Movie and TV star and cancer survivor Jaclyn Smith shares the strategies that rein in her health risks—starting with the routine screening that saved her life.
When asked about her recipe for success, Jaclyn Smith is the first to cite her good fortune. She gushes about her happy Texas childhood, wonderful marriage (to heart surgeon Bradley Allen), two awesome kids, amazing girlfriends...and her star-making turn on a little show called Charlie’s Angels.
But she’ll also tell you that “success is carved from a hard tree.” And there’s no doubt the 67-year-old stunner has learned a thing or two about staying power: She was the only “angel” to stick with the hit series for its entire run, one of the first celebs to launch a successful clothing line (her collaboration with Kmart has lasted over 25 years), and savvy enough to parlay pop stardom into a 40-year career that spans movies, TV mini-series and even a reality show (she hosted Bravo’s hair-styling competition, Shear Genius).
Yet there were a couple wake-up calls that tested her hard-earned wisdom. The first surprise came when her father developed heart problems. “My dad, Jack, suffered from high blood pressure, and even though he was able to control his symptoms with diet and exercise, he had cardiac problems later in life,” says Jaclyn, whose father died in 1993. While Jaclyn has no signs of heart disease, his diagnosis drove home the point that even health-conscious folks shouldn’t take their well-being for granted. Even though she’s always embraced a healthy lifestyle (“I’ve never touched a drug, I don’t drink and I don’t smoke”), Jaclyn redoubled her efforts to eat better and squeeze in more exercise.
Which probably explains why she wasn’t particularly worried when her doctor saw something suspicious on a routine mammogram in 2002—even after he ordered an ultrasound and two biopsies. “I still thought, I’m fine, because I couldn’t have felt better and there hadn’t been any cancer in my family,” she remembers. When the test results confirmed it was cancer, her usual self-confidence was shaken. “It’s very surreal. Your world is not spinning right. It’s frightening, and you have to take in so much and educate yourself in a way that you didn’t want to educate yourself.”
After successful treatment with a lumpectomy and radiation, Jaclyn is still cancer-free today, and she credits the experience with giving her renewed vigor. It also confirmed her belief that feeling young and staying healthy were one and the same. “Let’s keep ourselves in the best shape we can for our health,” suggests Jaclyn. “But let’s also be relaxed about it. My mom grew older gracefully and beautifully by not obsessing.” Here, Jaclyn shares the strategies that keep her strong and stress-free:
Mind those screenings!
“I was very fortunate that I went in for my yearly mammogram. It was found thanks to early detection, and that’s the key to a good prognosis,” notes Jaclyn. Unfortunately, many of us aren’t so prompt: Research from Virginia Commonwealth University shows that 46% of recommended health tests are skipped at yearly exams. Discuss what tests you may need with your healthcare provider.
Build a support system.
“Surround yourself with supportive, positive, kind people—that’s the best medicine,” Jaclyn says. “I can’t tell you how much my girlfriends did for me after my cancer diagnosis, and I have a very supportive family. I think I feel my best—I really feel the fountain of youth is inside, not out—when I’m just surrounded with love.”
Say no to worry lines.
“One of my favorite places to de-stress is to sit on the beach and look out at the water near our home in Santa Barbara [CA],” says Jaclyn. “I try to make time every day for myself and to relax after a busy day filled with phone calls and commitments.” And when the demands start piling up, she quickly puts them in perspective. “Everything in my life is little compared to cancer. If I feel like I can’t manage something, I turn things down.”
Keep life engaging!
This angel gathers no moss: Jaclyn continues to take on acting gigs, develop new products for Kmart and JaclynSmith.com, and she recently launched a line of wigs. “It’s fun! You have a bad hair day, you plop one on. You have to be imaginative in life—you can’t just sit back and do what you’ve always done. Shake it up a little!
Jaclyn on getting healthier with...
Her husband: She credits Bradley with helping her kick the taste for high-fat foods—he is a heart surgeon, after all. And his career actually brought them together: They met when he treated her father’s heart condition. “Bradley has high cholesterol, which runs in his family,” Jaclyn says. “Since we’ve been married, I’ve learned how to modify my diet. Growing up in Texas, I ate a lot of red meat, and while I won’t give up the occasional hamburger, I’ve cut out a lot of the fats and butter.”
Her kids: Jaclyn stays motivated by turning exercise into bonding time. “I love dance and Pilates, but I get bored if I do the same routine every day. I plan to try paddle boarding with my son, Gaston [age 30], and I often go for a walk or run with my daughter, Spencer [age 27].” And if her kids aren’t around? “I run with my dogs in the park—which is better for me than being on a treadmill!”