Proud to Shed Pounds
- Chef and TV personality Sandra Lee, 54, is publicly sharing her weight-loss battle after a rough 2020 during the pandemic.
- The cancer survivor beat early stage breast cancer in 2015 and decided to have a bilateral mastectomy, removing her breast tissue.
- A leading expert talks about the two options women have with early stage breast cancer: a lumpectomy or mastectomy.
The chef, who has also graced The Food Network and HGTV with her on-screen recipes, is a breast cancer survivor.Read More
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In January, Lee said she was making her health a priority after a not-so-great 2020, along with the rest of the world.
“Personally over the last year I gained 30 pounds and weighed in at 170 two days before Christmas,” she wrote. “None of my clothes fit and worse I feel terrible.”
First to go on her diet? Alcohol and red meat. And the TV personality had aimed to load up on veggies. So far, it seems her “get healthy” plan has worked. Despite saying she has another 10 to go, she’s looking healthy in her sleek gym clothes.
Breast Cancer and a Mastectomy
Lee, who is the ex-girlfriend of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, was diagnosed with early breast cancer in 2015. Her partner, whom she dated for 14 years, was the first person she called, along with her mother. Luckily it was early stage DCIS (ductal carcinoma in situ), which is noninvasive, which means 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 author 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 has 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 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 had complications with her surgery and unfortunately had an infection. She finally finished her breast reconstruction in 2020. So it makes sense that she is finally getting her fresh start with her new body now that she is over that chapter.
Options for an Early-Stage Breast Cancer Diagnosis
With early stage breast cancers (Lee’s was a stage 0), women are fortunate to be able to have an option with how they want to approach surgery.
Dr. Ann Partridge, an oncologist at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, tells SurvivorNet about the two options.
“So when I talk to a woman who comes to me and she has breast cancer, I evaluate what the standard options for treatment for her are, which typically include cutting out the cancer, which is either a lumpectomy—if you can get it all with just a little scooping around of the area that’s abnormal—or a mastectomy for some women, meaning taking the full breast because sometimes these lesions can be very extensive in the breast.” Dr. Partridge explains. “And I’ll talk to a woman about that and I’ll say these are two main options or the big fork in the road.”
Infections are infrequent, but they can happen. So it is important to be aware of the possible repercussions, though many women report having easier experiences.
Then, you have the choice to get reconstruction or not.
Survivor Laura Morton tells SurvivorNet about her silver lining: new breasts.
“I always tell people that I no longer have my original factory parts. But I do have 25-year-old boobs in a 54-year-old body,” she says proudly. “And the silver lining was that I got lipo out of the deal, because they used my own fat to build cleavage and put in around the implants. I got a twofer, it was great.”
She notes how strange it is going through this process, because ultimately, everybody’s looking at your breasts.
“And everybody’s touching your boobs, and everybody wants to see your boobs,” she says. “I went to restaurants with friends, who were like, can we go in the bathroom? Will you show me your boobs? And we did, you know. Because, frankly, they look really good. And so, you know, I’m OK showing it off.”