Victoria Gotti's Cancer Scandal
Getting to Bottom of Gotti
by Joal Ryan
Aug 24, 2005, 2:05 PM PT
Reality shows don't always keep it real. And, apparently, neither do reality stars.
Growing Up Gotti star Victoria Gotti has a lot of explaining to do after she told a newspaper she was battling breast cancer, when she sort of wasn't.
Gotti's media misadventure began Sunday when the New York Daily News ran with a front-page "exclusive" about the crime-family scion's "health crisis." In it, the 42-year-old Gotti disclosed she was diagnosed with breast cancer last November. "I lost 25 pounds," she told the paper. "I was so exhausted. I could barely lift my arms. My producers were asking questions."
A day later, others were asking questions when Gotti told CNBC's The Big Idea with Donny Deutsch that, if one wanted to be technical about it, she had experienced what "can be described as a scare" with precancerous cells.
On Wednesday's Good Morning America, Gotti expounded on her condition. "What I have is considered by most to be cancer," she said on the ABC show. "They refer to it as noninvasive cancer."
According to the Stanford Cancer Center's Website, noninvasive breast cancer actually is breast cancer. In the parlance of Curb Your Enthusiasm, which discussed the merits of "good Hodgkin's," noninvasive breast cancer is "good breast cancer," in that it is cancer that has not spread beyond the breast ducts and generally responds well to treatment. Precancerous cells are another matter entirely. They are not cancer, although they could develop into cancer.
In Wednesday's New York Post, Gotti said her doctors told her she could let her precancerous cells be. "[But] I chose to be aggressive and get the surgery," she said.
The bottom line on Gotti? "I like to say it is not [cancer] because I don't want to be labeled as having cancer," she said on GMA, adding with a Seinfeldian flare, "not that there is anything wrong with it."
This all might make for a minor celebrity matter, except for two key things: (1) Monday was the third-season premiere of Growing Up Gotti on A&E, leading some to suspect Sunday's Daily News interview was a "bid for sympathy"; (2) by "some," we mean the Post, the Daily News' bitter tabloid rival.
The Post made it a mission to take apart the Daily News story, attacking not only Gotti's cancer claims, but assertions in the article that she'd once had a heart attack and earned a law degree.
To the Post, Gotti said the heart attack was really a "heart incident" and blamed an editing mistake on the misdiagnosis. As for the law degree? "I never had a law degree," she said. "I don't know where that got started."
For its part, the Daily News knows where it got the breast-cancer angle from: Gotti. "She told us in January she had breast cancer, and that's the reason she took a leave of absence from Star magazine," columnist Joanna Molloy told the Post. "She told us again last week, and we recorded it."
Gotti, at least, hasn't claimed to be misquoted. She told GMA that the Daily News article "was for the most part accurate. The reporter was not lying. She was not embellishing."
Said Gotti: "There were some things that were over-exaggerated."
In the tradition of reality TV.