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Staying In the Game

Staying In the Game

It's hard to imagine anything slowing down Shelley Smith. This four-time Emmy-winning reporter and author of three books has covered nearly every sporting event possible for ESPN—while also writing long-form features and investigative stories. But in May 2014, this go-getter was stopped in her tracks by one word: cancer. "I got a diagnosis for breast cancer that May after having a routine check up. To say I was shocked is an understatement," says Smith. "The waiting is the hardest part. Waiting and not knowing whether it has spread to your bones ... It's so hard." After going through the typical testing and wait periods, Smith's physician recommended the traditional chemo/radiation and mastectomy approach.

A friend suggested that Smith get another opinion and referred her to David Chan, MD, at Torrance Memorial Medical Center, who participates in multiple clinical trials and offers personalized care for breast cancer treatment. Dr. Chan, a specialist in hematology and oncology, as well as the author of the book Breast Cancer: Real Questions/Real Answers, A Guide for Patients and Families, participates in oncology clinical trials to test new molecules and new treatment combinations that are more effective and less painful for the patient.

Dr. Chan placed Smith on an anti-estrogen drug for six months that significantly reduced her tumor, allowing for lumpectomy surgery instead of mastectomy—a less painful approach. After her lumpectomy, Smith received chemo and radiation and was then given a 3-D mammogram that "changed everything." The use of 3-D technology to clearly see her results was critical.

Smith allowed a television crew to follow her experience at Torrance Memorial's Breast Diagnostic Center, where she was able to sit down with Patricia Sacks, MD, and compare images of her breast tissue from a typical 2-D mammogram with that of a 3-D. Side by side, the two images were remarkable.

"It's hard to see a snowball in a snowstorm," says Dr. Sacks, who was able to discern from the 3-D mammogram image that Smith no longer had a mass—no longer had cancer. With the 2-D mammogram the image was too blurry to be certain.

Smith, now cancer-free, is on a campaign to expand the availability of 3-D mammography across America, as well as shorten wait times for test results. She wished she had known at her initial diagnosis that she could have asked to be referred to a physician that offered 3-D mammograms.

Smith is so grateful to Torrance Memorial that she agreed to train with a professional dancer and compete in a ballroom dancing contest to raise money for the hospital. On Sept. 25, the 57-year-old journalist wowed the audience during the Hot Ballroom Nights charity event sponsored by You Can Dance Studio in Hermosa Beach and owner Anna Trebunskaya of Dancing With the Stars fame. Smith's sense of humor, grace and energy resulted in a standing ovation at the event. "Thyra Endicott, MD, my radiologist, attended the event with Melanie H. Friedlander, MD, my surgeon, along with several nurses from Torrance Memorial," she says.

Smith, who claims she doesn't have a "dancing bone in her body," says she agreed to participate in the event because of something Herm Edwards, former coach for the New York Jets, once said to her: "Life is not a dress rehearsal. Go for it every day. Don't hold back. Don't go 90%. Go 100%." To see Smith's documentary, Triumphant, visit http://es.pn/1LcUEez.