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Celebrities Share Their Breast Cancer Survival Stories

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Sandra Lee

Celebrities Share Their Breast Cancer Survival Stories

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October 24, 2018

By Joanne Rosa

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and The Wendy Show has been honoring breast cancer survivors all month. Co-hosts that survived breast cancer were our special ‘Eye Candy of the Day’ and shared their inspiring stories of survival. If you follow Wendy on Instagram, Wendy’s been shouting out to celebrity breast cancer survivors for #WomanCrushWednesday. Now it’s time to hear their stories.

Robin Roberts

Robin Roberts

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Good Morning America‘s Robin Roberts is all smiles as she anchors weekday mornings, but she wasn’t smiling when making a life changing on air announcement over 10 years ago. In August 2007, Robin told America she was diagnosed with an early form of breast cancer. It was important to Robin that viewers heard the news from her and no one else.

As any professional journalist would, Robin continued to work while seeking treatment. After Robin’s initial surgery to remove her cancerous tumor, she went from the studio to chemotherapy and radiation treatments. It was all worth it because Robin beat her cancer. Five years later, Robin developed a rare blood disease called, myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS).

Robin showed the world what it meant to be strong when she was at her most vulnerable. She shaved her hair off on national television, removed her wig, and let viewers see her during a chemotherapy treatment. However, sharing her experience battling breast cancer with the world wasn’t always something she wanted to do. Fourteen months after revealing her diagnosis, Robin told KMBC what she was going through behind the scenes of her diagnosis. “I didn’t want to [tell my story] the moment I was diagnosed. ‘I am going to go on national TV and tell people my story!’ You know, no. I didn’t want to do that. It comes in time if you’re patient, persistent, and just patient. You’ll find out why.”

Last year, Robin commemorated 10 years since sharing her news of her breast cancer diagnosis by launching “Advanced Breast Cancer: Courage Comfort and Care with Robin Roberts” on WebMD. Now, Robin is “strong like a bull,” and back to doing Pilates, cycling, and feeling clearheaded. “I just love that I feel like myself again. It took quite a few years… Chemo brain is not a myth, it’s a reality.”

Wanda Sykes

Wanda Sykes

David Livingston/Getty Images

In February 2011, Wanda Sykes underwent surgery to get her triple-D breasts reduced, something she wanted for a while. A routine tissue sample was sent out following the surgery. Even with a family history of breast cancer, Wanda couldn’t believe the results she received. “It tested positive for DCIS,” Wanda told People magazine. She had the early stages of a noninvasive breast cancer called ductal carcinoma in situ.

Wanda’s DCIS allowed for options regarding treatment, but she had one concern. “I was going to do whatever it took to reduce my chances of getting an invasive cancer.” With her doctor’s confirmed recommendation Wanda scheduled a bilateral mastectomy.

Surgery was just the beginning of her uphill battle with breast cancer. Looking at her scars everyday caused a great deal of mental distress, including feelings of depression. Things started looking better and looking up after a second surgery removed dead tissue.

Now, Wanda feels great knowing that she doesn’t have to worry about whether it’s coming back. In true Wanda style, she has a sense of humor about it too. “Before I would get in the pool and just… sink,” Wanda told Dr. Oz in 2015. “After the doctor did surgery, I got in the pool and I was like… now I can swim!”

Sandra Lee

Sandra Lee

Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images

Earlier this month, celebrity chef Sandra Lee stopped by the purple couch to chat with Wendy. It was the same Sandra Lee that we’ve grown to know and adore, but this time something was different. She’d been aggressively battling breast cancer.

The last time Sandra Lee was on the show, she was showing us some recipes while Wendy asked about her 12 year relationship with NY governor, Andrew Cuomo. Meanwhile, Sandra knew she had breast cancer and couldn’t tell anyone. “I didn’t know what I would do, and I didn’t know how to deal with it at that time. I just wanted to get through my day and compartmentalize… I would leave [studios] and go to my doctors appointments and try to figure out how I was going to deal with this diagnosis.”

Since Sandra’s family didn’t have a history of breast cancer. She went in for her annual mammogram, annoyed that the radiologist kept her longer than usual. Little did Sandra know there was something unusual with her mammogram, and a biopsy had to be done. The results came back positive for early stage ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) breast cancer.

Sandra’s doctors explained radiation would be the second best option to getting a bilateral mastectomy. Knowing the side effects of radiation, Sandra chose surgery. “I wasn’t going to count the percentages every year,” Sandra told OncLive. “I wasn’t going to live my life wondering when and if, and so I made a very clear decision.”

Every doctor and every woman who has been effected by cancer in some way will tell you that early detection is the leading method to increasing your chances of beating breast cancer. Sandra wanted her uphill journey with breast cancer to be seen by the public. “The biggest thing I can do is really show people what it looks like to go through this so they walk in with open eyes—which I did not have.” In HBO’s RX: Early Detection — A Cancer Journey with Sandra Lee nothing was off limits, because cancer doesn’t have limits. Sandra knew people would never look at her the same after this documentary, but knew it would be worth it to save just one life.

RX: Early Detection — A Cancer Journey with Sandra Lee is available on demand on HBO until November 12th.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus

Julia Louis-Dreyfus

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Thirteen months ago, Julia Louis-Dreyfus was given the Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series award at the Emmys. Nearly 12 hours later, she was given her breast cancer diagnosis. This month, she was given the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor.

At 57 years old, Julia took on breast cancer with the help of as many friends and family as she could have with her. “When I was getting my hideous chemotherapy, I’d cram a bunch of family and friends into this tiny treatment room with me, and we really did have some great laughs,” Julia said during her American Humor acceptance speech. “I was heavily medicated and slipping in and out of consciousness, so I was probably a pretty easy audience, but my point is that laughter is a basic human need, along with love and food… There’s no situation — none — that isn’t improved with a couple of laughs. Everybody needs laughs.”

When she’s not laughing, Julia is raising awareness and funding for breast cancer with Saks Fifth Avenue. Julia is this year’s ambassador for Saks’ Key to the Cure initiative. All proceeds from the purchase of this t-shirt designed by Carolina Herrera and Wes Gordon go to charity.

Julia is cancer-free, and shared some words of wisdom with Extra to those who are fighting their own battles with breast cancer. “Keep fighting. Keep up the good fight because you will get through it.”

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