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Please indulge me while I tell you how I became “The Ribbon Lady”.

When I was twelve, my mother died of Breast Cancer. In those days, no one said the word “cancer” out loud― it was whispered, only among family members. Because I was an only child to be protected, I was never told how sick my mother was or even that she had cancer.

On June 6th many years ago, my Dad came into my bedroom in the middle of the night. He awakened me and without a word being said, I knew my mother had passed away. It’s difficult to believe this now, but I learned how she died by reading the last line of her obituary where it said, “Donations may be made to the American Cancer Society.
“And there it was ―– the word “CANCER.”

So, without really understanding what I was doing, I gathered my neighborhood friends. We spent the whole summer making potholders and selling them door-to-door. It was important to me to make a donation in my mother’s name to the American Cancer Society.

And now when I look back, my life really hasn’t changed. I learned then that life is very fragile, so it became important to me to live each day to the fullest and to give back as much if not more than I have received.

My most important and gratifying job has been raising three wonderful children by myself. Yes, it has been a challenge, but along with kids, cats, and dogs, we’ve made it! And I am so fortunate that my grown daughters are also my best friends.

I’ve always said that I needed to “ make a difference in my little corner of the world”. I have been able to do just that in so many ways –― starting as an RN and ending as “The Ribbon Lady.” For the past 25 years I have owned my own business. I have touched people’s lives, through programs I have developed, and they have touched mine.

21 years ago, my life changed again, when I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer. I am so fortunate to be alive and well and able to “make a difference” in another way by creating “The Ribbon of Life,” an embroidered pink ribbon to support Breast Cancer awareness and education.

Nine years and millions of ribbons later, with gratitude, thankfulness, and pride; I have become “The Ribbon Lady.” If even one person has become a survivor through my efforts, it is all worthwhile. I started with Breast Cancer support, awareness and education as my “mission”―and it still is and always will be. But I like to say I have followed my “yellow brick road.” I have expanded my work, so that I now have seventeen different ribbons for many other diseases and causes as well as Breast Cancer. I am proud to be “Rita, The Ribbon Lady”—it is who I am and what I do—what a lucky place to be!

I have been so fortunate to have the support of so many friends and family members. To you, I cannot even begin to express my gratitude, and love. Now I’ve created a new family, talking to people all over the country, who are as passionate about their causes as I am about mine. To all of you, thank you for taking this journey with me. You have no idea how grateful I am –― you truly complete my life.

I began my “ mission” as a child in memory of my mother, and now continue spreading awareness and education in her memory, in honor of my survival, and in hope for my daughters’ future.


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