Tip Top Lifestyle

Lifestyle Blog

img

Sandra Lee Gives Us a Deeper Look Into Her Breast Cancer Battle and New HBO Documentary

/
/
/
9 Views
Bringing you the latest stories and tip from the world. Now go ahead and read what you were looking for, but remember keep checking as we add more and more of the latest articles to keep you up to date.

Sandra Lee Gives Us a Deeper Look Into Her Breast Cancer Battle and New HBO Documentary

Amazon

Cancer: The Emperor of All Maladies

amazon.com
$13.99

In March 2015, Food Network star Sandra Lee had just left the set where she had been photographed with her pet birds Halo and Phoenix for People magazine’s “Most Beautiful” issue when she got the call that changed her life forever: She had an early form of breast cancer called ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS). “That’s how fast life turns,” she says. Reeling, she spent days watching the PBS series Cancer: The Emperor of All Maladies and began to grapple with her new reality. “I started to understand how aggressive cancer is, and I decided to fight back just as aggressively,” she says.

Advertisement – Continue Reading Below

Sandra shares that fight in her new HBO documentary, Rx Early Detection: A Cancer Journey With Sandra Lee. For 40 minutes, the TV chef most of us know for dreaming up tasty shortcuts in the kitchen takes viewers on a brave and grueling journey from diagnosis through surgery and a painful recovery. It’s a no-holds-barred depiction of what it’s really like to cope with breast cancer — exactly the resource Sandra says she wishes she’d had at the time.

Sandra Lee Food Network

NBC NewsWire

“I couldn’t find anything other than women saying they had breast cancer, and then in the next shot they’d had reconstructive surgery and looked great,” she says. “I was thinking, What happened in between?” Sandra’s documentary covers the in-between, perfectly capturing the day-to-day details of the life of cancer patients and the emotional roller coaster they and their loved ones endure. In it, the usually camera-ready star of the show Semi-Homemade Cooking is stripped down to her true self: makeup-free, vulnerable and yet incredibly strong. “It’s not pretty,” says Sandra. And that’s her point: The in-between is messy and sad, but also filled with hope.

Hiding Her Pain

At first, Sandra kept her diagnosis secret from all but close family and her partner, New York governor Andrew Cuomo. She coped by doing what she knew best — working. By day, she was cheerfully planning an upcoming segment on healthy cocktails for The Dr. Oz Show. At night, she wrestled with the hardest decisions of her life. “It was crazy for weeks,” she says. “I would leave a set with hair and makeup and go to a doctor’s office and interview him about treatment options and do my tests.” Ultimately she decided on a double mastectomy, even though cancer had been found in only one breast. “I didn’t want to take any chances,” she says. “My cancer was in three separate places, and there was the possibility it could come back in the other breast.”

Advertisement – Continue Reading Below

Sandra Lee
Sandra at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in 2014, just months before her diagnosis.

Michael Stewart

But while Sandra was hoping to share her diagnosis publicly in her own time, it was leaked to the press, forcing her to go public (with an announcement on Good Morning America) far earlier than she wanted to. “I was struggling,” she says. “I felt like I was under a microscope while I was trying to deal with a very private part of my life.” Just days later, she walked into the operating room to undergo her mastectomy. “They wanted to put me on a gurney, and I was like, ‘I will walk into that room with my head up,’ ” says Sandra. “It was the last defiant move I could make before they…it’s an amputation,” she adds, her voice breaking. In a tearjerking moment in the film, Governor Cuomo walks by her side, holding her hand and comforting her as she lies down on the table and begins to cry. With a kiss and words of love, he leaves to start his agonizing wait with Kimber, Sandra’s sister.

The surgery scene is one of the hardest to watch, but its grittiness makes it one of the most demystifying. “They hollow you out,” says Sandra, matter-of-factly describing how her surgeon used tools to scrape all her breast tissue from underneath her skin. The tissue was replaced with a stretcher, the first step toward eventual reconstruction.

Road to Recovery

Though gaunt, in pain and exhausted after surgery, Sandra says she felt “lucky — very, very lucky. It was early.” After a week in the hospital, she went home to begin traveling on the long road back to health. (Since her breast tissue had been removed, she did not require radiation or chemotherapy.) She had a major setback that August, when she contracted a life-threatening infection in her right breast area and was put on bed rest and intravenous drugs for three months. “I couldn’t leave the house — I couldn’t even move, I was in so much pain,” she says.

Advertisement – Continue Reading Below

Advertisement – Continue Reading Below

The one bright spot: A sisterhood of celebrities who had also survived breast cancer, including Rita Wilson, Christina Applegate, Robin Roberts and Melissa Etheridge, sprang up to support her. “They were my angels,” says Sandra. “Unless you’ve gone through this, it’s hard to understand how it feels.” She also forged a close bond with Kathy Bates, another fellow survivor, who became an executive producer of Sandra’s documentary.

Sandra Lee Breast Cancer
Governor Andrew Cuomo (left) stayed by Sandra’s side after surgery.

Courtesy of Sandra Lee

Sandra hopes her documentary will offer some of that been there guidance to help women with breast cancer who comeafter her. She began filming shortly after her diagnosis with the help of Cathy Chermol Schrijver, the head of her production company, who wielded a small handheld camera and a flip phone to create the unfiltered real-life effect Sandra wanted. “I’d always been there for women before, helping them get dinner on the table, decorate and turn a black thumb green,” Sandra says. “How disingenuous would it have been not to open my world to them when they might need it most?”

Advertisement – Continue Reading Below

As Sandra grew stronger, she struggled with the what-ifs: What if she hadn’t been diagnosed when she had? What if there were other women out there who were unknowingly sick? She knew she had to do something to ensure that all women had access to screenings that could catch cancer early. “I realized I had a partner [Governor Cuomo] who could change laws for the women in this state,” she says. “That became my goal.”

“The earlier you catch it, the longer you get to live. Period. End of story.”

With Cuomo’s help, Sandra was the driving force behind New York State’s No Excuses law, a $91 million effort to provide the most advanced cancer-screening program in the country. By absorbing the cost of co-pays and follow-ups for residents of New York and extending testing centers’ hours, the law seeks to eliminate common barriers — cost and time — that patients cite as stumbling blocks to getting screenings. “The earlier you catch it, the longer you get to live,” says Sandra. “Period. End of story.”

And she hasn’t stopped yet: She’s traveling this fall to speak directly to elected officials in multiple states to prod them to use the law as a blueprint for similar initiatives. “Write to your governor,” she urges women. (Find details on the law here.)

Today, Sandra is healthy and happy. “Cancer no longer rules my life — I’m getting back to myself,” she says. “I’m healed as much as anybody who’s gone through this can be, and I will continue to support and fight alongside my sisters. Once you’re in this family, you’re in for life.”

Watch Rx Early Detection: A Cancer Journey with Sandra Lee tonight at 8 p.m. on HBO.

This story was originally published in the November 2018 issue of Good Housekeeping.

Source link

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google+
  • Linkedin
  • Pinterest

Leave a Reply

This div height required for enabling the sticky sidebar
Social media & sharing icons powered by UltimatelySocial
Facebook
Facebook
%d bloggers like this: