Sandra Lee was one of the most popular stars of the Food Network as the star of the Semi-Homemade series of shows where she used practiced techniques to create delicious food, drinks, and design ideas for home cooks by using half homemade items and half store bought.
But in March 2015 her world turned upside down when she was diagnosed with breast cancer following a routine mammogram.
She chose to film her journey as one of the most challenging experiences of her life for an HBO film titled Rx: Early Detection, A Cancer Journey With Sandra Lee.
Lee filmed her doctors’ visits as she decided how to proceed with treatment, eventually capturing on camera her double mastectomy, the grueling days that followed in the hospital, her recovery, reconstructive surgery, and subsequent efforts to start raising awareness for early detection.
In all, the film encapsulated seven months of her treatment and recovery.
Lee undertook the project not with the intent of sharing it with viewers, but for her own personal use.
“I don’t even know if I have a documentary,” she noted, as reported by Entertainment Weekly of the raw footage.
“I don’t know what’s on [the tapes]. I was drugged out; I could’ve said anything,” she said to Sheila Nevins of HBO.
“She looked at me and said, ‘Are you sure you wanna do this? Because you’ve built a brand on everything being pretty and perfect always.’ But that’s not reality. Reality is, life is messy, and these things happen,” Lee noted to EW.
Lee then decided that her journey might inspire other women who were enduring the same life trauma and chose to release what would eventually be a scary, raw, and very real documentary of life as a cancer patient and survivor.
“It was time for me to get on the gurney, and I looked at them…. I walked up the corridor — you’re not supposed to walk into the operating room — and I thought, ‘You know what, I’m not a victim.’ And to me, getting on that table when I’m perfectly capable of walking in or to have to sit in a wheelchair to be wheeled out of the hospital to go home — I wasn’t doing either one of those things. I was going to walk with my head help up, and that was my ‘F you, cancer,'” she shared in the interview.
Rx: Early Detection, A Cancer Journey With Sandra Lee is currently available to view on HBO.