In a world that often sidelines the health and wellness of African American women, the importance of self-care becomes even more significant; especially as we have entered National Self-Awareness Month. — As the founder of Generation NOW nonprofit organization and CEO of Lusheous Collections Plus Size Boutique, Renika Smiley, has learned this lesson through her own journey of self-discovery and growth.
As a plus-size woman, Renika is passionate about looking good and feeling healthy. But when a recent weigh-in revealed that she had not lost as much weight as she had hoped and had even gained back some inches, she and her fitness trainer had a long, eye-opening conversation.
Renika’s mother, a dietician, and a health enthusiast, always emphasized the importance of a balanced diet and regular exercise. Yet, despite her careful attention to her health, she lost her battle with pancreatic cancer. It"s painful to think about, but her mother's story serves as a powerful reminder of the health challenges many African American families face, including the prevalence of diseases like diabetes and cancer.
Pancreatic cancer, unfortunately, often does not show symptoms until it has advanced to Stage 4. Renika’s mother, who had type 2 diabetes, was small and needed to eat more food to manage her condition. When she began to show symptoms of pancreatic cancer, the doctors initially treated her for diabetes. Despite having her colon scoped four months before her death, the doctors failed to detect the cancer in her pancreas, as their focus was solely on her colon.
This devastating loss and Renika’s health journey had underscored for her the importance of self-care, particularly for African American women. Self-care is not just about pampering oneself or indulging in luxuries. It's about prioritizing one's health, being proactive in managing and preventing diseases, and taking the time to listen to one's body and its needs.
In our community, where diabetes and cancer are common and often hereditary, we must be vigilant about our health. This means regular check-ups, a balanced diet, regular exercise, and mental health care.
As an entrepreneur in the fashion industry, Renika is committed to promoting a positive body image and encouraging women to feel beautiful at any size. However, she does also believe in the importance of healthy living. Renika’s journey as a plus-size woman has shown her that looking good and feeling healthy are not mutually exclusive.
Renika’s mother's legacy continues to inspire her to promote a culture of health and wellness within the African American community. Her life and her battle with pancreatic cancer has magnified that, in the face of adversity, we must be our own health advocates.
Renika Smiley hopes that by sharing her story, she can inspire other African American women to prioritize their health and well-being through self-care. Our health is our wealth, and it is time we start treating it as such.
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