An emotional Sandra Lee has gone public with her breast cancer diagnosis, explaining that she’ll be getting a double mastectomy after doctors told her she was a “ticking time bomb.”
The lifestyle guru, celebrity chef and 10-year partner to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo learned of her diagnosis 20 minutes after wrapping up a photo shoot for People magazine’s “Most Beautiful” issue late in March, she told Robin Roberts in an interview broadcast Tuesday on “Good Morning America.”
“I just was still. I didn’t even cry, I was stunned,” said Lee, 48. “And that’s how fast life turns, it turns on a dime.”
A lumpectomy didn’t yield clean margins, she said, so her radiologist recommended getting a mastectomy.
“‘If I’m going to have a mastectomy, am I supposed to just get one done?’” Lee asked her physicians. “Both the radiologist and the doctor said, ‘You’re a ticking time bomb,’ and they both said, ‘I would just get them both done.’”
Cuomo is going to be with her for the surgery later this week, she said. Indeed, the governor announced Tuesday that he’ll be taking some time off.
“A situation like this quickly puts life in the proper perspective and reminds one of what’s truly important,” Cuomo, 57, said in a statement. “To that end, I expect to take some personal time because I want to be with Sandy to support her in any way I can as she handles the trauma of her operation and the pain of the recovery.”
Both Lee and Cuomo explained that she’d decided to go public because, in his words, she wants “to remind women of the potentially lifesaving power of early detection.”
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio sent his and his wife’s encouragement as well, while urging women to take advantage of free screenings offered by that city.
“Chirlane and I are keeping Sandy and Andrew in our thoughts at this difficult time,” De Blasio said in a statement. “It takes enormous courage to face a diagnosis like this, and still more to share it in the hopes of helping others. It’s a testament to her strength and compassion that she has stepped forward, and we admire her deeply for it.”
Lee was diagnosed with DCIS, or ductal carcinoma in situ, which according to the Mayo Clinic is the most common non-invasive kind of breast cancer. Though it is not life-threatening, it requires treatment and according to BreastCancer.org, puts a person at higher risk of developing invasive cancer -- the kind that spreads beyond the milk ducts and into breast tissue -- later on.
After her lumpectomy she was screened for the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, which can indicate a higher risk of breast and ovarian cancer, and tested negative, People said.
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force has recommended that women ages 50 to 74 get a mammogram every two years, and that women 40-49 make the screening decision for themselves. The American Cancer Society recommends regular breast-cancer screenings starting at age 40.