She buried her pain to tell her story. No one would know that the 59-year-old has no saliva as a result of 40 cancer treatments and radiation. She only took one pause to drink water, which is the only thing that helps soothes her dry throat, tongue, and gums.
In 2003, Abbe found a lump on her neck that kept growing.
“I complained, but you know how they treat woman,” Abbe recalls. “They say ‘oh, it's just a reactive gland.’ Then, by the time your head is tilted to the side and you look like you’re nine months pregnant in your neck, all of a sudden they say, ‘oh my, that doesn't look too good, I think we should do a biopsy.’”
Cancer was nothing new for her family. Her dad battled prostate cancer for 23 years but did not die from it. She was diagnosed with Squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck the day after his passing.
“I had a very positive attitude that I was going to beat it. Nothing was going to stop me,” Abbe says.
She had a difficult time with radiation. During the treatment she was hospitalized eight times. Abbe credits her creativity for getting her through what she considers one of her hardest moments.
Her determination, will power, and belief that God would be her miracle worker instilled hope. Abbe found out two months ago she’s free of the cancer she battled for the past nine years. She also found out that hardly anyone survives the type of cancer she had.
“I’m a pioneer, just because I survived it,” says Abbe. “I think that if I gave into the cancer like I really wanted to sometimes, I would’ve been gone by now. I’m sure of it.”
The intense radiation treatment she had to undergo caused heart problems. She had to have a stent placed in her heart because of a 76 percent blockage. A stent is a small tube used to help blood flow through arteries away from the heart.
Because of these issues and the cancer, Abbe’s doctors told her she has to wear a medical ID bracelet. Medical ID’s come in the form of jewelry, which identifies a person’s medical issue be it disease, drug or food allergies, and can list prescribed medication and emergency contact information. “I was looking around, and I thought they were really ugly,” says Abbe.
Abbe knew that there were people like her—people who needed to wear a medical ID, wanted to look fashionable while wearing one, but couldn’t find one. She didn’t see why medical ID’s couldn’t be as beautiful and look like regular pieces of jewelry. So, she decided to create her own. In 2010, Medical ID Fashions was born.
Abbe has nearly 300 styles of bracelets she’s handcrafted: water wear bracelets, limited edition bracelets, one of a kind bracelets and some in 14ct gold. Each bracelet is custom made and has the star of life (the symbol medical personnel are trained to look for) on the front of its plate. Women, men, and children at least six years old can wear them.
They range from $29 to $200. Abbe’s website will soon feature bracelets made from hand-blown glass which will cost $350.
To make her bracelets “mean something,” as she says, a $2 donation of every bracelet sold goes to one of several organizations listed on her site. The American Diabetes Association, the Huntsman Cancer Foundation, WomenHeart, and the Alzheimer's Foundation of America are just a few.
“We let the customer decide who they want me to give to and that makes them feel that they’re contributing too,” she states. “[It] makes them feel like they’re doing something for somebody else besides getting something for themselves.”
She can make 100 bracelets in two days. Since the inception of Medical ID Fashions, she’s created 2,000.
She sees her craft as therapeutic.
“When I do my bracelets, I’ll just break away and create,” she says. “It’s very meditative.”
Abbe thinks people who need to wear medical ID’s should definitely do so. Her designs ring true to her business motto: “a beautiful way to save your life,” so why not look fabulous at the same time?