Cancer inspires line of comfort products

Cancer inspires line of comfort products

Shari Hall Smith created got ballZ LLC after traveling to Germany for cancer treatments. (Provided by got ballZ)
Shari Hall Smith created got ballZ LLC after traveling to Germany for cancer treatments. (Provided by got ballZ)

Shari Hall Smith considers herself both a survivor and a thriver. And as a firm believer in the power of positive thinking, Smith is extending her healing energies to others through a new business.

Smith’s story began more than a quarter of a century ago when she fought and survived a battle with breast cancer. But in 2014, three doctors diagnosed her with stage four cancer that had metastasized to her bones. The prognosis wasn’t good; one to five years, she was told.

So Smith headed to Germany, where she took part in some experimental and holistic cancer treatments, which included whole body hypothermia and mistletoe injections. Before she made the trip, a friend gave her a bracelet that had a bead inscribed with the word “strength.”

“And when I was in Germany—I went all by myself to Germany and there were times it was so scary there because the treatments were not that easy and I didn’t know anyone and there was a language barrier—I found myself holding onto the bracelet,” Smith said. “It was like my ‘shazam.’ It was my stop sign that said, ‘you’ve got this.’”

The treatments—and her positive outlook—seem to be working.

“People ask me all the time, are you in remission? I can’t so much say that, but I can say I have no active disease at this point,” Smith said. “Right now I’m at four years (since the diagnosis) and I’m healthier than I was for the past 30 years.”

As a result, Smith’s journey received a lot of attention among cancer patients, all of whom wanted to know her secret. When the requests for help became overwhelming, Smith started a website to tell her cancer story.

“Then people were saying, ‘I see what you did but I’m so afraid, my fear is what’s stopping me. I can’t seem to go outside the box. I can’t push myself to seek out something different the way you did. How were you so fearless?’” Smith recalled people asking her. “I would hear that over and over and over and I would think, I’m not fearless, I was terrified.”

Then she thought back to that trip to Germany and the bracelet that helped her when she needed an extra dose of bravado.

“I thought maybe for these friends that are asking me I would make a bracelet, and I made them with round gemstones that all have a healing meaning to them,” Smith said. “But with all of them I put on these two signature balls.”

That was the foundation for Smith’s new business, got ballZ LLC, a tongue-in-cheek play on words derived from her friends’ assertion that she was ballsy for choosing an alternate route and setting out on her own on such a frightening journey.

“People thought it was funny and they thought it was cute,” Smith said of the got ballZ bracelets. “But it’s the lowest common denominator. There is no more explanation needed. When somebody says you have bravado or you are fearless, you have balls.”

Smith launched an Etsy store in the fall, where she sells the bracelets for $38. The got ballZ bracelet line also sells for $35 at Brighton’s People’s Pottery, whose owner, Carla Froehler, is the friend who gave Smith the bracelet she wore in Germany.

And while Smith’s passion is to raise money for cancer treatment options—she founded Faces of Hope, a nonprofit, national traveling photo exhibition of breast-cancer survivors that focuses on the importance of early detection and prevention—her got ballZ venture is a for-profit business.

Still, her propensity to give back won out during the holidays with her JingleBallZ bracelets, an idea she had while scanning Etsy products that featured a holiday “jingle bells” theme. She decided the profits from the JingleBallZ line should go toward a mistletoe clinical trial at Johns Hopkins Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center that began recruiting candidates in March 2017.

“All of the bracelets have been inspired by a person along my journey. And I take the story of what they mean to me and I combine it with the gemstone healing qualities and I create a little prescription,” Smith explained. “So when you buy a bracelet you get a card that tells you what the power of that bracelet does.”

Smith was surprised by got ballZ’ popularity and sales in its first quarter of business—she has hired someone who helps her make the bracelets now—and she’s had requests for other product lines as well. Because got ballZ offers hope for all types of cancer and other diseases, Smith has created a line that addresses breast cancer.

Smith’s pink THIS line of bracelets feature rose quartz and bling. She stresses that the pink THIS line is not just for October’s breast cancer awareness month.

“In 1992 there wasn’t even a pink ribbon. No one was talking about it,” Smith said of her first cancer diagnosis. “Clearly we’ve come a very long way. So what I want to do is I want to keep that going through the whole year.”

It goes beyond awareness at this point, Smith said.

“We need to do something about eradicating it, or punching it out,” she explained. “So pink THIS has to do with where we’re at right now and where it needs to be. Our next step is eradicating it.”

Smith also offers manballZ, bracelets made for men to empower and support them through their challenges. Smith’s husband Gregory, who is president of Jay Advertising Inc., also battled cancer in 2009 and 2010.

The first manballZ bracelet was named the Eye of Luke & Alex, for Luke Piazza and Alex Voglewede, the two high school friends and Section V soccer players who both recovered from cancer. A new iteration of the bracelet will include a logo charm, and half of the profits from manballZ will go toward cancer research and trials.

Shari Hall Smith’s daughter Emma models several got ballZ bracelets. (Provided by got ballZ)
Shari Hall Smith’s daughter Emma models several got ballZ bracelets. (Provided by got ballZ)

Smith, whose daughters Emma and Sydney help her with her new venture, also is designing spiritballZ, a new line of bracelets that will feature gems in school colors and designs for high school or college students.

“I’m in my 60s, and we’re so ingrained with ideas about health and medical care—but I think these younger people are a little bit more open to holistic ways, so it’s exciting for me to combine the educational piece about cancer treatment options and just empowering yourself,” Smith said of reaching out to a younger clientele. “Whatever your disease is, people should be researching it and learning about it so that you can ask the right questions and you can figure out what your own treatment plan can be.”

Smith’s positive attitude is infectious; her story is showered with laughter and jokes.

“I think that’s a big part of it. Our minds are so powerful. We read it and we hear it and even doctors will allude to it. They’ll say stress is so bad for you, and yet there’s never that other side that says, but when you’re positive and focused and have a positive affirmation, it can change everything,” Smith explained. “Even if it only changes it for that day, that’s all I need.”

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