Carol Ryall is passionate about mermaids and has been collecting them in every conceivable form, for years. She is also passionate about helping women living with cancer and she has found a way to bring the two together — in her new shop which opened earlier this year. The Pink Mermaid is a mastectomy boutique and so much more, as it provides not only a place for women to shop, but a place to gather in fellowship and understanding to learn, connect and sometimes just be heard.
Ryall, 54, had a background as an orthotics fitter and worked for years in pharmacy and medical equipment settings where she occasionally worked with customers who had mastectomies. As the years passed she attended various training programs, but certification on a national level only became available in recent years, according to Ryall. Eventually the Board of Certification/Accreditation, International began issuing the credential and she became a BOC certified orthotic fitter in 2002. An orthotic fitter fits prefabricated orthotic devices designed to provide support, alignment, prevention, and/or correction of neuromuscular or musculoskeletal disease, injury or deformity, according to her website, www.thepinkmermaidct.com. The certification requires ongoing training. And in 2013, Ryall acquired her certification as a BOC mastectomy fitter while The Pink Mermaid received its accreditation from the American Board of Certification for Orthotics, Prosthetics and Pedorthics, Inc.
The ABC certification was an extensive process which took several months. The designation was required in order for the shop to accept the many insurance plans they now work with. Ryall still awaits Medicare approval to assist a waiting list of 90 customers.
“There is a need in this area,” she says. “I spent years in the medical equipment field and enjoyed it. I always loved fitting ladies with bras and forms after their surgery. They are so happy to have symmetry back. And I’m so happy for them.”
When her husband Ken retired from the military they decided to make Groton their home, making it the
perfect time to open her own shop. The Pink Mermaid has a logo of Ryall’s beloved mermaid sitting on a pink ribbon, representing breast cancer. Although the store hours are Monday, Wednesday, Friday, 12-5 p.m., Tuesday 10a.m.-5p.m., Thursday, 10a.m.-6p.m. and Saturday by appointment, Ryall is happy to come in early or stay late as needed. The boutique is filled with bras and mastectomy forms, but there are functional and special occasion items as well, including swimsuits, negligees, fashionable head coverings of all kinds — even some with a bit of bling — and creams to deal with the dry skin that often accompanies treatment.
Ryall has not personally battled cancer, but she is emphatically dedicated to helping women with cancer improve their quality of life.
“I love people coming in to get these things,” says Ryall. “It’s so rough going through chemo. Losing your hair is hard. It’s emotional. But they put something pretty on their head and it makes them feel better.”
The store is divided into three areas, the boutique, the living room with comfy leather chairs, and two fitting rooms. The third Thursday of each month, Ryall holds a Cancer Thriver’s and Survivor’s Potluck in the living room from 6-8 p.m.
“It is open to any ladies going through any type of cancer treatment — now or in the past, who want to share their experience. It’s free and everyone brings a dish to share. But they do have to register. It’s a calming, healing environment and you’ll feel beautiful when you leave.”
She hosts other health-related events as well and often brings in speakers to talk on different subjects. With October being National Breast Cancer Awareness month, The Pink Mermaid’s schedule is full of events. Tonight (Oct. 17) from 6-8 p.m. is the Monthly Cancer Thriver’s and Survivor’s Potluck. On Oct. 18 from noon-5 p.m. is Experience our American Breast Care Event, followed on Oct. 24 with a fundraiser for Pink Hair for Hope from 1-3 p.m. On Oct. 29 at 2p.m. is Healing with Whole Foods — Focus on Blood, and all month long anyone wearing pink gets a 10 percent discount. Check out www.thepinkmermaidct.com, for details on all events or to register.
Ryall could have just opened a store to sell her products, but she didn’t. She wants to transform lives instead.
“I don’t know why…..I just enjoy doing this as a job. I get something back. If you do something to help someone, it’s a fulfilling job,” she says.
The Pink Mermaid is located at 1313 Gold Star Highway, Groton. (860.865.0825)