A Survivor’s Story: Jaclyn Smith
The Former Charlie's Angels star opens up about her battle with breast cancer
Recently seen on Bravo's hairstylist reality competition, Shear Genius, actress Jaclyn Smith's extensive career includes pioneering the concept of a celebrity clothing line with her Kmart collections, numerous TV shows and movies—even shampoo commercials. Now, she wants you to know about a cause that hits close to home: Strength in Knowing, a support website and program for women with breast cancer.
You found out you had stage 1 breast cancer about five years ago. How were you diagnosed? I went in for my yearly mammogram, thinking everything was going to be fine. I didn't feel a lump. They saw something suspicious, but said it didn't look like cancer. Then the biopsy results came back and they said, "Well, it's breast cancer."
What went through your head when you got the diagnosis? Fear invaded my whole being because I hadn't educated myself. I was ready to boom—go into surgery. There is that moment when your world stops spinning and you think, "Wow, I have two kids." My first question was, "Am I going to be here for my kids?" And my doctor said, "Ninety-eight percent you're going to be here, so don't worry. We got this early." Early detection is the key to a good prognosis. That's why women need their yearly mammograms and they need to see their doctor regularly.
What treatment did you undergo? I did a lumpectomy with radiation. But let me tell you something, if a mastectomy was what was called for, I would have had it like that. I'm not about my breasts; I'm just about good health, OK. I'm not afraid of doing what I need to do to stay here. I really don't understand women who are in denial, who don't want to go for a mammogram. I think it's stupidity. Sorry. I have no patience for that.
Why did you want to be part of the Strength in Knowing campaign? I was lucky because I had girlfriends who had been through breast cancer and a supportive family. But Strength in Knowing will connect women to other women and to information. They can visit the website daily and feel like there's someone there. That's important because, hey, it's pretty traumatic when something like this happens. And attitude is important. You can't say, "Poor me," "Why me?" or "Why did this happen to me?" You need to say, "Life is to be enjoyed. It's to be embraced. It's a gift."
What do you wish women knew about breast cancer? Eighty percent of breast cancer cases are in women 50 and over—just being female and older puts you at risk. Some women get to that point in their life and they think, I have no family history of the disease, this isn't going to touch me. But the majority of cases are in women who don't have a family history. I had no family history, and I thought, I'm great, I feel good, nothing's going cuckoo in my body. You don't always know.
How does it feel knowing you've had a successful line at Kmart since the mid-'80s? I'm thrilled, because 20 years speaks for itself. We accomplished what we set out to do: give fashionable clothes at affordable prices. I'm also doing a home collection because I have a passion for antiques. I've tried to put together things that look eclectic— maybe you've purchased this at one time and maybe that was your grandmother's—and can be brought together to look like there's a history to it. It's not at Kmart, but jaclynsmith.com will connect you to all the stores.
You were the host of Shear Genius, a reality competition for aspiring hairdressers. What was that like? I loved doing that. Hair's been a part of my history. My first acting job was a Breck commercial. When they came to me about this show, I thought, "Reality. I don't like it." I love Project Runway and, like that show, this was really about talent, and it wasn't sensational. I learned a lot about hair. I thought I knew about hair, but there's always more.
What's the best hair tip you got from the show? You must understand the texture of your hair before you choose a style. Because if not, you're going to be a slave to it, and who has time? Me, for instance, I have curly hair. With bangs and straight, long hair, I'd be blowing it out all the time. [At this point, her hairdresser, Gad Cohen, who's sitting in on the interview, weighs in: "What's also really important is the person who's wearing the hair. You're not only looking at her face shape and texture, but also at her silhouette. It's more sculptural. If a woman is big, you don't want to give her short hair."]
How do you keep a healthy work and life balance? Family is always first. Even though my kids are older—my son is 25 and my daughter is 21—I still like to sit down and have dinner with them as much as I can. I de-stress with my family, just at home pruning roses, cutting, working in the garden.
What's three things do you always keep in the fridge? Milk, because I have oatmeal and cereal every day. And blueberries every day. And carrots: I mix up a juice every other day—carrot, apple, celery.
What's the last thing you do before you go to bed at night? Say my prayers. That's the truth.