Overcoming cancer and inspiring othersLas Vegas is called “The Entertainment Capital of the World,” and Toni Lee is part of that legacy. She is the director of production for On Stage Enterprises, which owns all of the “Legends in Concert” shows nationally including the residency show at the Flamingo Las Vegas.
A Las Vegas resident since 1994, Lee has always been a performer and started dancing at the age of 3. “I always wanted to be in show business as a dancer, singer and actress.” As director of production, she oversees all of the shows including lighting, staging, costumes, selection of songs, choreography and other aspects of the production.
She is also a patient of Comprehensive Cancer Centers of Nevada, overcoming cancer and using new technology for her continued good health.
Lee was originally diagnosed with breast cancer in 2007 after finding a lump during self-examination at home. “My mother flew here, and along with my best friend and my husband, we were together when I called the doctor. He didn’t want to tell me over the phone, but I told him that I needed to know, and he told me the diagnosis. I was shocked. I thought this would never happen to me. My immediate feeling was that I was going to die, and ‘What am I going to do?’” she explained. Lee and her husband just adopted a new puppy, and she was afraid she would not see the dog grow up.
After a sleepless night and getting ready to see the doctor after her diagnosis, Lee decided that she was going to fight for her health and ultimately her life by staying strong and positive. “This is what I have been doing since then.” However, she does admit that the fear never really goes away either.
To combat the cancer, she had six rounds of chemotherapy, followed by a lumpectomy and 36 rounds of radiation treatment.
In 2008, she tested positive for the BRCA gene—meaning she inherited mutated genes that make her more likely to develop breast cancer.
“I never thought I would have this gene because my mother and grandparents have diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and heart disease,” she explained. “I was working on not being diagnosed with those medical problems and never imagined in a million years I would have the gene because no one else in my family had it.” Ironically, after Lee’s positive test, her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer and was also tested for the BRCA gene with a positive result.
In October 2008, Lee had a total hysterectomy, and she is currently contemplating a double mastectomy.
“This is probably the best thing for me to do. There are days when I am ready to go forward, call the doctor and set a date. Then I back out. It has to be the right time, and I don’t know if it will ever be the right time, but I just can’t do it,” she said.
Giving back, Lee raises money for the R.E.D. Rose program, which offers screening and diagnostic mammograms for qualified uninsured or underinsured patients age 49 or younger. Lee volunteers for the Susan G. Komen foundation including public speaking. She is a pacesetter for the American Cancer Society, which means Lee collects over $2,500 in donations a year for research.
She sees her breast surgeon, Dr. Josette E. Spotts, and her oncologist, Dr. Mary Ann Allison, regularly to stay on top of the possibility of any cancer returning with mammograms and examinations. She encourages all women to get tested for early detection and be proactive with health. With her spirit, Toni Lee demonstrates that she is a Fearless Female.