Celebrity with Breast Cancer, Sandra Lee, Impacts Lifesaving Legislation in New York
16 May 2017
Breast cancer advocacy is a great way to give back either during or after your breast cancer journey. Celebrities frequently advocate for matters that matter to them. Yet they don’t always have personal experience. As a famous chef and celebrity with breast cancer, Sandra Lee does have personal experience and she uses that experience to drive her passion for advocacy work.
Sandra Lee’s Breast Cancer Journey
Sandra Lee is best known for her series, Semi-Homemade Cooking with Sandra Lee. It began in 2003 on the Food Network, and won an Emmy in 2012. She is currently in a relationship with Andrew Cuomo, the governor of New York.
Her breast cancer journey began in March 2015.
On a Friday afternoon, Sandra was photographed for People Magazine’s Most Beautiful. Immediately afterward, she received a phone call from her physician. He told her that she had DCIS (ductal carcinoma in situ). This pre-malignant breast lesion was spotted after a routine mammogram and surgical biopsy just days before.
Despite DCIS affecting more than 60,000 women every year, it is impossible to predict whether it will develop into invasive cancer. Due to this uncertainty, DCIS lesions are frequently treated aggressively. Sandra’s experience was no different.
Soon after her diagnosis, she underwent breast cancer surgery. Although Sandra initially had a lumpectomy, the procedure was quickly followed by a double mastectomy. Unfortunately, she developed an infection following her surgery. As a result, she had to undergo additional procedures.
Sandra says of the experience, “When your body has that kind of surgery, it’s massive…. I had a lot of setbacks.”
Although she struggled early on, Sandra Lee was declared cancer-free just four months after her surgery.
An Advocate for Early Detection and Treatment, Sandra Lee Utilizes Her Position as a Celebrity with Breast Cancer
Sandra Lee is a longtime advocate of a variety of charities. She supported organizations such as Unicef and the Food Bank for New York City. But her diagnosis refocused some of her advocacy and philanthropic efforts on breast cancer.
She was named an ambassador for Stand Up to Cancer, an organization co-founded by Katie Couric that raises funds for treatment research. She also hosted the 2017 Breast Cancer Research Foundation’s Palm Beach Hot Pink Luncheon & Symposium. Further, she has been speaking out in support of treating DCIS instead of waiting.
In an interview with Good Morning America, she commented: “Why we would consider negotiating with cancer is beyond me . . . ‘Let’s just wait and see what it does.’ It’s like a terrorist that lives inside your body and we’re going to wait and see what it does? We know what it’s going to do.”
Sandra is also a passionate supporter of early detection. She regularly encourages women to take advantage of the early detection technologies that exist. Through the Sandra Lee Foundation, she created a Shades of Pink/Painted Pink campaign that advocates for early detection. It also serves as her way to honor women and families affected by breast cancer.
“What DCIS does and early detection does is it gives you every option in the world and that is what I took . . . The researchers and the doctors and the nurses and the other warriors, not just breast cancer but all cancer, that came before us and that sacrificed their lives so that we could have early detection. So it’s only respectful to ourselves and to their work and what they gave up for us to . . . get it diagnosed and then cut it out and take care of it,” She said during her GMA interview.
In addition to promoting early detection and treatment on their own, Sandra was also an active proponent of New York legislation for women with breast cancer.
With the help of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, her longtime partner, she was able to get a new piece of legislation passed in New York.
This new bill improves women’s access to breast cancer care across the state. It also improves breast cancer screening: It allocates several million dollars to allow for longer and weekend hours at clinics. The money also supports mobile screening units. And it ensures that insurance companies cover the cost of breast cancer screening for women in New York.
In celebration of the legislation being passed, Lee and Cuomo used a custom Harley Davidson to participate in a breast cancer ride. They later auctioned the bike for $18,000 in support of the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.
Beyond her involvement in getting new legislation passed, Sandra Lee also recognizes the progress that New York makes toward reducing the number of individuals in the state who pass away from cancer. During an interview with Christy Turlington Burns, she stated, “Last May , New York State’s Department of Health hosted the first-ever Cancer Prevention Summit here in New York City. State and national cancer-prevention researchers, medical and public health practitioners, health organizations, business and government leaders, and other stakeholders came together around the agenda of prevention.”