NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Sandra Lee, an Emmy Award-winning television host and Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s longtime partner, is being honored with the city’s Made in New York film award.
Her revealing documentary about her own breast cancer diagnosis and surgery received a lot of buzz at the Sundance and Tribeca film festivals.
As CBS2’s Dana Tyler reports, Lee is on a mission to raise awareness about early detection.
“My job in life is to make your life easier and better. That’s why I say I’m very good at being the First Girlfriend,” Lee told CBS2, talking about her 13-year relationship with the governor.
But the goal the 52-year-old entrepreneur, TV host, author and philanthropist has set for “making life better” is much loftier and compelling.
“Now that we talked about Andrew, can we get to breast cancer?” she joked.
Lee is front and center in the highly lauded documentary, “RX: Early Detection, A Cancer Journey With Sandra Lee.”
In 2015, she was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent a double mastectomy. She was adamant to have cameras rolling at Mount Sinai’s Dubin Breast Center to share her journey with others – from consultations and tests, to a tender pre-surgery goodbye from her partner.
It’s an uncensored look at the terrifying unknown of surgery and the day-to-day challenges of her post-op life.
Tyler: “It is raw. You take us right there, and in your decision making in just showing everything.”
Lee: “I’m only like this on camera. My whole life I live scrub. And some days are about table scrapes and decorating and all those wonderful things, and some days are about being on your knees and crying… It is naked, it is what it is.”
“I’m dealing with cancer and it’s not a pretty thing and it’s not easy to watch, but if it will help you understand it will save one life, I’m willing to do whatever it takes,” she added.
For Lee, what it took was to enlist the clout of Cuomo to enact significant legislation to make mammograms more accessible.
“In this state, we require the insurance companies to pick up the co-pays and the deductibles, it’s on them. The governors match it by leaving the clinics and the hospitals that they’re responsible for open late in the evenings and on weekends, so we accommodate your time,” she said.
Lee’s mission is now “Get Screened, No Excuses,” and getting her documentary on the national stage is part of her initiative to get this crucial word out.
“Just take the dang blueprint and implement it in your state and be the hero. And once we get enough states to fall, like with marriage equality, we will go federal and we will do our very best to save as many lives as possible,” she said. “That’s what I want to do before I start crying.”
As you can see, Lee is determined to make a difference.
She will be honored for her documentary at the Gotham Independent Film Awards on November 26 in Midtown.