by Annette Pinder
Susan Morreale was just 41 when she was diagnosed with breast cancer – an event that transformed her physically and spiritually. “I never really understood what it meant to embrace life, love it, and own it. Life truly began for me at 41,” says Sue.
Having worked as a nurse, Sue understood the mental and physical toll that chemotherapy and radiation would take. She prepared by changing every aspect of her life, from committing to healthy eating, to acknowledging the power of positive thought. “I remember walking into Wegman’s and thinking, “Oh God, where do I begin? What won’t make me feel sick? It was overwhelming.”
Ciara, who was living in Manhattan when her mom was diagnosed, dropped everything to come home. Now she is Sue’s confidant, business partner, and best friend. “I’m lucky. I am learning important lessons about life in my 20s that my mom didn’t learn until she was 41,” says Ciara.
Now, celebrating 10 years of being cancer-free, Sue and Ciara tackle life head-on, continually moving forward, despite the challenges that life brings their way. Both women have embraced their indelible bond, while dedicating themselves to the unique bond that all women share through Her Story on Elmwood Avenue managed by Ciara, and Her Sanctuary on Hertel Avenue, managed by Sue.
Her Story is a charming lifestyle boutique that embraces the concepts of hope, inspiration, and love in the unique bond that this unusual mother and daughter share. “Each product tells a story, with a goal to help women feel good about who they are,” says Ciara. Beautiful and unique items include bath and beauty, a strong women collection, custom fragrances, jewelry, gifts, apparel, and more. “We love to share our story with other women, while helping them customize and create their own stories.”
At Her Sanctuary women can share their lives and journeys with others. One side of the space features items for healthy body care, healthy drinks, snacks, and teas, wellness books, yoga mats, crystals, home décor, flowers, and healing plants and herbs. The other side of Her Sanctuary is a collaborative workspace that people can rent out for yoga, meditation, health classes, women’s circles, brainstorming sessions, pop-up shops, and more. When no events are scheduled, women enjoy spending time there – relaxing, reading a book from the healing library, and accessing the free wifi. Her Sanctuary is also dedicated to Sue’s sister, who lost her battle with breast cancer last October.
For both of these remarkable women, her Sanctuary and Her Story is a way of celebrating life, giving back, and creating a foundation of resilience. It’s about women finding their own story and strength, as they continue to build upon that foundation. Ciara and Sue are now creating a sanctuary and healing library at the Roswell Park Cancer Institute patient resource center. They also frequently create sanctuaries for any woman who would like to have one. And each month they give away one free sanctuary to a woman in a space that she identifies.
Remarkably, neither Sue nor her daughter have the gene for breast cancer. Neither did Sue’s sister, and underscores the fact that breast cancer can strike anyone. When asked what message Sue would like to share with others, she answers without hesitation. “Be pro-active, and don’t just your doctor when you feel sick. Don’t just wait for a crisis. It’s important to find your strength and live it, with the realization that you’re not alone.” Ciara adds, “For us it’s not about reminding women how strong they are one month of the year. These are our lives every day, 365 days a year.”
Her Story is located at 779 Elmwood Avenue in Buffalo. Her Sanctuary is located at 1438 Hertel Avenue. Visit Sue and Ciara their big trunk show on October 18, 19, and 20 featuring a world-famous bra designer, who will offer beautiful bras and fittings. Learn more at www.herstory.com, and at www.facebook.com/hersanctuary, or call 716-886-6457.