Editors note: I am so excited to share my interview with Sue Paist, who along with her husband John, created the Survivor Collection, a beautiful collection of jewelry. Sue and John have designed pieces specifically for the Women Survivors Alliance, which are as beautiful as the survivors that they honor. Learn more about Sue, her husband John, and the Survivor Collection as we chat with her this crisp, November day.
Unconditionally Her: Tell us a little bit about yourself, Sue, and how cancer has touched your life.
SP: My life before the Survivor Collection was in banking, being a busy mom and more recently working for a non-profit. The first time I was touched with cancer was earlier in life when my grandmother was diagnosed with breast cancer. She lived a happy life into her 80’s. More recently, my dear friend Pam was diagnosed with breast cancer. I was there with her each step of her journey from the day of diagnosis, through treatment and her celebration of life. As this occurs more and more throughout your life with family and friends each and every day is looked at a bit differently.
Unconditionally Her: How and when did you come up with the idea of designing jewelry?
SP: I was never in the jewelry business until I came up with the idea of the Survivor Collection just a few years ago. When my friend Pam asked me to help her find a piece of jewelry to celebrate the end of her cancer treatment I began to search for the perfect celebration piece. We couldn’t find anything in the current market that spoke to Pam’s desire for a fine jewelry style that symbolized her survival. The idea for the Survivor Collection actually came about while brainstorming ideas in my kitchen. The idea of three stones in a ring symbolizing the journey seemed to be exactly what Pam was looking for. When I saw how Pam reacted to the idea of three stones in a row that symbolized her life before cancer, her diagnosis and treatment and survivorship it seemed natural to take it to the next step of developing the collection for all cancer survivors. My journey with the Survivor Collection then began.
Unconditionally Her: Our Magazine is called Unconditionally Her (NEW+YOU). When a loved one has cancer, it isn’t just that person who is impacted. We, as co-survivors, are deeply impacted. Do you consider the Survivor Collection YOUR second act, after being there with your friend as she battled cancer?
SP: My life has definitely been affected after my friend Pam’s diagnosis with cancer as well as all of the women that I have met through the creation of this collection. I feel that life is a journey and you learn from all of your experiences developing many acts in your lifetime. The development of the Survivor Collection has been one of my most rewarding acts in my life. Every time I see a smile from a survivor wearing a piece of the Survivor Collection is warms my heart. I feel a deep connection to each every one of them.
Unconditionally Her: So what about John? We met him at the jewelry launch last month in Nashville and he was so excited to show everyone the different pieces. What roles do each of you have with the collection?
SP: John has been in the jewelry business for 25 plus years and has been a huge help in getting all the manufacturing and sales part of the Survivor Collection up and running. John take designs from concept to manufactured reality, working with model makers, stone sources and our partner manufacturing factory. He also works with the factory on product availability and shipping for the WSA site. His expertise has been invaluable in the launch of the Survivor Collection. We have been great partners in launching the collection!
Unconditionally Her: Do you have a personal favorite piece from the collection?
SP: I really don’t have a personal favorite however, the Pamela ring will always have a special place in my heart. That design was the beginning of my second act and will always be treasured. The new designs that have been created are always exciting and bring special meaning with each one, especially ones that have been named after survivors. This helps in telling the Survivor Collection story and shares the real meaning. It’s not just another piece of jewelry, this is a beautiful celebration piece.
Unconditionally Her: Can you tell our readers the significance of the three stones?
SP: My friend Pam wanted a special piece of jewelry that she could wear to celebrate her cancer survival. After looking through many styles and sources of jewelry we found nothing that seemed to tell a story. The creation of the Survivor Collection is a result of the significance of three stones and the emotional journey.that the cancer survivor goes through. All styles in the collection have three stones in a row with the first clear gem symbolizing your life before cancer, the middle colored gem is your diagnosis and life with cancer, and the third clear gem represents when survivorship brings new clarity to your life. The center stone colors available currently are pink for breast cancer, purple for all cancers, teal for ovarian cancer and honey for childhood cancer.
Unconditionally Her: What do you mean by “The Best is Yet to Come?” I see that as your motto on your web page.
SP: I find that in the journey of life many experiences good and bad mold that journey. I have always had a very optimistic outlook on life. Life does NOT need to end when diagnosed with cancer, it just changes the direction a bit. I feel that no matter what happens in your life, The Best is Yet to Come. Every day should be a celebration of life. We all have so much to be thankful for.
Unconditionally Her: Any closing words you – or John -would like to share with our readers?
SP: We have been blessed to contribute a meaningful gift to the women cancer survivorship community. My life has been affected in so many ways working with the Women Survivor’s Alliance. I’ll never forget attending my first SURVIVORville Convention in Nashville, I was amazed and motivated by these incredible women. Some were 5 time survivors and some one time with amazing drive and enthusiasm for life. That convention was yet another life-changing moment for me and so enriching.
Unconditionally Her: Sue, thank you for chatting with us about your personal journey as well as sharing how the Survivor Collection came to be. You guys do amazing work!
Editors note: It is almost the holiday season and a piece from the Survivor Collection would make a GREAT gift idea. Imagine someone opening the gift that had such sentiment behind it. We all have been touched by cancer – indirectly or directly – from almost everyone I talk to in my world of cancer work. I can see how so many people would appreciate the “message” of this jewelry. Order your favorite piece directly from the Women Survivors Alliance website . Gift certificates are available for those last minute purchases! Proceeds go towards WSA programs for cancer survivors across the world.