Sandra Lee, the Food Network TV chef best known for the concept of semi-homemade cooking, which combines fresh ingredients with store-bought items to make a new item that is comparable to entirely from scratch cooking, announced that she had been diagnosed with breast cancer. She went public Tuesday, May 12, in a pre-recorded interview with cancer survivor and Good Morning America (GMA) host Robin Roberts. Lee said that she is grateful that the disease was caught in its early stages and urged fans on both GMA and her personal website to get mammograms done regularly.
The chef was diagnosed in late March when she was doing a photo shoot for People Magazine. Lee will undergo a double mastectomy later in the week. Her long-term boyfriend, New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo, has been very supportive and is planning to take personal time off to be there for her during treatment. After her announcement, he released his own statement describing his absolute devastation over his significant other’s illness. Cuomo added that Lee is young for the diagnosis, especially because she has no family history of it.
Prior to announcing her cancer diagnosis, the chef has already had one lump removed from her breast and is undergoing the double mastectomy at her doctor’s urging. The chef reported that her radiologist and her doctor both said, “You’re a ticking time bomb.” If she did not elect to have the surgery her other option would have been going through six to eight weeks of daily radiation treatments.
Lee’s double mastectomy decision has become more and more common over the past 20 years. An increasing number of women have opted to undergo the same surgery after the diagnosis of early stage breast cancer, even if it is only affecting one breast at the time of detection. In 1998, two percent of women diagnosed with early stage breast cancer decided to make the same operative choice. However, by 2011 the number of breast cancer patients deciding to go the double mastectomy route has increased more than 10 percent.
Since the announcement, her Facebook page has been filled with messages from well-wishers. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio made his own statement in support of Lee on Tuesday, saying:
It takes enormous courage to face a diagnosis like this, and still more to share it in the hopes of helping others.
Lee views her diagnosis as just one more obstacle in a life that was far from easy. When Lee was still in her 20s, she created her first product line. It was a window dressing kit called Kurtain Kraft. She built upon that first success and branched out. Eventually evolving into the woman who has made a career out of her mastery of many of the arts involved in cooking and housekeeping, as well as publishing a line of cookbooks.
Since her diagnosis, Lee has become passionate about promoting early detection of breast cancer. Although annual mammograms are not recommended for women prior to 50 without a family history, both Lee and Cuomo and are keenly aware that had she waited two years before getting a mammogram her prognosis would have been very different from it is today.
By Martina Robinson
Photo by Stephanie Keeney – Creativecommons Flickr License