Hundreds of women gathered Thursday at Proctors for the 22nd annual Women’s Night Out to Benefit Bellevue Woman’s Center.
Each year, the event kicks off breast cancer awareness month, drawing in more than 500 women for an evening of education, shopping and dining with friends and family. Annually, the event raises more than $80,000 to support the programs and services at Bellevue. This year the keynote speaker was multi-Emmy and Gracie Award winner Sandra Lee.
Best known until recently as a celebrity chef and girlfriend of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Lee is now also a high-profile advocate for breast cancer awareness.
She was diagnosed with cancer in May, which she shortly thereafter announced to “Good Morning America” host Robin Roberts, herself a cancer survivor. Lee’s diagnosis after going in for just a routine checkup came as a complete surprise to her.
Familiar with the checkup process, she realized something was wrong when the technician kept using different devices she had never seen before to examine her. Although the news she received was devastating, she decided to take action quickly.
“I went to three of the best doctors in New York City,” said Lee. After getting those three different opinions, she decided to get a double mastectomy. She shared her journey with cancer very publicly in hopes of helping women take more control of their own destiny and learn how to find the right medical help to make the best decisions.
Lee says awareness saves lives.
“I know multiple women who have gone in and gotten breast exams since I have been communicating about it. A few of them have breast cancer, but it was caught early and I feel really good about that.”
The event kicked off with a panel discussion on early detection and treatment, which backed up with statistics the belief Lee expressed in early detection.
Dr. Sara Raymond, a radiologist at Bellevue Woman’s Center, brought positive news to the panel, reporting that breast cancer mortality has dropped 35 percent because early detection. In addition, she shared that 3D mammography technology will be coming to the Schenectady area soon.
“This is a real medical imaging breakthrough,” she said.
Taking the stage with clear intention, Lee seemed to touch the heart of the audience members and spread a feeling of hope and inspiration that would linger after the event ended.
Some in the audience seemed surprised at the facts and statistics offered by the panel, but most seemed emotional and inspired about the story offered by Lee.
“Tonight is about coming together with the community and making sure we are all healthy,” she said, reminding women that cancer prevention begins with annual checkups.
“In 100 years, it’s not going to matter that I told my story or that it was all over social media. What’s going to matter is the one girl or the many girls whose lives that we saved are now great-grandparents and their daughters and sons are now telling their story.”