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For Cuomo, state fair visit gets personal

Ellen Abbott
Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaking with breast cancer survivor Judy Rice, of North Syracuse.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo made his yearly visit to the New York State Fair yesterday. Between the sausage sandwiches and glad-handing, the Democrat made one stop that was profoundly personal.

It was just in front of the International Building that Cuomo, flanked by politicians, security and the media, heard the voice of Judy Rice of North Syracuse.

"How’s your girlfriend?” shouted out Rice.

“She’s doing better, thanks for asking,” replied Cuomo

But then Rice added, “I’m a three-time survivor.” And with that Cuomo broke from his entourage and opened his arms to commiserate about a disease that hits home for him. His partner Sandra Lee has had two surgeries since being diagnosed with breast cancer diagnosis in the spring.

Credit Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

“I have such respect for what you went through,” Cuomo told Rice. “Because I’m living proof that it’s not fast, and it’s emotionally tough and physically tough.”

Rice says she never expected Cuomo to react the way he did, and is thankful he understands what women with the disease are going through.

"And that we do need mammograms and we need an advocate to help us all. Because cancer doesn’t pick color race, anything.  If it’s your turn, it’s your turn," said Rice.

After a long, teary hug, Cuomo and Rice offered support to each other as they fight a disease that strikes 15,000 women a year in New York state.

“God doesn’t give you nothing you can’t deal with,” said Rice.

“That is exactly right, but I now know how hard it is,” Cuomo said.

“She’s in my prayers, ever since I heard,” said Rice. “God bless.”


“Be strong,” said the governor.

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.