Every woman wants to look and feel her best. Rodnique Koonce, or RJ, is no different, nor are her customers. So the stylish dresses, jeans, tops, shoes and jewelry offered at her boutique, RJ's Closet, all look straight off the streets of Manhattan.
But looks can be deceiving. The high-end fashions that line the racks all carry reasonable prices.
Another surprise? The beautiful store is not her only vocation. RJ has two other full-time jobs as a Wells Fargo banking officer and mother of four.
The last surprise? This vivacious woman was once hobbled by pain.
RJ was diagnosed with gallbladder disease two years ago. She had frequent attacks that caused pain in her upper back and stomach. When the pain was severe enough, she visited the Easton Hospital Emergency Room.
"Soon everything I ate was causing me pain," RJ says. "So I changed my diet in hopes it would help."
She said goodbye to her favorite Italian dishes, steak, macaroni and cheese and, even, ice cream.
"I was eating lots of salads," she says. "And only cheated once and a while."
But diet alone didn't help. Soon the most simple foods, like a cup of juice, would cause terrible pain.
"It would last for hours," she says. "I had to decide if I wanted to take medication to cover that pain or do something more permanent."
RJ's primary care physician referred her to surgeon Robert Bloch, M.D.
"He was so good," she says. "He took the time to explain everything about gallbladder disease - the causes, effects and treatments. He even comforted my fears about living without this God-given organ."
RJ had three surgical options: open surgery through a large incision, laparoscopic surgery through several small incisions or robotic-assisted surgery through a single incision in the belly button.
The diagnostic tests indicated that RJ would be a candidate for single-site.
"I still wear a two-piece bathing suit," she says. "So I knew single-site surgery was the best - I didn't want to have any scars on my stomach."
Easton Hospital was the first hospital in the valley to perform single-site robotic-assisted gallbladder surgery, so RJ was confident in the team.
"I met some other women in his office who had robotic surgery, and I knew I wanted the same," she says. "These women were very supportive as I contemplated what was best for me."
On the day of surgery, Dr. Bloch introduced the robotic team to RJ before they began.
"The staff was amazing," she says. "They made be feel very comfortable."
Her surgery went well.
She had it on a Thursday and was back to work on Tuesday...all three jobs.
While her stomach felt funny at first, she had no pain and no need for medication. After a week, she was back to her old self.
"RJ's back!" she says. "I can eat whatever I want again. I still eat healthy with only an occasional splurge."
And her stomach looks great.
"Dr. Bloch consulted with a plastic surgeon to ensure that there would be no scars," she says. "My stomach healed beautifully. There's no mark at all."
So now RJ can get busy. The boutique will soon have a full service salon and beauty-product line.
"I had to put things on hold when I was living with pain," she says. "Now I can complete the vision I have for my store and feel healthy doing it."
Feeling good and looking beautiful - two things always in stock at RJ's Closet.
250 South 21st Street
Easton, PA 18042-3892