Courage, duty, destiny—noble words. But they cannot cover the brave journey that led Bev Ramsey out of her own experiences to become a harbor of hope and comfort to others.
In October 2015 Ramsey opened the Pink Ribbon Boutique in Fort Smith. She is a mastectomy and lymphedema product specialist.
“I want every person diagnosed with cancer to know there is someone, right here and local, who has been there...and can go through this with them,” Ramsey said fiercely.
How she came from a place of personal diagnosis, treatment, and recovery to ultimately a business leader in the Fort Smith community as well as the state of Arkansas is an inspiring story. Her background is in accounting and business management. She doesn’t like to be known just for her cancer.
“I was more of a tomboy—so all this pink isn’t anything I ever dreamed I would be doing,” she laughs. However, it just wouldn’t be possible to separate Ramsey’s business from her personal life. The business represents who she has become and what she has lived.
The long road
Ramsey’s story begins in 2003 when, at age 39, Ramsey was told that she had breast cancer. In her own words she was “totally devastated.” Her six-year-old son was her whole world. Her greatest fear was not being there for him as he grew into adulthood. She had a lumpectomy and the surgeon said they got it all so she chose not to have other treatments at the time.
But in 2006 there was a recurrence. This time the doctors recommended they do a mastectomy. “I talked with my family and then asked the doctor for a two-for-one and to get on with it,” she flatly stated. What followed was eight chemotherapy sessions and 25 radiation treatments.
“Every woman is different,” she stresses. And though difficult for her, she thought at the time that the process went as positively as could be expected. Several years later she painfully learned that has not been the experience for many women.
“I realized that, though the medical staffs are wonderful and care, the majority haven’t been through it and that does makes a difference. I want women to know they all have options,” she said.
For Bev Ramsey, Pink Ribbon is more than a business. It is personal and a piece of her spiritual fiber. She continues to feel God leading her in this path of service. Her purpose is set and she sees it as “constantly growing.”
Choosing to bare her chest, she showed me her prosthetic breasts. They fit to her chest wall attached with tabs, and she demonstrated how they work. “When women put these on they often cry. If a woman has gone through this hell and met her deductible and her out of pocket, she should be able to get them,” she explained. The prosthetic falls under a “durable medical device” category.
“I hope all women know before they go through reconstruction that there are options to what they can wear until their body, mind and emotions can heal and they become ready for reconstructions,” added Ramsey.
The boutique is born
Her vision for the Pink Ribbon Boutique reflects her own experience and what others go through. “We wanted to be what a woman needs from the time she wakes up until she finishes her day,” she explained.
Visitors to the boutique are greeted with a happy chime and an uplifting coffee display. you walk through the store you take your daily journey. There are running socks for your walk or jog; specialized backpacks designed to alleviate pain; shower products—soap, lotion, candles—all made from goat’s milk; and the ever necessary lip balm. Then it’s time to get dressed with bras, prosthetics, custom forms (there are many options) hat coverings, jewelry and purses.
Your journey ends as you browse journals and perhaps choose a chamomile tea to relax as you review your thoughts for the day. This design is not by chance, but is made up of products Ramsey has personally used, some for more than ten years Ramsey has carefully crafted a boutique experience designed for the physical and emotional healing of her visitors.
At the end of the day, her goal is for the woman to know, “You don’t have to look any different. There are options.” Pink Ribbon Boutique offers the opportunity for her to tell that story.
Visit Pink Ribbon Boutique 601 S. 21st Street, Fort Smith 479 242-9277 or PinkRibbonInc.com
Story & Photos by Candise Montemayor
Candise Montemayor is a seasoned journalist and freelance writer/photographer who has been published in newspapers and magazines throughout Arkansas,Texas and Oregon. She has taught several young adult creative writing classes in the Fort Smith area. She is passionate about community involvement and contributes part-time to the Fort Smith Public library as a teen specialist in the youth services department.