Life Changer

Paul Versluis

Person of interest: Dianna Smith

Every woman’s life has significant, sentimental, red-letter days: birthdays, anniversaries, the birth of a child. For millions of women, there’s a date that is memorable, but not a cause for celebration: receiving a breast cancer diagnosis. However, thanks to improvements in treatments and education about the importance of early detection, millions are surviving the disease.

But that moment of truth—when a doctor says, “You have breast cancer”—is a pivotal event in a woman’s journey. Dianna Smith of Overland Park received a diagnosis last October 11 of Stage II invasive ductal carcinoma—two small spots on one breast. Mother to 11-year-old Maddie and engaged to be married to Svica Jeans business partner and denim designer James Utt (father to Lily, age 8) this November—Smith was stunned. “I thought, ‘This can’t be happening to me.’”

A Wealth Advisor with Morgan Stanley Smith Barney and a partner in the Ferguson-Smith Group, MSSB, Smith made a personal choice. She reframed the terrifying experience of having breast cancer as an opportunity instead for personal growth, for reprioritization of her life, and to address that symbolic bucket list. She inhaled deeply. She prayed and meditated. She cried. She worked out. She prayed again—and often. She rallied her support group of family, friends and colleagues. “My treatment called for a single mastectomy and I opted to have a double with complete reconstruction,” says Smith. “Although there is no medical evidence that taking both breasts helps minimize future reoccurrence, I made the right decision for me.” During surgery her physician, Amy Jew, MD, of The Breast Center at Menorah Medical Center, checked Smith’s lymph nodes; they were perfect and clean.

Smith combined Eastern and Western medicine, with Keith Hodge, MD, doing her reconstruction and Jane Murray, MD, and Ursula Gilkeson of the Sastun Center helping maintain her health and well being. Utt, who Smith calls a meticulous, loving and encouraging caregiver, was a source of strength. “This disease has increased our bond and commitment in a very intimate and spiritual way,” she says.

This October 11, Smith will remember a day when her life changed, she was given options, and she chose to live an exuberant life. “I am incredibly happy to be exactly where I’m at—it’s a wonderful feeling.”


AWARENESS: “Know your body. If something feels different, get it checked. Early detection of anything is valuable to keep your choices open and hope for a positive outcome.”

ADVICE: “Take someone with you to your appointments. Have them take notes. Relax and release. Keep moving forward; keep asking questions.”

REENERGIZE: “I have emotional ups and downs. I’m happy to be here—but I can be sad, too. I give myself the time and grace for pausing and reflecting.”

PERMISSION: “I still need to remind myself to take time for the proper nutrition and rest that true health requires.”

MANTRA: “Each day is a gift. It’s not about what happens to us or around us, but how we respond to it.”

Categories: People, People & Places