Watch CBS News

Sandra Lee, TV Chef & Gov. Cuomo's Partner, Has Breast Cancer

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- She's well known for her books, TV cooking show and her romance with Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Now Sandra Lee is also known for her courage.

The Food Network star and Cuomo's longtime girlfriend has revealed she has breast cancer and will undergo a double mastectomy.

During a tearful interview on ABC's "Good Morning America" that aired Tuesday, Lee told Robin Roberts, who is a breast cancer survivor, that she received the diagnosis on March 27 during a photo shoot for People magazine's Most Beautiful issue.

"I walked off the set and 20 minutes later my doctor called and told me I have breast cancer," Lee said. "I just was stunned, I didn't even cry, I was stunned. You know, and that's just how fast life turns, it turns on a dime."

Lee said she initially had a lumpectomy, but it wasn't enough. Her doctor described her as a "ticking time bomb" and recommended the double mastectomy. She is expected to undergo surgery this week.

Sandra Lee, Gov. Cuomo's Longtime Girlfriend, Reveals She Has Breast Cancer

More and more women like Angelina Jolie and Rita Wilson have been choosing a double mastectomy, CBS2's Carolyn Gusoff reported.

Dr. George Raptis at North Shore LIJ credits reconstruction techniques that have dramatically improved over the last decade.

"Even some physicians have a hard time recognizing that the breast that is reconstructed is actually not the natural breast," Raptis told Gusoff.

Counselors at the Adelphi Breast Cancer Hotline applaud Lee's difficult decision to go public and so has Cuomo, Gusoff reported.

Lee said Cuomo has been "extremely supportive" and will be in the operating room with her.

"After I called my sister, he was the next call," Lee said. "I think he was as stunned as I was."

Cuomo said he was devastated after receiving the news and will be taking personal time to support Lee.

"Sandy is young for her diagnosis, she has no family history, she is healthy and had no symptoms or signals that she was in danger," Cuomo said in a statement released Tuesday. "She has been diligent about going for check-ups and thankfully this was detected in the early stages.

"A situation like this quickly puts life in the proper perspective and reminds one of what's truly important. 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."

"With heartfelt gratitude for your kind wishes and support, Sandy and I hope and pray to bring you good news of her strong recovery soon," Cuomo said.

Sandra Lee, Gov. Cuomo's Longtime Girlfriend, Reveals She Has Breast Cancer

Lee wanted to go public with her diagnosis to help raise awareness about early detection, Cuomo told reporters during an appearance on Long Island Tuesday.

"Early detection matters, I believe the early detection could very well have saved Sandy's life," Cuomo said, adding that the diagnosis put life in perspective. "To me it's just another reminder, one phone call can change your life...I lost my father in January, this situation with Sandy it reframes everything."

Lee, 48, noted that if she had waited until the recommended age of 50 to get a mammogram, she probably wouldn't be alive.

"Without early detection on my side, I could be telling a very different story -- or not be here to tell it at all," Lee said in a statement posted on Twitter."Your best weapon in fighting this disease is to get your mammogram every year."

She said all women, even in their 20s, should have regular exams.

Mayor Bill de Blasio expressed support to Lee and Cuomo in a statement Tuesday.

"It takes enormous courage to face a diagnosis like this, and still more to share it in the hopes of helping others," de Blasio said. "It's a testament to her strength and compassion that she has stepped forward, and we admire her deeply for it. We know their family is strong, and that Sandy will have the all the love, support and good humor she could need in this moment."

De Blasio is urging New Yorkers to schedule a free or low-cost mammogram by calling 311 or visiting

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.