Accepting Your Body After Breast Cancer
- Celebrity chef and best-selling author Sandra Lee, 57, is baring it all in the coffee table book “New York Moves” to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the magazine’s “Moves Power Women” gala.
- It’s great to see Sandra Lee exuding confidence and thriving after battling breast cancer. She was was diagnosed with breast cancer in early 2015 and a successful double mastectomy ultimately led her to remission.
- “Body image is both the mental picture that you have of your body and the way you feel about your body when you look in a mirror,” Dr. Marianna Strongin, a New York-based licensed clinical psychologist, tells SurvivorNet.
- “As you allow yourself to spend more time looking at all of you, you will begin having a new relationship with your body,” Strongin suggests.
Page Six announced the news this week, revealing the admirable TV chef and author, known for her “Semi-Homemade,” posed nude wearing only pearls in support of the “New York Moves” and the inspirational women featured in the new book.Read More
According to Page Six, Lee has come a long way since her “traumatic physical surgeries,” as aside from the double mastectomy (removal of both breasts), the celebrity chef also underwent a preventative hysterectomy, the surgical removal of the uterus and, usually, the cervix.View this post on Instagram
Lee, who is the only one posing without clothing in the book, has been dubbed as a “powerhouse,” by “Moves” publisher and editor Moonah Ellison, who spoke with Page Six.
“The essence for the search… is to look for the women who make a difference for other women’s journeys… having a voice for women who don’t have a voice, and Sandra was in that space,” Ellison added.
Lee is also featured in the book alongside 200 women, including author Huma Abedin and attorney Gloria Allred.
According to a source close to Lee who also spoke with Page Six, the chef decided to pose without clothing as “she was really tired of hearing about women who feel shamed or stigma from aging, or shame in their health challenges.”
A source also told the news outlet that Lee “felt very comfortable and confident,” doing the photo shot.
Lee reportedly wanted to take part in the book shoot “for those women, who feel like they have to hide… or think they’re too old to sit for a photo nude. This photo is for them.”
Expert Body Positivity Resources
- Let’s Talk About Sex: Breast Cancer Survivor Meghan Koziel on Improving Your Sexuality & Confidence After Cancer
- How to Find Your Confidence and be Bold
- Brave, Bold, and Beautiful in the Face of Cancer — Reclaiming Confidence Through Makeup And Skincare
- These Intimate, Sexy Photographs Show Scars and More — a Powerful Message About Femininity and Beauty
At approximately seven minutes and 29-seconds into a video shared by “New York Moves” on YouTube, offering a glimpse into the book, Lee is featured in a black-and-white photo wearing only pearls and looking, with confidence, directly at the camera.
Alongside her image, and below her name, she is described as an “Emmy Award-Winning Advocate, Activists, Philanthropist and Home Life Expert.”
View this post on Instagram
Sandra’s Breast Cancer and Mastectomy
Sandra Lee was diagnosed with early breast cancer in 2015. Following her diagnosis, the first person Lee called was called Cuomo, whom she dated for 14 years, along with her mother. Luckily it the breast cancer was in the early stage DCIS (ductal carcinoma in situ), which is noninvasive, meaning it hasn’t spread outside the milk duct of the breast.
The TV personality chose to have a bilateral mastectomy to remove the breast tissue in both breasts. Lee’s grandmother had stomach cancer, and she witnessed her recurrence and didn’t want to face the same fate or be plagued with worry. Plus, with the mastectomy she didn’t have to do radiation or chemotherapy. (It is important to note that the cookbook guru also tested negative for BRCA1 and BRCA2 genetic mutations that increase your risk of breast cancer.)
“The doctor who did the biopsy said I had medium-aggressive DCIS. The concern with yours is that it’s in 3 different places. It’s at 10 o’clock, it’s at noon, and it’s at 2, and none of them are connected, so we’re going to keep an eye on you, but you’re going to have to make a decision as to what we should do,” Lee said. So she chose to remove her breasts.
