A Cancer Survivor's Jewelry Line Offers Inspiration

Sally Jane Waite's eponymous jewelry line features a single bumble bee to symbolize overcoming adversity and appreciating every moment.

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- Posted on Feb 5, 2016

Sally Jane Waite Cancer Survivor Inspiring Jewelry Line

Sally Jane Waite had long dreamed of having her own inspirational jewelry line. She and her aunt, also named Sally Jane, conceived the idea for jewelry featuring a bumble bee and the encouraging tagline “Just Bee,” to help remind people to live in the present. At 31, as Waite was preparing for its launch while 7 months pregnant, she began to experience severe abdominal pains.

“Sam was [my and my husband’s] first baby,” Waite tells Guideposts.org, “so I didn’t know whether the pain was normal or not. I just casually mentioned the pains to my OB. When she did an ultrasound to check on the baby, they saw I had a 10 centimeter-long cyst on my ovary.”

She was hospitalized and put on bed rest to carry out the pregnancy. Doctors planned treatment after she delivered. But when the pain became too severe and Waite started having contractions, she had surgery to remove the cyst.

The surgery was a success and Waite was released from the hospital. Assured that the cyst was probably not cancerous, she and her husband believed they’d survived the scariest ordeal of their lives and were happy to go home and prepare for their baby’s arrival.

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A week after the surgery, Waite got another call that changed everything: tests on the cyst proved she had metastasized colon cancer.

“I was so shocked. I just assumed it was stage one and I assumed it would be fixable, even though I was still scared. Two days later, I found out it was stage four and that I only had two years left to live and I was just devastated. I’m actually shocked that I got up and kept going after that.”

Her family’s love and support helped her continue on with hope.

“My family rallied around me right away.  We decided that I was going to survive, and we just needed to get the best doctors to help us make that happen. Their support gave me the faith to get up and keep going.”

Her unborn son also helped her find a new strength to survive.

“It was this really special time in my life and my baby’s life, and I didn’t want to miss it. I wanted him to come into a beautiful world with a mom that was happy, so I did my best to make that happen.”

Doctors scheduled her c-section one month before her due date. After enjoying a week at home with her son Sam and her husband, Waite began aggressive chemotherapy.

While she was treated by Dr. David Ryan at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, her parents moved in to help take care of Sam so her husband could keep working. Over the course of about a year, Waite had 11 rounds of chemotherapy and four more surgeries before the cancer went into remission.

When Waite began to feel better, she went back to work on her jewelry line, Sally Jane, launching it at 33, in August 2015, with a new sense of purpose.

“I realized that the significance of the bee wasn’t so much about being in the present, anymore. It was about strength against adversity. I was just amazed that I’d survived this impossible ordeal and I know there are so many others surviving struggles. It started to mean more as an avenue to give back, because I know I wouldn’t be here without the help of so many other people.”

For every purchase, Sally Jane gives $1 to supportive programs for cancer patients, including massages or acupuncture treatments while they’re receiving chemotherapy.

“It’s a nice way to help someone going through infusion. It makes a very big hospital feel like a more intimate space and lets patients know there are people out there who care.”

Donations also go towards the immunotherapy research being conducted at Massachusetts General Hospital for all types of cancer.

Recently, Waite’s colon cancer returned, but the prognosis is much more encouraging, this time around.

“Because it’s localized in muscle and no lymph nodes are involved, the doctors say that with more chemo, radiation and surgery, I should make a full recovery by the summer.”

With a less intense treatment schedule, Waite finds joy in continuing to work on her jewelry line at night and while her son is in a toddler program two days a week.

“I think it’s important for Sam to see me living. When we go through something like this, you can become really scared about life, and become isolated from your community. One of the best ways for me to get through this is to be really engaged in the community around me.”

“It’s just like the symbolism of the bee,” she says. “The flower needs the bee and the bee needs the flower. We need each other to blossom through life.”

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