From surviving to thriving: How one Philadelphian is advocating for breast cancer patients and survivors in October and beyond

Smith launched a nonprofit that supports breast cancer patients through mentorship, beauty tutorials, diet tips, and a series of five books featuring candid survivor stories.

Traci Smith (third from left) and Traci's BIO members pose for a photo.

Traci Smith (third from left) and Traci's BIO members. (Courtesy of Traci Smith)

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When Traci Smith was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer in 2013, she was determined to beat the disease and to thrive.

In 2015, the Philadelphia native launched Traci’s BIO (Beautiful Inside and Out), a nonprofit dedicated to supporting those with breast cancer.

“I felt that if I was struggling with these things, there [were] other ladies that also were struggling with the same things after they left the hospital [and] were starting their new life,” she said.

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Traci Smith poses for a photo in a pink gown, with pink balloons in the background.
Traci Smith, founder of Traci’s BIO. (Courtesy of Traci Smith)

Since then Smith’s organization has been mentoring breast cancer warriors through mentorship, advocacy, storytelling, beauty tutorials, diet tips, and more.

This month, Traci’s BIO hosted its first Breast Cancer Awareness Walk in Lansdowne. Smith explained the day was about freedom and expression.

“Cancer is just a heavy order and so we wanted to fellowship with other ladies that are going through the fight [and] connect with them, touch them, hug or cry with them, and have a day of celebrating life because we needed it,” she said.

A group of people poses for a photo under an arbor of pink balloons holding signs reading Honk if you are a survivor.
Survivors and family members gather during Breast Cancer Awareness Month. (Courtesy of Traci Smith)

Breast cancer awareness in the Black community is critical, Smith said. She uses her personal account to illustrate the taboo that comes with the diagnosis.

“I had a grandmother who had breast cancer and a mother who had breast cancer… but because we don’t talk about it a lot in our community, there I [was] at 44 getting a bad mammogram which I should have gotten at 40.”

Smith’s story is not an outlier. In general, Black women are diagnosed with breast cancer at later stages. Black women also have a 40% higher rate of death from breast cancer than their white counterparts. Ending healthcare disparities, increasing genetic testing, regular mammogram screenings, and early detection are key and can start with just a conversation among friends and family.

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A graph shows incidence of female breast cancer by race.
Data from the American Cancer Society shows the difference in cancer diagnosis and death rates between races. (Credit: American Cancer Society)

Traci’s Bio has published five books, called the Pink Sisters Chronicles, featuring candid stories from more than 60 survivors and patients.

Copies of books are displayed on a table along with a T-shirt that reads Traci's BIO.
Copies of Pink Sister Chronicles, real stories of real breast cancer survivors and patients. (Courtesy of Traci Smith)

“I asked those in the book to be transparent so we can have a conversation because this is not our mothers’ disease,” Smith said. “My daughter knows that she has to get a mammogram, [so does] my neighbor. My cousins know they have to get a mammogram, and we’re making each other aware of self-exams.”

Traci's BIO team members raise their hands up and pose for a photo as they walk down the street.
Traci’s BIO team members during their first annual Breast Cancer Awareness Walk on 10/15/23. (Courtesy of Traci Smith)

Even though it’s a year away, Traci’s Bio is already planning ahead for October 2024.

“In October we highlight, we educate, and we put the spotlight on breast cancer, but I always say I’m 365,” she said.  “365 days out of the year we talk about it, 365 days out of the year my phone is on to have a conversation.”

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