On the opening of Sandra Lee’s new documentary, she confronts her personal harsh, new actuality.
“You even have breast cancer. Cancer,” the 52-year-old says, sounding incredulous.
“That phrase will put the concern of God in you such as you’ve by no means felt earlier than. However you don’t understand what that appears like inside your physique till it’s about you.”
In “RX: Early Detection — A Cancer Journey with Sandra Lee,” premiering Monday on HBO, the “Semi-Do-it-yourself” chef goals to make the viewer share her expertise as carefully as doable.
Lee, the de facto first girl of New York, was recognized with an early type of breast cancer in 2015, following a routine mammogram. That’s when she determined to have a digital camera chronicle her harrowing journey, together with a double mastectomy, and the instant aftermath.
The result’s a low-production, high-impact advert for early breast-cancer screening.
Lee lets the filmmakers present her at her most susceptible moments as she searches for medical doctors, seeks out the best therapies and questions consultants about why the vicious illness selected her, somebody whose household historical past wouldn’t appear to predispose her to breast cancer. (Though, her great-grandmother did have breast cancer.)
At one level, she expresses eagerness to eliminate her breasts and mitigate the possibility of the cancer spreading. In spite of everything, she felt fortunate her medical doctors caught it after they did.
“For those who’re not in the fitting place on the proper time and also you don’t catch it, it’s the scariest illness,” she says.
It additionally could also be among the many least glamorous. This documentary forgoes any try to fairly up the proceedings. There’s no flattering lighting—simply the stripped-down, medical actuality of medical doctors’ workplaces and hospital rooms.
Lee constructed a cookbook empire on the premise that one might create a home-run meal by beginning on second base, combining recent objects with store-bought ones like canned mushroom soup and business tomato sauce. As this documentary makes clear, there are not any shortcuts to treating cancer — however there could be nice leaps of religion. A number of the most surprising scenes observe Lee’s painstaking choice to have a double mastectomy.
The cameras observe her into the working room, and proceed to run at the same time as medical doctors take away Lee’s breast tissue.
A post-surgery scene isn’t any much less ugly, as she reveals the bloody drains coming from her chest. At one level, she suffers a brutal coughing match. Even so, Lee finds peace with her choice as soon as she speaks to her medical doctors.
“They mentioned they discovered extra cancer after they had been in there that wasn’t recognized within the mammograms, so I did the fitting factor in taking every part out,” she says.
“I do know that that’s true, however I don’t really feel excellent proper now.”
The movie additionally affords a glimpse into her decade-long relationship with Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who accompanies a crying Lee into the working room.
As soon as inside, he declares to the medical doctors and nurses, “I’m Andrew. I’m answerable for ethical help.” He then offers Lee a pep discuss and tells her how a lot he loves her.
There are lighter moments, too.
On the morning of her surgical procedure, Lee and Cuomo argue over lasagna — a controversial subject courting again to 2010, when Cuomo’s mom, Matilda, trashed Lee’s household recipe.
“Let’s not increase the lasagna dialog,” he says to the digital camera. Lee recounts how her sister Kimber introduced a dish of lasagna that he known as “meat casserole.”
“It was not a lasagna,” he insists, including, “Good. However totally different.”
Lee’s personal story comes full circle when, just a few months after her surgical procedure, she makes her first public look on the 2015 Emmys in a blush ball robe with a plunging neckline. (She later had reconstructive surgical procedure.)
“I purchased this gown three years in the past in London, and I might by no means match into it as a result of I had too large of boobs,” she says. “And now that I don’t have a prime, I can put on my gown, so I’m very, very completely happy.”
That September she appeared on “Good Morning America” to declare herself cancer-free.
“Early detection,” she says, “is every part.”