Kathy Dibben got her first breast cancer diagnosis in 1990. She beat it the first time, but it recurred in 2002, and she was forced to have a bilateral mastectomy. After the surgery, she had trouble finding clothes that fit properly, particularly bras and tops. She struggled with this issue for five years before deciding to open up a boutique called Absolute Dignity to cater to post-mastectomy patients so that finding the right clothing wouldn’t be as hard for others as it had been for her.
“The vision for this shop is to make everyone feel special,” according to the Absolute Dignity website. “You will find an atmosphere of love, compassion, and hope.”
The boutique in Smithville, Missouri, carries breast prostheses, special tops, pocketed swimwear and other items, including wigs and regular bras. Dibben herself has been trained as a certified mastectomy fitter to help her customers find the right garments. But more than just physical pieces of clothing and fittings, the shop offers women a chance to see themselves as feminine and beautiful again.
“I’ve watched them come in bent over, covering themselves, and they walk out a foot taller,” Dibben says. “It’s just amazing to see the life that shows up in these ladies.”
Dibben has kept the shop in business for 12 years and has served roughly 1500 clients, but she is afraid she may have to shut it down soon if she’s unable to find a buyer for it. That’s because she’s dying of breast cancer.
Dibben’s cancer has come back again, this time with a vengeance. It spread to multiple locations, including her brain, and after treating it for a while, Dibben and her doctor made the decision to stop all treatments except for pain medications and allow the disease to finish running its course. Dibben has been placed in palliative care.
“It is with a heavy, heavy heart that I inform you that my cancer has progressed to the point that I must now find a buyer for Absolute Dignity,” she posted to Facebook. “It has become increasingly more difficult to continue the level of care I so desire for my clients. If any of you know someone interested in buying Absolute Dignity, please let me know.”
Dibben finishes the post with this plea: “As always, prayers are Welcome and Appreciated. Please feel free to share so that the legacy can continue.”
Dibben is still hoping for a miracle—a buyer for her beloved shop, which is located 22 miles north of Kansas City. If interested, you can contact her at AbsoluteDignity@aol.com or 816-532-6338.
We hope you find your buyer, Kathy! The world needs more places like Absolute Dignity to help mastectomy patients, not fewer. Thank you for dedicating so much of your life to this important mission!
Elizabeth Nelson is a wordsmith, an alumna of Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, a four-leaf-clover finder, and a grammar connoisseur. She has lived in west Michigan since age four but loves to travel to new (and old) places. In her free time, she. . . wait, what’s free time?