You may know Sandra Lee as the fantastic, food-loving and award-winning host of "Semi-Homemade" (and not to mention the author of 27 books), but she’s also a down-to-earth gal who never even expected to be in food.
"Originally, I wanted to do Home and Garden TV, but I ended up writing a cookbook because people told me I couldn’t, and ended up wanting to show recipes or tips with only what’s available and what do you already have in your home... I was raised on welfare and food stamps so I wanted to focus on what people could actually do," explains Sandra.
In 2015, she was diagnosed with breast cancer — and her life changed, as Rach says, "as dramatically as anyone's can."
And Sandra recounted to us the exact moment that it did.
At 5 p.m. on a Friday, Sandra was in full hair and makeup after a photoshoot, in a cab to dinner with her best friend in downtown NYC. As she was gazing at 1 World Trade, she says, she got a call from her doctor.
“The phone rings, and the doctor says, 'I wanted you to know that all three places in one side of your breast are malignant. And you have breast cancer.'”
Totally unprepared, scared and looking for information, she got online—as so many of us would—thinking, “I need to know everything and I need to know right now.” While she couldn’t find the information she wanted, a new production employee had just come on board and advised her to tape everything so she could remember and reference what the doctors were saying.
Throughout the process, which included a double mastectomy, the footage was all shot on a tiny camera with, as Sandra says, “no lighting, no sound packs [or] cinematography.”
Today, it’s a powerful and gut-wrenching HBO documentary called "Rx: Early Detection, A Cancer Journey With Sandra Lee," that takes viewers up close and personal through Sandra’s journey.
(Watch a clip in the video above.)
"People see me in a very specific light, with hair and make-up but that’s a job requirement for being on TV... It was liberating to not worry about how I looked or what I said and I wouldn’t change anything," she says of the experience.
The intimate film features her close-knit support network, including her sister, Kimber, and her partner, Governor Andrew Cuomo, who, she says, has changed laws in New York, so that women can access free early detection screenings.
He’s also, as he says in the documentary clip above, “in charge of moral support.”
"I couldn’t have done this without Andrew," says Sandra.
As a cancer survivor, Sandra is now devoted to providing all the information she possibly can to others, and we're in awe of her bravery and strength.?
As for her new life motto, well, the T-shirt she was wearing says it all: “I just want to rescue dogs and drink wine.” (Rach got one, too, along with some vino and wine glasses!)
"When your life changes," Sandra tells us, "your priorities change."
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