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UPDATE: Towanda and Brianna Smith carry a commitment forward at West Cancer Clinic

Towanda Peete-Smith and her daughter, Brianna, teamed with Tammy Coleman (third from left) to complete the Tiara’s Teardrop breast cancer support outreach event at the West Cancer Center. (Photos: Dalisia Brye)

Late 2010, Tammy Coleman received a devastating phone call from a close friend that forever changed her life.

“She told me she had two years to live,” said Coleman. “When she told me it was from breast cancer, I literally had to pull over on the side of the road because I was driving at the time.”

Her friend eventually succumbed to the deadly disease. “She was my cheerleader and we made plans to write a book together.”

Over the years, Coleman watched several loved ones and friends battle cancer, including her mother, Diane Coleman, a cancer survivor for more than 19 years. “I watched her deal with the side effects of chemo treatments, and it was very hard watching someone you love go through it,” Coleman said.

In 2012, after her mother took the spotlight at one of her annual jewelry parties, Coleman had an idea.

“I usually host a sip and shop for my Tiara’s Place jewelry line in my home, and I watched my mother have a discussion with several other women about their survival. I was amazed at how so many could relate. So in 2013, I had an event strictly dedicated to breast cancer and it was a hit.”

Each year the event grew, until Coleman no longer had space in her home. Due to costs and space, she realized she needed sponsorship.

In 2015, Coleman reached out to The New Tri-State Defender Publisher Bernal E. Smith II, whose mother was a cancer survivor.

“When I told him about it, he immediately wanted (to help). … He really understood the ups and downs of watching a loved one suffer to survive.”

The pair eventually came up with the idea of donating blankets to the patients of the West Cancer Center. “We officially started this drive together in 2016 …” said Coleman.

After learning of Mr. Smith’s unexpected passing a few weeks ago, Coleman was uncertain about the future of the blanket drive.

“I then received a call from Bernal’s daughter, Brianna, who still wanted to move forward with the drive. She was ecstatic and so was I, now here we are,” Coleman said.

Accompanied by her mother, Towanda Peete-Smith, Brianna was joyous as she felt her father’s presence in the room as the blankets were given away at the clinic last Friday.

“We’re still celebrating the life of my father,” Brianna said. “We have a lot of family and friends that we really love that’s battling cancer and we just want to let them know you can beat this,” said Peete-Smith.

Tiara’s Teardrop offers several choices of blankets on its website. Some can be engraved. “Instead of doing this for the month of October (Breast Cancer Awareness Month), we’re gearing up to do this year-round for the center; so we’re always accepting donations for new blankets.”

(For information on donating to Tiara’s Teardrop, contact Tammy Coleman at www.tiarasplace.com.)

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