When the voice on the other end of the call explained who was calling, Traci Nicole had no worries.
After all, the caller’s voice sounded as if everything was okay. Nicole just knew that she’d be finding out that there were no cancerous cells. But she’d soon get news that would change everything. The oncologist calmly said, “We got your results from the biopsy and it was cancerous.”
Tracy Nicole’s world stopped.
“I stopped breathing for a minute,” Nicole said, thinking back to the call. “Time stood still as I let her words sink in.”
After a 10-year career as an occupational therapist, Tracy Nicole was well into her second career as an accomplished author and speaker with national notoriety, when at the age of 37, she was diagnosed with breast cancer ductal carcinoma in situ.
Despite having to undergo a double mastectomy, the mother of two has not only beaten breast cancer, she used her experience to impact the lives of others, all while being a sought-after fashion designer to many Atlanta influencers — including actress Keisha Knight Pulliam and TV One’s “Sisters Circle” star Rashan Ali — and opening a new fashion studio space.
Traci Nicole invited The Atlanta Voice into her new studio space, where she shared with us her journey of overcoming breast cancer and growing her business.
I know your line is distributed at Belk, how were you able to secure that deal and where else can we find Tracy Nicole fashion?
TN: I submitted my line to Belk corporate office for the Southern Designers Competition. I was one of twenty that were asked to come to their office and present my line to fifteen corporate employees. Of the 20, they chose two clothing lines‚ one being Tracy Nicole. You can also place orders of Tracy Nicole through my website.
When you were diagnosed with breast cancer, what was the first thought that entered your mind?
TN: My very first thought was the possibility of not being here for my two daughters, who were so young. Only the people closest to me know that I don’t immediately react to things that are painful. The more painful or difficult it is to digest, the longer it takes me to react—soyou can only imagine how long it took me to react to this.
I was waiting for her to say something else—as if there were something else to say. I was hoping for a brief moment that it was some kind of mistake. Wait, they just calmly tell you this over the phone. Why is she so calm? My response was (in my I can handle this voice), “Okay, what’s next?”
In her monotone voice, she said, “I need you to come to my office tomorrow. Will that work for you?” I thought, ‘How could it not work for me? How can any of this work for me? Is this a trick question?’ I reluctantly said, “Of course.”
I ended the call as if it never happened. I just wasn’t ready. I shared the news with no one, and I finished my day as if nothing ever happened. My mother has battled breast cancer three times in the past 10 years.
I know you have those beautiful little girls, tell me about them. How did you handle telling them that mommy was diagnosed with breast cancer? How did they handle it?
TN: I have the most amazing daughters! They are 11 and 13 now. Kennedy is my filmmaker, artist, and dancer. Kristian is my athlete, cook and slime maker. My daughters were so young when I got diagnosed that I had to find a book to read to them to help them understand on their level.
With the help of their teachers, I found the book, “Mom and the Polka Dot Boo Boo,” and it really helped my girls understand what I was going through and what my mom went through. My mom and I had genetic testing and found there is no gene in our family. It was relieved to find out I do not have a gene to pass along to my daughters.
My girls have seen their grandmother and mother beat breast cancer and know the importance of staying up on your health.
I saw you in Dr. Jackie Walters 50 Shades of Pink Foundation video, what led you to her organization?
TN: Dr. Jackie was actually the only person I knew that had a bilateral mastectomy. I called a mutual friend and asked did they think she would be willing to talk to me about this.
Not only did she talk to me for two hours when I called her, she also showed up on the day of my surgery with a box filled with beautiful pajamas, blankets, and other goodies I would need.
Are there any other activities you participate in to promote breast cancer awareness?
TN: I work with Susan G. Komen Atlanta bringing more awareness to minorities. I am a model of courage for Ford and have traveled with them to share my story and worked on some amazing campaigns.
Have you created a signature piece for cancer survivors?
TN: Firmly believing that one can always find the silver lining in any situation, I took my breast cancer survival journey and used it as inspiration. Combining my experience from surgery and recovery with my proclivity for fashion, I created a collection of Tracy Nicole Clothing — one that included pieces specially made with breast cancer patients in mind.
My real-work experience in occupational therapy made the bright connection for clothing to be both beautiful and have beneficial aspects and functions. This collection was featured at Dr. Jackie Walters’ (Married to Medicine) 50 Shades of Pink Gala in Atlanta.
I have future plans to expand my offerings through pajamas with a portion of the proceeds going to breast cancer research.
You know what I love about you: the reinvention of yourself—as an occupational therapist, author, speaker, mentor, philanthropist, fashion designer—with the consistency of remaining true to your passions. Tell me, how do you do it?
TN: Everything I do and have ever done always has had the same goal: to inspire, have an impact on someone’s life for the better, to uplift and encourage others. I learn from my mistakes, never look at myself as a victim and I always stay focused on what’s next. There is no ceiling.