Beauty from Ashes

Beauty from Ashes

By Karen Wilkinson, RN, NHA, CLNC – CareerSmart® Learning Contributor

Sandra Lee was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2015, and underwent a lumpectomy and double mastectomy.  The diagnosis was stunning.  She was under 50 years of age at the time, and did not have a family history of the disease.   Lee is widely known for her popular television show, “Semi-Homemade Cooking with Sandra Lee”, but she is also the longtime partner of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.  During her journey through successful cancer treatment, he was by her side.

In a recent interview on Good Morning America with Robin Roberts, also a breast cancer survivor, Lee talked about the difficulty in finding information about what to expect following her diagnosis of breast cancer, and her desire to help educate others who face the same situation.  To that end, she allowed filming during her nine months of treatment so that women and their families can see the reality of the journey.  Lee calls the documentary “a tool for people who have gone through it, who have it or who will have it,” as well as “a tool for their family to know how to take care of and deal with and understand.”[1]  Her new documentary, “RX: Early Detection –  A Cancer Journey With Sandra Lee” will premiere on HBO October 8, 2018, during Breast Cancer Awareness month.

Can there be beauty from the ashes of breast cancer?  Yes.  Besides Lee’s public transparency and her documentary that will help others walking the same path, Governor Cuomo has also been instrumental in ensuring access to early breast cancer screenings.  In 2016, legislation supported by Cuomo was adopted in New York that eliminates annual deductibles, co-pays and co-insurance for all screening mammograms, and also extends hours of operation at mammography facilities state-wide.[2]  Lee calls this legislation, “no dime, and it’s your time,” emphasizing the fact that women should not have to choose between paying for a mammogram instead of paying for household expenses or buying food; and, working women should not be required to interrupt their work day to have a screening mammogram.  She urges all governors to consider such legislation.[3]

Women in the United States have a 1 in 8 lifetime risk of a breast cancer diagnosis.[4]  Although breast cancer can produce symptoms, many women with early breast cancer have no symptoms.  The American Cancer Society (ACS) recommends screening for early detection so that cancer can be found before it has spread, making successful treatment easier.  The early screening tools have not changed:  regular mammograms, breast self-exams and clinical breast exams.  Currently, ACS recommends women at average risk for breast cancer start optional annual mammogram screening between ages 40-44, and annual mammogram screening between ages 45-54.  Women 55 and older can choose yearly or every other year screenings if they are in good health.  ACS recommends women at high risk should have a mammogram and an MRI every year, usually starting at age 30.[5]

You may also be interested in:

[1],3 Kindelan, K. via GMA. (2018).  Sandra Lee reveals why she let cameras film her battle with breast cancer for new HBO documentary.  Retrieved from

[2] New York State. Governor Andrew M. Cuomo. (2016). Governor Cuomo, Majority Leader Flanagan and Speaker Heastie Announce Ageement on New Legislation to Improve Access to and Coverage for Breast Cancer Screening.  Retrieved from

[4] American Cancer Society. (2013). Breast Cancer Facts & Figures 2017-2018.  Retrieved from

[5] American Cancer Society. (2017). American Cancer Society Recommendations for the Early Detection of Breast Cancer.  Retrieved from

October 21, 2020

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