Last summer, when the inspiring model, designer and restaurateur B. Smith revealed her battle with early-onset Alzheimer s disease, she expressed her determination not to let it bring her down.
Now, nearly a year later, she is proving that determination goes a long way.
“I had tears in my eyes, but at that same time, I said, ‘I’m not gonna give to it. I’m gonna fight. I am going to fight,’ Barbara Smith, who is best known as B., told Al Roker while discussing her diagnosis on Friday’s Today show.
“I deal with it in a practical way,” Smith, 65, said. “I know that I’ve got a problem. It doesn’t make me happy. Sometimes it makes me teary, but because I have great support I’m doing fine. I’m doing really good.”
That support is her husband of 23 years, Dan Gasby.
“You don’t believe it, there’s total denial,” he told Roker of learning about Smith’s illness four years ago. “And then you go to a point of anger and then you go to a point of frustration. And then you go to a point where you curse God and you say, ‘Why? She doesn’t deserve this.’ She is the sweetest human being, bar none.”
Smith, who in 1976 became one of the first African-American models to grace the cover of Mademoiselle magazine, is resorting to her indomitable spirit to deal with her diagnosis – and help others.
“I’m going to wash those tears and just continue to go back and be a better person even than I’ve been in the past,” she said.
In fact, the former host of daytime show B. Smith with Style has filmed a public service announcement with the Brain Health Registry to raise awareness for brain disorders and urge people, especially minorities, to help with clinical research.
Her journey has not been easy. Smith went missing for more than 17 hours in November after getting off at the wrong stop on her way from New York City to Sag Harbor on Long Island.
“I wanted to be free,” she said of the ordeal, which was terrifying for Gasby. “I thought I lost her,” he said. “It was like living a nightmare.”
That’s why he is trying to make every day count. “The first thing I think about is trying to create the best possible moments we can have,” he said of their future.
A future that Smith is rallying for. “I am fighting, I am fighting right now. I will be fighting,” she said. “And I am lucky I have a best friend.”