By Kendall Alexander
Traci Smith is a well put together woman. She makes it a point to put her best foot forward and look impeccable at any given moment. Although she may be dressed to the nines on any given day, Smith didn’t always feel beautiful when she battled breast cancer.
Fast forward to 2014 as Smith founded Traci’s B.I.O.or Beautiful Inside and Out. Traci’s B.I.O. is an organization built on empowering black women and allowing them a space where they aren’t just their diagnosis allowing them to be their best beautiful selves as well.
Starting October 18, 2014 with 30 women that got together to celebrate life and talk about a traumatic experience, the purpose of Traci’s BIO is battling cancer beautifully. These women not only come together through the disease and form a sisterhood, they learn how to reapply their eyebrows and lashes after chemotherapy and radiation has stripped them of their hair, allowing them to feel beautiful again while dealing with difficult circumstances. Fifteen women working with the organization got together to pen the book ‘Pink Sisters Chronicles’ to share their diverse stories through cancer and sisterhood.
Phyllis Young, Smith’s co-founder and best friend, has watched and helped both blossom simultaneously. She explained that the two had been business partners for a number of years and that she would be the one explaining business plans, but now Smith has stepped forward and taking the helm of Traci’s BIO. She learned a lot while watching her friend battle cancer, feeling helpless at times as she couldn’t remedy the situation. “I felt I had to be strong for her and she felt she had to be strong for me,” Young said. You don’t know your own strength until you’re going through it.” Young encourages women to educate themselves to find the best organization that works for them and to know that they do not have to fight alone. “We [Traci’s BIO] put you back together so that you can live a normal life in an abnormal situation.”
A most abnormal situation hit home for Amber Teller, being diagnosed with breast cancer at 16. Her story is one of those featured in “Pink Sisters Chronicles,” and she hopes it helps young women take charge of their health. “I hope it [my story] inspires girls to speak up. Pay attention to your body. Even if it is minor, just take it seriously. Hopefully my story can get to mothers and fathers not just to get tested but to pay attention to their [child’s] diet.” Teller believes her diet was a contributing factor to her cancer as the disease is not hereditary in her family and she was an athlete. “You are what you eat, so if you eat toxic foods, your body will become toxic,” Teller said. We [Black people] love fried chicken, but fried chicken is killing us.” Since then, Teller enjoys a pescetarian diet consisting mostly of fish and legumes, but if she eats meat, it is usually baked chicken. She also encourages young women to take it day by day and, “don’t forget how to live. It’s [cancer] is there, but you can still survive.”
Smith wants to get the message out for women, especially black women because historically there hasn’t been a strong support system designed specifically for them when dealing with such a life altering diagnosis. “We offer a more personal approach in regards to breast cancer because I want to be there to walk with you, to go to chemotherapy with you. Traci’s BIO is focused on life, not the fear of death,” she said. Having had her last surgery a month ago, Traci is inspired through these fabulous ladies and wants to continue to spread the love with hopes of branching out to other cities.
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