"This is the most fabulous time in my life, because I’ve found a new identity as a result of my cancer." -From Smith’s "More 2010 Beauty Search" entry
Until two years ago, Smith was a hard-charging MBA who, as a consultant in the private sector, had racked up enough frequent-flier miles to make George Clooney’s _Up in the Air character envious. Then, relaxing in a hotel one morning, Smith felt something "not right" in one breast. Trusting her intuition, she scheduled a doctor’s appointment-and within two weeks learned she had stage 1 breast cancer. Smith took a leave of absence from work and, after two surgeries, radiation and chemotherapy, was pronounced cancer free. But instead of being elated, she felt rudderless. Then it hit her: "Hey, Rhonda, you had cancer." Smith had been so focused on getting through treatment, she hadn’t dealt with the psychological repercussions of facing a life-threatening disease. "It was then that I realized there wasn’t a lot out there to help women after they’d had cancer." So, in a change of direction, Smith took a job doing marketing and media outreach for the University of Miami Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center’s "Project Care" study. The focus? Stress management in African-American women who’ve had breast cancer, a coincidence not lost on Smith. In addition, Smith is creating a website, breastcancerpartner.com
, designed to help women deal with the aftermath of that dreaded diagnosis. "My goal is to help restore women to their new [postcancer] normal," she says.
How she looks so good:
Cancer has affected Smith’s approach to most aspects of life. "My new motto is, I do for others from 8 to 6. After that, I focus on me," she says. Part of that new self-focus is her drive to eat right and work out-a lot. "I exercise daily for an hour or two, drink lots of water and only eat foods that give me energy," says Smith, who admits red wine still makes the cut. Her hair, once shoulder length, is now supershort, and she says she’s keeping it that way. "I obviously lost the hair because of the chemo. But so many people complimented me on it, and it’s easier to deal with now that I work out so much, so I’ve decided that it’s here to stay."