The TV chef turned 50 on July 3, marking her first birthday since beating breast cancer last year -- and she's living it up as such.
"My girl gang and my guy gang threw me a 50th birthday party that was really awesome and I had a fantastic time and it was fun. And I will be celebrating 50 all year round. I have stuff planned all year," she told AOL in an exclusive interview.
A photo posted by Sandra Lee (@sandraleeonline) on
Lee revealed her diagnosis in May 2015 and underwent a double mastectomy the same week. She announced she was cancer-free five months later in September. Lee admits she was "very, very, very lucky" to have caught the cancer early, but it was all thanks to frequent screenings as a result of her family medical history.
She was also lucky to have a sister who stayed with her throughout her treatment and a supportive family at home. But throughout her treatment, the former "Semi-Homemade with Sandra Lee" star dreamt of all the things she wanted to do when she was cancer-free.
"I had something to focus on other than just being sick, which I think you need a little bit. You need your brain to take a little bit of a rest from the feeling of being overwhelmed when you are sick because it's overwhelming," she said.
Some of those "dreams" culminated in a major fundraising effort involving Mastercard cardholders. Lee recently teamed up with Mastercard for a dine-out program to raise $4 million for Stand Up To Cancer. From now until Aug. 19, when cardholders use their MasterCard and spend $10 or more when dining out or taking away, MasterCard will make a donation to SU2C now through August 19. Lee helped to create unique culinary experiences throughout the country.
"I asked myself -- what do I really want to do when I get out of here? What do I want to do when I'm not required to be sitting around? What are the things that I would say are priceless?" Lee said. "So I would just dream them up and create these amazing unique packages for Mastercard to put on their website to allow their cardholders to access them and to purchase them for a special occasion."
See photos of Sandra Lee through the years:
LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 20: Chef Sandra Lee attends the 67th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards at Microsoft Theater on September 20, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 12: Governor Andrew Cuomo and Sandra Lee leave Mount Sinai Roosevelt Hospital on August 12, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by James Devaney/GC Images)
NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 18: Chef Sandra Lee attends the 'Danny Collins' New York premiere at AMC Lincoln Square Theater on March 18, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images)
Update: Sandra says that waking up is the toughest part of the day. #BreastCancerAwareness http://t.co/czGZsc7t5e
Update: Day three was harder on Sandra. The nurses call it the "hit by a truck" day. #breastcancerawareness http://t.co/79u0dUxN6a
1 small step for Sandra, one giant step for all women who have been impacted by breast cancer. #BreastCancerAwareness http://t.co/QQNd3SfaZv
I woke up to a gorgeous bouquet from my college roommate! She knows I love white flowers. 💐
By my side ❤️
MT KISCO, NY - MAY 25: Sandra Lee returns to her home in Mount Kisco, New York after checking out of New York City hospital on May 25, 2015. (Photo by James Devaney/GC Images)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 22: Honoree Sandra Lee speaks on stage during the 2015 Housing Works Groundbreaker Awards at Metropolitan Pavilion on April 22, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Gary Gershoff/Getty Images for Housing Works)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 27: Chef Sandra Lee attends the 88th Annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade on November 27, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Michael Stewart/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 04: Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Sandra Lee and family on stage after Andrew Cuomo won re-election for a second term, at the Sheraton on November 4, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Steve Sands/Getty Images)
MT KISCO, NY - NOVEMBER 04: New York State Governor, Andrew Cuomo (R), speaks while his girlfriend, television personality Sandra Lee, looks on during the 2014 general election at the Presbyterian Church of Mount Kisco on November 4, 2014 in Mt Kisco, New York. (Photo by Kenneth Gabrielsen/Getty Images)
Sandra Lee (L) and actress Judith Light arrive to attend the Elton John AIDS Foundation's 13th Annual An Enduring Vision Benefit on October 28, 2014 in New York. AFP PHOTO/Jewel Samad (Photo credit should read JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 11: New York Governor Andrew Cuomo (L) and and his girlfriend Sandra Lee talk during memorial observances held at the site of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2014 in New York City. This year marks the 13th anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people at the World Trade Center, Pentagon and on Flight 93. (Photo by Mark Lennihan-Pool/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 05: Sandra Lee attends the 'Charles James: Beyond Fashion' Costume Institute Gala at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 5, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Larry Busacca/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 25: TV Personality Sandra Lee attends the 2014 Variety Power Of Women: New York Luncheon at Cipriani 42nd Street on April 25, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Desiree Navarro/WireImage)
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 15: Sandra Lee attends the Elton John AIDS Foundation's 12th Annual An Enduring Vision Benefit at Cipriani Wall Street on October 15, 2013 in New York City. (Photo by D Dipasupil/FilmMagic)
TODAY -- Pictured: (l-r) Savannah Guthrie and Sandra Lee appear on NBC News' 'Today' show -- (Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 22: Sandra Lee arrives at the 65th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards at Nokia Theatre L.A. Live on September 22, 2013 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jon Kopaloff/FilmMagic)
LATE NIGHT WITH JIMMY FALLON -- Episode 816 -- Pictured: (l-r) Sandra Lee with host Jimmy Fallon on April 10, 2013 -- (Photo by: Lloyd Bishop/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
WEST HOLLYWOOD, CA - FEBRUARY 24: TV personality Sandra Lee attends the 21st Annual Elton John AIDS Foundation Academy Awards Viewing Party at West Hollywood Park on February 24, 2013 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by Jason Kempin/Getty Images for EJAF)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 24: Sandra Lee attends the TIME 100 Gala, TIME'S 100 Most Influential People In The World, cocktail party at Jazz at Lincoln Center on April 24, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by Fernando Leon/Getty Images for TIME)
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Even though Lee is willing to indulge a little this year (even biting into a Big Mac for the first time in two years), her diagnosis changed the way she views and approaches food. For one, she had to quit coffee "for a very long time" -- but she also became more cognizant of food labeling.
"I understand a lot more about what organic means, which is not much. And I was always a very healthy eater. I would always love my broccoli and my asparagus and my greens, but just because you're eating all of those things doesn't mean it's necessarily good for you if they're all covered in pesticides and chemicals," she said.
But it can be hard giving up tasty treats. The one thing she misses most?
"I used to eat a lot of Pop Tarts. I love Pop Tarts. Not the sugar coated ones, just the regular pastry with the strawberry, no icing. But that was my comfort food go-to when my grandma was alive. I just love Pop Tarts," she said.
The chef, who is known for her "semi-homemade" cooking, which incorporates packaged foods, says that her newfound revelations about food would definitely factor into how she presents cooking in the future, should she decide to have another cooking show.
"I might add some things to it, add some options. For example, you can make something really incredible with white cake box mix. Instead of water you could use lemonade or limeade or cranberry juice or blackberry juice or whatever you want to change the flavor of a basic white cake. You can use champagne. But you can also substitute it with yogurt. So I would probably give you more options."
Check out the full, curated list of culinary experiences on Priceless.com, including a birthday cake designed and delivered by Sandra herself.