really explain, I needed to forgive cancer so that I could prevent the anxiety, resentment, and ‘why me?’ attitudes it would have fostered.” This was a process, she emphasizes, and an intentional choice.
“I decided that I personally will not allow my ‘something’ to define who I am. ...Only I can make that choice and I did so very early on. I decided that how I get up when I get knocked down will define me, how I respond to hardships, scars, victories, tragedies and triumphs will define me. Cancer and doctors didn’t get to decide that. Only I did.”
The decision to honor and care for oneself is something we get to choose every day, as long as we’re here, she says.
“Being positive is sometimes hard, nobody is born with it or born without it. Minute by minute, it is nourished and rekindled.”
Simply Majestic is located at 59 Williams Avenue, Mystic. For more information, call 860-572-8074 or visit simplymajestic.com. A launch party for Simply Majestic by Susette will be held April 18 from 6-8 p.m.; a portion of the proceeds from products sold that night will benefit the Terri Brodeur Breast Cancer Foundation. Please call the shop to register in advance.