Sandra Lee refused to go down without a fight.
Diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer in May 2015, “I was terrified,” the TV chef, who underwent a double mastectomy, recalls to Us. But “I was going to walk into the operating room with my head held high. I was not going to be wheeled in on a gurney. I was not going to let myself feel like a victim. We are in control.”
Today she’s sharing her road to recovery on the raw HBO documentary Rx: Early Detection — A Cancer Journey With Sandra Lee. “There was no lighting, no sound, no cinematography. It’s just doctor’s appointment after doctor’s appointment,” the 52-year-old says of the film, which follows her from diagnosis to post-op. “Cancer does not play. You have to immediately get it out of your body with the most aggressive form possible, in my opinion. That’s what I did.”
Now she’s on a mission to help other women. “There’s an epidemic with girls in their 30s and 40s,” says Lee, who dates New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. “I have no family history. Every doctor will tell you it’s the environment. My goal is to make you aware. Be conscious.”
And proactive. She hopes the 40-minute special — “I wanted it to be short but meaningful” — spurs a drop in the hefty cost of mammograms. “Change the laws so we can provide longevity,” she tells Us. “Call your senators and demand they do that.”
She’s calling on all women to check in on each other, too. “If you’re out there getting your mammogram and you know your sister isn’t, get her in there,” adds Lee. “We have to take care of one another. Your job is to help someone else. I can’t believe how many people are embarrassed they had breast cancer. I can’t believe how many people don’t want to share. It’s really important they do because it’s the only way we change the world.”
Rx: Early Detection — A Cancer Journey With Sandra Lee airs on HBO Monday, October 8 at 8 p.m. EST.
With reporting by Carly Sloane.
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