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Shari Hall Smith has been navigating cancer for more than 25 years, and after learning that her cancer had returned, three years ago, and metastasized with no prognosis for a cure, a bracelet given to her by a friend became a source of strength and the inspiration for a new venture to help others called “got ballZ.”
“Got ballZ is a new line of merchandise that encourages fearlessness in facing challenges, all while managing all the ‘ballZ’ in the air needed to navigate the process,” said Smith.
The jewelry is available at People’s Pottery, 3025 Monroe Ave., Pittsford and at thriverZ.org.
Smith has a long legacy of sharing what she has learned to help others. When first diagnosed with breast cancer in 1992, Smith founded the Faces of Hope campaign in 1994, a series of traveling and permanent photo exhibits that used real breast cancer survivors to promote the early detection of breast cancer.
The bracelet Smith received before she left for Germany for cancer treatment had a single bead engraved with the word strength.
“I noticed when I would get afraid or stressed out, I would hold onto my bracelet and it really made me feel better. The fear that a cancer diagnosis presents is so stressful, it can prevent one from considering all options,” said Smith. “I needed to build my immune system and combat the cause, not just the symptoms, so I needed to focus on reducing my fear that paralyzed me during important decision making. If a bracelet could help me achieve that, it could help others.“
Got ballZ features a holiday JingleBallZ bracelet, hairballZ, manballZ and many other bracelets to help support and empower people with cancer and their loved ones.
Fifty percent of proceeds from purchases are donated to cancer treatment options programs, education and clinical trials. One hundred percent of proceeds from sales of JingleBallZ bracelets will support a new Mistletoe clinical trial at Johns Hopkins Medicine Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer that started to recruit candidates in March.
This Phase I study is a first step in better understanding the safety of mistletoe to patients with cancer and will provide information on side effects and how high a dose of mistletoe is well tolerated. Mistletoe injections are currently among the most widely used complementary cancer treatments in Europe. It is approved for palliative care use in several European countries but not yet in the United Kingdom or the U.S.
Each got ballZ bracelet is designed and handmade by Smith and her family and friends, and features two signature “ballZ” to inspire support, and “healing” gemstones including aquamarine, white jade, aventurine, clear quartz, amazonite, pyrite, freshwater pearls, mother of pearl and black onyx. The JingleBallZ bracelet has two jingle bells.
Items range from $20 to $38. Each comes in a gift bag with a note card and description of the “healing” properties along with the person who inspired it. Three of those who inspired items are her husband, Greg, and their two daughters, Sydney and Emma.
The first manballZ, made of tigers eye gemstone, is named The Eye of Luke & Alex, for Luke Piazza and Alex Voglewede, the high school friends and section five soccer players who recovered from cancer.
“I cried as I read their story,” said Smith. “They had such a positive and empowering message, which is exactly what got ballZ wants to achieve — to empower others to keep their fear and stress in check in order to achieve their goals.”
Smith’s determination to go beyond surviving to thriving began when first diagnosed with breast cancer in 1992 at age 36. She underwent surgery but declined the recommended chemotherapy, which would have reduced her chances of having children. Instead, she chose a holistic and alternative adjunctive therapy to improve her immune system.
In 2014, 22 years after her original cancer diagnosis, news of the cancer’s return and spread to the bone propelled Smith into doing research and making decisions that included refusing some conventional options. She created a plan that included mistletoe injections and whole body hyperthermia in Germany that was best for her, her lifestyle and quality of life. Today, her overall health has improved, and her long-term autoimmune disorders either disappeared or require less medication to manage.
Smith says that some studies have focused on mistletoe’s reduction of symptoms following chemotherapy, which can be exhausting and painful. Other research has also directly linked its extract with anti-cancer activity, and in Europe, more than 50 percent of cancer patients now integrate some element of it in their treatment regimen.
The rapid increase in popularity and demand for mistletoe has also sparked interest in further research, which has paid off. It has been found that in certain types of cancer, it can cause apoptosis — programmed cell death — in cancer cells. Subsequent research has connected mistletoe extract to a higher overall quality of life for patients, tumor shrinkage and healthier blood counts.
Smith shares her story along with resources that are helpful to her on her website, thriverz.org, so that others can gather options and make well-informed decisions about their own individual treatment plans.
She has also co-written a song, “Shine From Me,” with singer-songwriter Joe Brucato and accompanied by the Pittsford Sutherland High School Concert Choir led by Karie Templeton.
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