Jeanette Lee, once arguably the most recognizable figure in billiards, announced her stage IV ovarian cancer diagnosis on Wednesday.
Lee, 49, a Brooklyn native of Korean heritage, best known as "The Black Widow" was a fixture competing on ESPN's broadcasts of the Women's Professional Billiard Association circuit in the 1990s, earning a No. 1 overall ranking and gold medalist at World Games, as well as being a WPBA, BCA and Asian Hall of Fame inductee.
“I intend to bring the same resolve I brought to the billiards table to this fight,” Lee said in a statement through the American Poolplayers Association (APA) obtained by Yahoo!. “Jim Valvano so eloquently told us to ‘Never give up.' I owe it to my three young daughters to do exactly that.”
Lee said she's already begun chemotherapy and undergone multiple surgeries in her battle with the disease, which has metastasized her lymph nodes, according to a GoFundMe page launched with the intention to make sure her daughters, Cheyene (16), Chloe (11) and Savannah (10) are cared for and can afford college through the "Jeanette Lee Legacy Fund."
"Jeanette has been a single mother for the last several years," the GoFundMe states. "The future care, well-being and education of her girls is the biggest cause of anxiety for her."
Lee has battled scoliosis since her childhood and, according to the GoFundMe page, it has gotten worse over the past decade. The account suggests the pain from scoliosis led to her cancer spread being unrecognized.
“She’s in a lot of pain all the time, anyway, so she didn’t notice any difference,” Lee’s longtime agent, Tom George, told the Washington Post on Wednesday.
George said Lee objected to the APA's news release's description of her as having been diagnosed with "terminal cancer" as he "intends to beat it," despite having been told by doctors that she likely has no more than a year or two to live.
Lee became one of billiards' biggest stars in the 1990s when ESPN dedicated airtime to women's tournaments. She began her pool career in 1989 and went pro in 1991, prior to earning the Women's Professional Billiard associations player of the year honor in 1994 and the WPBA Sportsperson of the Year award in 1998.
Lee earned the No. 1 overall ranking and more than 30 national and international titles during her legendary career, which extended into the 2000s, but ended in 2010 due to scoliosis.
Lee, who famously played sporting black dresses and long, dark hair, was given the "Black Widow" moniker by friends despite her sweet demeanor because she would "eat people alive" when playing on a pool table.
Photo: Getty Images