By Brenda Maguire
BRISTOL — Annette Bilodeau in 1984 began an after-school job working sales and stringing pearls at Belanger’s Jewelers, the store her older brother took over from their grandfather in 1980.
Now, after continuing in the family business by opening her own store, Bilodeau’s Jewelers, in 1993, she will be closing at the end of the year.
“The economy is rough and I just can’t be there enough now,” Bilodeau said.
She was diagnosed with Stage 4 breast cancer two months ago, which has been affecting her ability to be at work.
“Customers want to see you. Customers want you to be there,” Bilodeau said. “It’s hard when you’re sick.”
Bilodeau has been going through chemotherapy treatments for about six weeks. When she was diagnosed, she learned the cancer had spread to her liver, and possibly other parts of her body, but she will not know for sure until she is done with chemotherapy.
“I’ve been trying to work through chemo but it’s been hard,” Bilodeau said.
After working for years at Belanger’s Jewelers, Bilodeau went to school to be a master jeweler. After her brother closed the store in 1993, she opened Bilodeau’s Jewelers at its current location on North Street.
“Everyone knew it was the same business pretty much,” she said.
Bilodeau is thankful for the support she has gotten from her customers in Bristol over the years.
“The people have been great. I’ve had a great following and everyone has been so kind,” she said. “I wouldn’t want to have a business anywhere else.”
She said at this point there’s no specific date for the store’s closing.
“It was the most difficult decision I ever had to make,” she said, later adding, “I thought I was going to be doing this forever.”
Bilodeau, 41, stressed the importance of getting mammograms.
She was under the impression her doctor would send a reminder to get her mammogram after she turned 40, but she never received such a form and therefore did not get her mammogram that year.
Although she does not know for sure, Bilodeau believes that her cancer might have been detected earlier if she had gotten her mammogram that year.
“Even if they don’t remember to tell you, you really need to start at 40,” she said.