Early this week, Victoria Gotti revealed to the world that she'd been waging a secret battle against breast cancer since late 2004. The Growing Up Gotti matriarch said that she was "stunned" when she learned of her condition after a routine mammogram last November, but assured fans that she had undergone successful treatment and was "100 percent well."
Gotti admitted to hiding her illness from her three sons--Carmine, John, and Frank--because "I didn't want any of the children, especially the baby, to worry themselves into a frenzy." The Star magazine reporter listed a 25-pound weight loss and severe exhaustion as side effects of her treatment.
This Wednesday, August 24, the New York Post published an article decrying Gotti's claims of sickness. "Gotti's sick cancer scam!" blared the headline, and the piece went on to insist that Gotti did not have, and had never had, breast cancer. The report suggested that her "disease" was nothing more than a publicity stunt executed to draw attention to the upcoming third season of Growing Up Gotti.
Tabloids everywhere leaped on the new story, but Gotti insists that she did not lie. "What I have is considered by most to be cancer. Noninvasive cancer," she told the hosts of ABC's Good Morning America. "If you look it up on the Internet, it is cancer."
Gotti's diagnosis was, in fact, one of "precancerous cells." While such a condition certainly warrants immediate medical attention, it does not carry the gravity of breast cancer itself. Indeed, it wasn't imperative that Gotti undergo treatment right away. "I could leave it alone and watch it, or get surgery," she said. "I chose to be aggressive and get the surgery." She also admitted, "What I had can be described as a scare."
According to Page Six, Gotti's longtime publicist Matthew Rich "quit in disgust on Monday because his best friend's mother had died of breast cancer... Rich was said to be revolted that Victoria would promote the third season of Growing Up Gotti by making up such a tearful tall tale." When questioned, Rich stated, "Using a horrible disease to promote a TV show is appalling to me."
"Every day since this happened, people have been asking me, 'Well, do you have cancer? Or is it not?'" Gotti said. "There's no easy way to explain that. It is the illness. You have to look it up to understand it."
Geri Baris, president of the Long Island Breast Cancer Action Coalition, reminds us that although Gotti's condition was not grave, "she did the right thing. We want as many people as possible to understand that early detection, however scary, gives us the opportunity to deal with something before it becomes cancer."