Sandy Goldsmith: Getting in SHAPE, Staying Healthy

Patient PerspectivesA diagnosis of breast cancer can leave a woman feeling helpless. And even when the cancer is in remission, she is left wondering if it will return. But thanks to new health program, cancer survivors are learning how to take an active role in their recovery.

Sandy Goldsmith is doing more than exercising. She is walking to save her life.

As a breast cancer survivor, Goldsmith recently learned that by staying in shape, she reduces the risk of having her cancer return. "Every day I say to myself, ‘Do I want to live or die?’ If I want to live, then I'm going to work, do my best to stay healthy," she said.

Goldsmith is getting plenty of help in her efforts to stay healthy. She's taking part in a new program at the UC San Diego Moores Cancer Center called SHAPE – the Survivors’ Health and Physical Exercise Study. It's based on research linking obesity and the recurrence of breast cancer.

"Being overweight or obese will increase the likelihood of recurrence and early death by 30 percent to 500 percent," noted Cheryl Rock, Ph.D., R.D., of the UC San Diego Moores Cancer Center Cancer Prevention and Control Program.

The SHAPE program is hoping to improve those odds by teaching breast cancer survivors how to change their lifestyles – to eat better, get into shape and lose excess weight. SHAPE also is helping the women with their emotional needs by offering individual and group counseling.

"It gave me a bag of tricks like a tool box to use every single day of my life in managing my exercising and managing my weight," commented Goldsmith.

And while exercise, counseling and diet programs are nothing new, Dr. Rock says SHAPE is the first program specifically designed for breast cancer survivors.

Goldsmith is convinced SHAPE changed her life and that keeping fit is helping keep her cancer in remission. "I decided early on that I wanted to do everything I could to reduce my chances of (cancer) recurrence and dying."