Kennedy’s Jewelry: Hope ‘By Your Side’

It had been more than a decade since Jennifer Kennedy survived breast cancer, but last fall she found herself back in another chemotherapy center. She was not dealing with a recurrence. This was worse. The same disease had now afflicted her mother, who was finishing up a round of treatment when Kennedy noticed a sickly young woman in the waiting room. Four hours later, the woman was still sitting there alone.
“I gave this woman my necklace and told her, ‘You are not alone. You will survive. Be brave. Be strong. God’s got this,’” Kennedy said. “She had a little more hope than she did before we met. She now had someone walking by her side.”
This message of community support forms the backbone of Kennedy’s new venture, By Your Side, an online retail company offering jewelry that unites and provides hope to those who need it most. Launched on Oct. 1 to coincide with Breast Cancer Awareness Month and the 12-year anniversary of her own diagnosis, By Your Side’s collections feature ropes and knots as a way to symbolize togetherness.
“It’s easy for all of us to say ‘Yeah, we’re OK, I’m fine, I don’t need anything’ when we’re sick. But, really, we do,” Kennedy said. “We would maybe decline the casserole or the flowers that get sent. We love and appreciate them, but then they’re gone and we are still here, alone. … I want our By Your Side jewelry to be encouragement. I want them to feel lifted up when they wear it. I want her friends to also wear it in solidarity with them. It’s not just for the sick person.”
Kennedy grew up in the Pasadena area and graduated from San Marino High School in 1997 before moving to Texas, where she earned a child and family studies degree from Baylor University. After college, she jumped into the workforce as a teacher for low-income children in Dallas. Kennedy was just 25 years old and had been married for only three months when she received her breast cancer diagnosis.
“It was earth-shattering,” Kennedy said. “The only thing I really, truly knew in my heart of hearts and my gut was that this cancer diagnosis was going to be used for good at some point. God wouldn’t bring me to this point and leave me, so I just kept my mind focused forward.”
Following a year of chemotherapy, a double mastectomy, radiation and reconstructive plastic surgery, Kennedy beat the cancer — just as her mother would 12 years later. But the apparent difference between her battle and that of the young woman in the chemotherapy center last fall was the presence of a support system. Kennedy’s fellow teachers in Dallas rallied around her cause. Some of her college friends would take her to get McDonald’s ice cream at 10:30 p.m. because she didn’t want to be seen in public. Her mother flew out every three weeks.
“I can’t imagine sitting on a bench four hours later, waiting for somebody to come and pick you up,” said Kennedy, who moved back to the Pasadena area about six years ago and now has three children of her own. “It was very impactful.”
While the young woman in the chemotherapy center continued to wear that necklace to each session thereafter, Kennedy began writing down her own story and posting it on a blog. Still, she wanted to do more and kept thinking back to what that necklace represented. Last February, she started meeting with designers, along with a business consultant, and the concept of By Your Side materialized during the ensuing months.
“I deeply appreciate what she’s doing,” said Jayne Parsons, Kennedy’s mother. “There’s a real need for it and I would have never had the gumption to do it. I’m very impressed that she’s taken it as far as she has. People want to do something for people when they’re going through tough times, and they don’t know what to do and they don’t know how to do it. I just think this is a wonderful way to show people you care.”
By Your Side uses an ecommerce platform called Shopify to expedite the online transactions. Customers will be able to purchase other gifts besides jewelry beginning next year.
“Now that she’s started this, I can’t tell you how many people have come up to me and said ‘I need to buy a piece of jewelry,’” said Parsons, who works as a local real estate agent with Keller Williams. “I have a friend who lives in Michigan who’s going through cancer, and I want to send her something because I can’t physically be there, but I can be by her side and she can wear that jewelry. It’s much more powerful than I ever thought it would ever be.”
By Your Side can be found online at byyoursidecollection.com.

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