She had also explained the emotional “betrayal” of her own body.
“It takes away a form of innocence that you didn’t even know you had,” she said in 2018 on Good Morning America.
“That innocence, when it’s gone, is really startling, and that is what still brings the tears after the fact. For the most part I’m really resilient, but there are times even now that I get really overwhelmed with what happened.”
Lee shared in an Instagram that she meant to have her hysterectomy after her mastectomy a few years ago, but she had “repeatedly put it off and then Covid hit.” Probably for the best, since she was already going through enough when she had her breasts removed.
Lee had complications with her surgery and unfortunately had an infection. She finally finished her breast reconstruction in 2020 and set an intention to get as healthy as possible and take control of her physical and emotional well-being, which she clearly has!
Recovery After Breast Cancer Surgery
A lot of women choose to undergo reconstructive surgery after breast cancer treatment, like Sandra Lee did, though many others choose to “go flat.” The choice is entirely up to you.
“Breast reconstruction is a restoration of a woman’s form and her sense of self and I think that’s a very rewarding part of it,” Dr. Andrea Pusic, chief of plastic surgery at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, told SurvivorNet in a previous conversation.
“…A lot of breast reconstruction is trying to erase the trauma of the mastectomy surgery, putting the cancer behind a patient, saying this is in the rear view mirror, and putting her back on track,” she added.
“I think that over time with our different techniques or reconstruction immediate reconstruction, all the new things that we’re doing we’re just getting closer and closer to that goal of allowing a woman to have had this surgery, have all her cancer surgery, but be herself again.”
Self-Acceptance and Body Image
Body image problems are not unusual, especially for so many people dealing with health challenges – whether cancer or another type of illness.
And it’s important you try to work on how you view your body because it can positively impact your emotional and physical well-being as a whole.
“Every day of our lives is really filled with uncertainty” but those facing a cancer diagnosis tend to feel that uncertainty at a more extreme level, Dr. William Breitbart, the chair of the Department of Psychology and Behavioral Sciences at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, previously told SurvivorNet.
Dr. Breitbart also said that learning to embrace that uncertainty is a part of living, not just for those fighting cancer, but for everyone.
“What the task becomes is having the courage to live in the face of uncertainty, realizing that you cannot necessarily control the uncertainty in life, like the suffering that occurs, challenges both good and bad,” Dr. Breitbart says.
“You may not be able to control those but you have control over how you choose to respond.”
Meanwhile, Dr. Marianna Strongin, a New York-based licensed clinical psychologist, also has some helpful advice. She encourages people that spending time in front of the mirror can help with body image.
Although “research has found that when looking in the mirror we are more likely to focus on the parts of our body we are dissatisfied with” which can cause “a negative self-view and lower self-esteem,” it’s important to look at the parts of your body that you love and the parts of your body that you don’t.
Eventually, Dr. Strongin says, doing so can help you create a more accepting relationship with yourself.
“Body image is both the mental picture that you have of your body and the way you feel about your body when you look in a mirror,” she said. “As you allow yourself to spend more time looking at all of you, you will begin having a new relationship with your body.”
Whether you are living with cancer or some other type of illness, it’s important to know you’re not alone if you’re having a hard time with how you view your body after receiving a diagnosis or going through treatment.
Body Positive & Cancer
There has been a major movement in the last couple of years praising all shapes, colors, and sizes of women’s bodies. This is particularly important for cancer survivors as well, especially breast cancer survivors who have had one or both of their breasts removed.
Cancer can be brutal to the human body. Along with dealing with the physical side effects of chemotherapy and other treatments, there are also the emotional blows that women and men suffer from losing their hair, organs and other body parts, along with the scarring that comes with it.
Beauty can be found in all forms. No one is perfect, and we need to learn to be proud of our battle wounds. Especially after beating a disease that is trying to take us down.
Contributing: SurvivorNet Staff