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 snow storm,” 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